LGBTIQ Sport Transgender Transitioned sports woman Womens Sport

Trans women are women and we should be able to play sport despite conservatives’ attempts to take us back in time

FINA and International Rugby League are among the organisations banning Trans women from openly representing their countries at elite world level events, including World Championships, World Cups and the Olympic Games.

These bans follow World Rugby, who decided in late 2020 Trans Women have no right playing their game at an elite level despite not one national governing rugby body following suit and joining their ban.

International players from the United States of America and Canada said Trans women are the least of their problems when they play rugby.

Much of the Transphobia from ‘Save Women’s Sport’ organisations has trickled down globally and it was front and centre here in Australia before our recent election.

Catherine Deves was wheeled out by then Prime Minister Scott Morrison as one of his captain’s picks in the seat of Warringah and she doubled down on Liberal Senator Claire Chandler’s bill which proposed to “Save Women’s Sport” by excluding pre-pubescent Transgender girls as they would be unable to play sport in their identified gender. 

This would’ve meant all Trans Women would’ve been excluded from playing sport in their identified gender.

Fortunately for Trans Women in Australia, Morrison and his conservative Liberal party were defeated and their plans were scuppered, but like all good conservatives they are a global network and are everywhere in positions of power and when one avenue fails they’ll try another and often they’ll go for the jugular of the most vulnerable, as is the case with the FINA and IRL bans of Trans women participating in their sports at the elite level.

If we delve a little deeper and when Morrison’s divisive Religious Discrimination bill didn’t make it past the Senate, he, Chandler and Deves tried to make up for lost ground and I feel this issue goes far beyond sport and further into society, where they’ve attempted to take us back to a time when Transgender people were out of sight and little more than an afterthought. 

This rhetoric transports me back to the 1970s and ‘80s when I was growing up and there was no internet or information available for a child to access who was grappling with their own gender identity issues and what little information was available through media outlets was mostly negative. 

So I found the best way forward, was to suppress my own confusing gender issues in a world that was so outwardly unkind to them and I did this through my participation playing sport. 

My lived sporting life, much of it filmed by my father Keith Layt while I was growing up, as he was often there to film me pre-transition.

All the cues around me told me I was a male and that a pre-destined path had been set out for me the moment I was born; I had been presumed male by medical staff at birth, my parents had lovingly brought me up as their son, I was given “boy’s toys” and when I questioned my gender at a tender age, my parents answers were resistant and I was simply told “you’re a boy”.

This path is fine for cisgender people as their gender congruence matches, ie their extrinsic assigned birth gender correlates with their intrinsic brain sex, but unfortunately for us Trans folk it doesn’t.

Due to my being presumed male at birth, my immediate family and wider world of school and family friends saw me as a male and despite knowing I was intrinsically female, I knew it was social suicide to reveal my true self, so I purposely suppressed my true gender identity and they only saw the masculine jock I presented to the wider world. 

But try as I might, I couldn’t shake the thoughts swirling inside my head (they’d been with me since I was a four-year-old child) that my gender had been wrongly presumed at birth, so I explored them first-hand and for the first time I caught a glimpse of my true self one evening when I was home from boarding school for the school holidays.

At the time my mother only owned one dress shop, but at the peak of its powers during the 1980s and ’90s, her fashion business would grow into a large and successful fashion label, including employing multiple full-time sales staff, a manufacturing factory with full-time sewing and cutting staff, as there were eight upmarket ladies wear boutiques throughout Sydney, Melbourne and Marina Mirage in Queensland to service. 

I knew due to the presumed gender people saw me as, my mother’s fashion label wasn’t meant for me, but I applied all the associated items on anyway, just like any other 13-year-old girl and felt true joy in that moment, as looking back in the mirror I’d glimpse my true female self for the first time. 

This clandestine routine was secretly carried out for several evenings behind the sanctity of the closed door of the bathroom.

My family members appeared none the wiser to my secretive life within and a few evenings later I’d become bolder and it was enough for me to venture out into the lounge room. I sat myself down on a lounge, feeling all sophisticated and worldly as I read my mother’s collection of Vogue magazines.

In that moment I felt positive about my self, but this was quickly shattered when my mother strode boldly into the room. 

My rugby dive behind the couch wasn’t enough to save me. 

She’d worked out rather quickly it was me who’d been snaffling clothes from her dwindling wardrobe and after a quick bedroom check she’d noticed my brothers Todd and Brendon lay asleep in their beds. 

She told me to come out from behind the lounge. 

After I stood up from behind that couch, for the first time she truly saw her daughter standing in front of her, but I could tell she wasn’t impressed due to her disapproving gaze.

I nervously told her I knew my gender was intrinsically female and I couldn’t help what I’d been doing, as it all felt so natural to me.

At the time my mother didn’t understand and she told me all I “could ever hope to ever be was a female impersonator”.

