WITH the start of the school this year came a change in uniform for Riley* – a skirt. The 15-year-old, born a male, no longer wanted to feel trapped in the wrong body. Supported by her parents and the public high school she attends, Riley decided it was time to take the step of “transitioning” to a female.
While there are no official statistics in Australia on teen transsexuals, some professionals working in the area of gender identity have noted an increase in the number of transgender young people.
Riley, who tells her story in today’s Sunday Life, says she gained the confidence to begin the transition after going online and discovering there were other people who shared her experience. Her online support group, True Colours, had just 25 members several months ago. More recently, though, a new member was joining every week.
“I definitely have seen a change in the number of transsexual people coming out and being so proud and happy with themselves since my family first started looking for trans-connections for me about five years ago,” Riley says.
Elizabeth Riley, a Sydney counsellor who has been working with transsexual teens for nearly two decades, says more young people are coming forward, and parents are getting better at supporting them.
“Twenty years ago parents had never heard of transsexual teens and they had no way of getting their heads around it, and the kids had no words to express it, there was almost no way of coming to grips with it and talking about it,” she says. “The gay and lesbian community is much more normalised now and I guess the next step is transgender.”
Rebecca Reynolds, the managing director of the inner-city support group Twenty10, has also noticed an increase in people dropping into the centre to discuss gender identity. She cautions that this does not mean the issue is ”getting any easier” to deal with and transsexual teens living in the suburbs need more support.
Riley, who wants to help people understand transsexualism, says she wants to be accepted for who she is because being transsexual to her is not a lifestyle choice.
“No one would have chosen this torture in life,” she says. “We’re not here to provoke you. We’re here to live just like you are.”
* Surname withheld.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.