A different journey

“Who I am is far more than the gender transition I went through once, and outside the context of receiving healthcare, the trans label is one that I view as completely unnecessary”. Ahead of the Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, UQ’s Paige Wilcox shares her journey.

My name is Paige. At age 35, I’m a Student Coordinator for the UQ Faculty of Medicine, the Queensland Director of Out for Australia, and I live a life of sobriety, without a fixed address. As you might expect, the road I travelled to get here is not typical, and it is that journey I would like you to know about in more detail. Perhaps ‘need’ is a better word than ‘like’.

I’ll point out that since heading toward the next paragraph of disclosure, my heartbeat has steadily increased in both speed and strength, the skin on my arms and face has become warm and red, and the device upon which I’m typing is gripped tightly using two hands to steady the shaking. This violent physical reaction is due to decades of language and behaviour that reinforced that my truth is a negative one.

Here goes...

Because of my rural-Church upbringing, I suffered with an unknown condition until age 19. I finally sought medical advice after moving to Brisbane, and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Essentially, this means I was raised as the opposite gender (male), and at 19 I went through a series of psychological, pharmaceutical and surgical treatments to become visibly female.

You may have heard this simplified to the labels ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’.

For several reasons, I generally don’t label myself in this way. Those terms have been used in the past to invalidate my gender, disclose my personal history without my consent, and there has been a lot of stigma attached to them. Who I am is far more than the gender transition I went through once, and outside the context of receiving healthcare, the trans label is one that I view as completely unnecessary. Referring to me as female, woman, girl, chick works fine socially and at work.

I’m simply a woman who had a slightly different journey to get here.

When looking for employment after transitioning to female almost 20 years ago, I faced a difficult choice. It was between disclosing that I’d undergone gender affirmation, and pretending I had no history of work or education. I decided that it would look more favourably to hide the gender stuff. In 2018, I sadly feel that this would still be the case for job applications outside of UQ.

Despite that, between then and now, I’ve progressively become more open at UQ because:

· workplace gossip and internet searches have disclosed my past in undignified ways;

· hiding had a long term severe, negative impact on my mental health (and sick leave required);

· the effort to hide my past was detrimental to the quality of work achievable; and

· I want to prove to young trans people that they can be themselves AND thrive.

With respect to the above, the workplace journey to 2018 has been nothing short of harrowing. However I’m now in a place where most of my colleagues know of my past gender transition, and I’m treated with both dignity, and respect. This is something I hadn’t dared to fantasise as possible. I feel strongly that it would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the UQ Ally Network and UQ actively promoting diversity and inclusion.

Keep up with Paige by visiting her blog, her Linked-In, following her on twitter, or reading more about her journey through her books, available here.