My heart sank, as even though I wasn’t aware of the language at that time, I now know I’m a binary Trans Woman and I knew being a female impersonator and living on the gender spectrum (not that there’s anything wrong with being non-binary, a drag queen or female impersonator) wasn’t me, as it wasn’t how I felt about myself and my mother had wrongly made assumptions.

She readily admits today they were assumptions, as she thought back then my need to express myself as female was of a sexual fetish nature, which she nows know was the wrong assumption.

She also told me I possessed “yin” and “yang” and I should pursue (then male) sports at boarding school and I should “be the best boy” I could be. 

So I took my mother’s criticisms to heart and took my gender issues further underground and it was the last time I spoke about what I considered was my “deep shame” with my mother for several years and I knew under her watchful gaze it wasn’t to be.

There were times I wanted to leave home, but I knew there’d be limited opportunities if I attempted to pursue my true self. 

Even though I was aware of others who’d transitioned through the limited media stories I’d seen, I was uncertain as to how I could live as a woman, let alone have access to a medical transition, employment and housing without family support and I certainly didn’t want to struggle inside a world foreign to me. 

Those trans women I’d seen on television either had family or a partner supporting them, but I could still see it wasn’t an easy path for them to follow.

I’m the first to admit I lived a privileged life growing up, as my parents owned a turf company in the Hawkesbury, which was at the peak of its powers and my two brothers [Todd and Brendon] and I, along with my parents, enjoyed the best of what life could offer. 

My parents had been smart, shrewd and worked hard for their money as pioneers in the turf growing industry in the 1970s. 

My father, Keith Layt, had been well known in racing circles as a successful jockey in the 1950s and ‘60s and family members in his uncle and auntie in Bill and Amy Black had helped him and my mother set up their successful turf business. 

So quickly had it grown that by the 1980s they owned many properties in the Hawkesbury and they’d successfully moved into the fashion industry. They also owned a service station and moved their office for all their turf operations to a 12 acre property at South Windsor. 

By my early to mid teens and through my parents’ wealth, I was aware I was a kid who’d grown up with extreme privilege and my parents had even bought me, without my knowledge, a rowing scull for Christmas in 1979, as I’d begun rowing at Joeys during the third term of that year.

The only thing missing from my life was my family and friend’s blessing for the gender I clandestinely knew myself to be.

I felt this situation was hopeless, so I took my mother’s tip, as I felt she nor my father would ever understand nor approve of my being female, so I purposely outwardly hyper-masculinised myself and played my sport to relieve the self-imposed “sickness” I thought I had inside of me.

During the summer months I played cricket, rowed and in Year 12 was a member of the full-time athletics squad.

During winter I played rugby and in spring I ran.

By school’s end I’d run so well; I ran myself into two Senior Athletic Teams; two winning 4 x 400 metre relay teams and a AAGPS record to boot. I played in the Third XV and a few years after leaving school I briefly played first grade for Eastern Suburbs Rugby club.

I also hit the weights, as I worked as a fitness instructor and it was the perfect breeding ground to hyper-masculinise myself as I purged those feminine thoughts and by “man-ing up” I’d internalised my true self and possessed self-loathing and internalised homophobia and transphobia. 

After puberty had hit, my plan was the more masculine my features had become (which I had no choice over due to my undergoing the wrong puberty), the more ridiculous it was anyone would ever take me seriously as a woman, so it made transition all the more unattainable and I could remind myself the gender struggle going on inside my head was nothing but a “ridiculous proposition” in the first place.

I only had to gaze in the mirror and looking back was the archetypical male; hair on my chest and face, muscles to boot and a growing masculine personality and back then I would’ve been the far right’s perfect “attack dog” as I became the best hypocrite I could be. I fitted in as a ‘cisgender-heteronormative male’ and back then that was all that mattered to me. 

I outwardly despised and ridiculed anyone who openly displayed being LGBTIQ. 

My reason was simple, as I needed to display negativity around my equally homophobic and transphobic friends, because I never, ever wanted anyone to discover my “dark” secret, as the humiliation and ridicule would’ve been far too painful so I continued on with my clandestine thoughts swirling inside my head, but portrayed my ‘cis-het’ and married life to the outside world in 1989. 

It appeared to have worked, as I thought I’d beaten my ‘demons’ as Sophie and I walked out of the Joeys chapel, down the marble staircase, through the black and white tiles (they’d been off-limits to us while we were students there) and out into the sunlight with our bridal party, which included then future World Cup winning Wallaby Tony Daly as my best man. 

“I’ve done it” I secretly whispered to myself, as I felt I would now be a devoted ‘husband and family man’, but in reality it’d simply delayed the inevitable.

Those familiar gender dysphoric thoughts and feelings swirling around inside my head simply grew stronger and became more intense as time moved on. 

Within two years my marriage had dissolved and my work as a fitness instructor, part-time turf farmer and a stint managing my father’s restaurant in Taylor Square wasn’t enough, as I’d worked out I simply had to be the real me or bear the consequences of a life which would cease to exist.

It was time to make a choice, ie live on as the real person I knew myself to be or plan on dying because that was how I was feeling; if I was to continue living on as a male, as I simply couldn’t live to please other people anymore and by this point in time I couldn’t even bear to be referred to as a male, nor by the pronouns of he, him and sir anymore. 

After measured thought I decided I needed to be my authentic female self and four days before my 30th birthday in 1995 I transitioned. 

By this time I no longer cared about fitting in with other peoples’ plans for me and what their perceptions of me were, as they were no longer relevant to me, as living my life authentically was far more important. 

There were casualties along the way, as some family and friends became distant, but the important ones returned over time. 

I made new friends as well and I even re-connected with old schoolmates, some who I hadn’t always been kind to at school, but they could see I was a far happier and a more balanced person than I’d been at school.

It was quite liberating as for the first time in my life I was free to be me.

Unfortunately during my medical transition came the process of living a lie all over again, as I was told to hide my male past, as though my first 30 years lived-experience never occurred and I gave all my ‘male’ clothes, except for a few items to my younger brother Brendon. 

The longer I undertook a feminising hormone regime, the more feminine I appeared and the more my psychiatrists and endocrinologist approved.

Their long-term strategy was for me to fit into their cisgender-heteronormative world. 

But with that came a feeling as though I was a fraud, as I rewrote my personal history and told people a sanitised version of myself I’d never experienced in order to fit in once again. After a few years, I’d just be rather vague about my past and shared less and less as time went on.

I did date for a few years, but I found it terrifying, as having endured a male puberty I knew being found out was far more possible than I ever would of finding love, so after a time dating and having experienced a few whirlwind romances I withdrew from it and returned to my first love of sport. 

By 2004 women had been playing rugby union and rugby league for a decade, albeit in the shadows, but it was something I wanted to do, as I found it far more rewarding than dating. 

Once again, I ran and played rugby and was successful with it, as long as nobody found out my secret. Cisgender privilege, awards [including being a nominated finalist as Sydney Morning Herald Women’s Player of the Year] and playing for Sydney at Rugby Australia nationals followed. 

In 2007 I was selected for and represented New South Wales in the Women’s Interstate Challenge  (is referred to as Women’s State of Origin since eligibility rules changed in 2018) and the following year I was a member of a 4 x 200 metre relay team which set an Australian Open record when my teammates and I won a silver medal at the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships in Clermont-Ferrand, France. 

When those in power found out my Transgender status; my cisgender privilege was revoked and many disapproved of my trans status.

I could only add a new football code to my repertoire so many times, as when I shifted the goal posts to a new code my Transgender “notoriety” would eventually catch up with me. 

There were decent people, who were and allies and they shielded me from people who viewed me as the enemy. 

One [my 2006-08 Sydney Representative rugby coach] even went into bat [with the national chairman of selectors] for me to be included in the national squad, as he told me my form as a member of the 2007 Sydney national championship winning team was good enough to warrant my being selected. 

I told him, “thanks, but no thanks” as under no circumstance did I want to play for those [non-approving and judgmental] fellows.

That was and has been my lot in life, getting by on the generosity of fair-minded people in order to excel.

But I often wonder looking back the many wonderful possibilities I could’ve experienced as a female if the questions I asked about my gender not matching my assigned birth gender were met with approval by my parents when I was that four-year-old child or when I was a 13-year-old teenager? Imagine if my mother had said to me it was ok I identified as a girl and we’d work it out along the way?

I know my life would’ve been vastly different with the endless possibilities, as I possibly could’ve attended a co-ed or private girls school where the school curriculum and subject matter would’ve better suited me. 

I would’ve played different sports and could’ve married a fellow as the woman I knew myself to be and most important of all; I could’ve been socialised as that girl, who unfortunately had to remain hidden for all those long years.

I’m not complaining about my lot in life and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve on and off the sporting field, but they were all a “silver lining” experience to me. 

The male puberty was something I was hostage to and definitely as a person struggling with gender dysphoria, it’s not something I would’ve personally chosen to endure. 

Suited up in my Gordon rugby uniform and I played with them during the 1987 rugby season

From a young age I knew the dreaded male puberty was something I’d endure without medical intervention, due to the societal standards of the day and afterwards I worried I’d be a pariah due to the fact I’d physically masculinised too much. Hence my waiting until I was 30-years-of-age, as by then I was far too old or grizzled to care about what anyone else thought.

Unfortunately there’s still that “bridge too far” attitude Peter Fitzsimons wrote so eloquently about on this subject matter.   

The fact I went back to tertiary study as a mature-age student and attained my Bachelor of Journalism degree was a highlight and it’s something I’m extremely proud of. 

My looking happy after a guest lecture

Even though in 2017 I’d decided to study to improve my writing skills and not necessarily to fulfil a full-time journalism career, some of my lecturers told me I’d been fine, as long as I told no one about my Trans status and then I was told to stop pitching stories about Transgender topics and stories, which was my passion, so I pigeon-holed myself back into writing about sport, because apparently it was easy and not controversial. 

Imagine telling someone in 2022 who has a disability or belongs to a minority race they can’t let people know about their status or talk about it, could you imagine the outcry? 

Even today living our lives as our authentic selves is still being debated in the media, but could you imagine the outcry if Ku Klux members or nazis were invited to racist debates?

It wouldn’t happen and rightly so and it shouldn’t happen to us Trans folk neither. 

Those who talk against us as if they know us, well, their whole campaign is simply based on assumptions and fear. 

All because the way the bible’s been interpreted a millennia or two ago and because the Church still views us as living sinful lives. How is one living a sinful life if the life being lived is inherent and intrinsic to that person?

Those of us who’ve evolved now know gender is far more varied than we’d originally thought.

We also know Trans kids do matter, the same as everybody else and they should be allowed to be who they are from a young age without a skerrick of fear nor trepidation. 

I can hear the naysayers baying for my blood, heaven forbid if a kid should change their mind, but I have you covered, as the medical professionals treating these kids have far more knowledge on this subject matter than you or even I have (as I transitioned in my adult years and not as a child), but from my understanding the puberty blockers can be reversed and gender affirmation surgery will not take place until at least after that child has legally become an adult after their 18th birthday. 

With this comes the possibilities of living a full life without any recriminations, where your (gender])difference from others is recognised as so insignificant it doesn’t really matter. 

A world where your personality is all that matters and the fact you’re a binary Transgender or non-binary person is as inconsequential as anyone else’s storied lives. 

Due to fair minded people such as the Liberal politicians who crossed the floor in the Senate when Morrison proposed his Religious Discrimination Bill, it never saw the light of day and Morrison was soon after voted out of power, partly due to people seeing him as a divisive character and the harm he could further cause to people who didn’t fit his mould if he was to hold onto power.

Transgender traits are intrinsic and inherent to us and we can’t help who we are anymore than someone who’s born with blue eyes or being (the once maligned) left-handed and it would be nice if these people would start listening rather than talking over us as though they know our lives better than we do.

Some private boys schools including Cranbrook School and Newington College are now looking at becoming co-ed and some have already gone that way.

More co-ed schools will follow suit over the ensuing years and if a child wishes to transition than they can effortlessly do so at one of these co-ed schools. Of course education is key and once the stigma is taken away, those students will be embraced just like any other. 

it makes me happy that people like myself and my good friend in former dual Australian modern pentathlon/duathlon representative Kirsti Miller, ie those who endured the wrong puberty before the right one was offered to us, well, there will be less and less like us in the ensuing years and kids will just be able to be and live as their authentic true selves from a young age. 

Miller even had to legally divorce the mother of her three daughters during the late 1990s in order to legally change her gender on her birth certificate. Fortunately this draconian law was rescinded in New South Wales in 2018 but it came too late for Miller’s marriage to be saved.

Of course there will be the holdouts in conservatives who will use the excuse of family values being eroded, but in reality it will only strengthen family ties, as all people will be valued in society and not just those who are seen to be fitting into the narrow mantra of the party line. 

I know my own family members, including my parents have realised I may look different to my pre-transitioned days, but they’ve embraced me, as they know I’m still the same person with all the same personality and character traits I possessed from all those years ago.

They’re also happy as they see a happier version of myself these days.  

Even though I’ve lived a life as a Trans Woman athlete first-hand including undertaking a doctor’s non-invasive physical and a Max Vo2 test [in accordance with the 2003 IOC guidelines] and I know the second puberty we undertook vastly negates (over a period of time) the advantages of the male puberty we had the first time around.

Despite the above evidence as post-transitioned Trans athlete it’s often so hard to be heard above the noise of the naysayers and I’m hoping my experience of having to correct the wrong puberty is experienced by less and less by current Trans kids.

If they don’t have to correct the wrong puberty in adulthood than the “advantage” argument will simply dissipate and disappear over time. 

For non-binary athletes like Quinn, who became our first Olympic football medalist in 2021 they’ll keep playing in their birth gender and be happy to live on the gender spectrum and presenting how they see fit on any given day without negative consequences. 

In this future world, which is still a way off, but is closer now than even before due to people’s positive actions over the past weeks and months, well, people will simply be allowed to live authentically without fear of recriminations and consequences and that is a world which is definitely worth living in. 

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