Written by Jae Evergreen
Content warnings: gender/sexuality, gender dysphoria, gender euphoria
November 13–20 is Trans Awareness Week, a chance for society to celebrate the trans community, to learn about gender diversity, and to take real action to support the trans and gender diverse community.
In this deeply personal guest piece, Autistic trans advocate Jae Evergreen writes about coming out as non-binary, and later their decision to transition and their early experiences of hormone treatment.
Coming out as non-binary
When I was younger I didn’t get the chance to explore my gender and sexuality. Independence really gave me the ability to explore myself without being judged, and without having to hide my feelings and my identity. In June 2019 I came out as non-binary, after spending my whole life feeling like my gender expression was wrong. At the time I came out as non-binary, I wasn’t sure of my sexuality. Now I’m pretty sure that I’m demisexual: I only feel sexually attracted to someone if I can make an emotional connection with them, regardless of their gender expression.
Changing my name legally
The holiday/Christmas period was a bit hard, but time off work and living alone made me realise I was ready to affirm this new life chapter, and by January 2020 I successfully applied to legally change my name. Before I knew it I was having to change all my documents (bank cards, photo ID, Medicare, Centrelink, Working with Children, etc., etc.). That was a stressful period, and today I got a call from the Australian Electoral Commission as I had forgotten to update the electoral roll with my name change.
When I changed my name, it was hard for some friends and some work colleagues to adjust. I think COVID and the lockdown restrictions helped this along, especially with work – people seemed to remember my chosen name quite quickly once we were all working from home.
Over the first few months of 2020, I started thinking more about my gender identity, and became quite curious about exploring transitioning to a more feminine presentation. In May 2020 I became aware of a new service for trans and gender-diverse Victorians delivered by Your Community Health and Ballarat Community Health in partnership with Austin Health, with funding from the Victorian Government. I filled out the contact form on their website and a few days later the Ballarat peer navigator gave me a call. We spoke for about half an hour, discussing my experience to date, and how I was interested in seeing one of the gender clinic doctors – based in Preston – to talk about how I felt and learn more about what was involved if I decided to transition.
It wasn’t long until I had an appointment set up with a doctor. Everything happened really quickly, and I was excited and anxious for my first appointment in late June. Unfortunately, I was involved in a nasty vehicle accident as a passenger two days before my appointment, and this meant I had to postpone my clinic appointment. I was really frustrated. Like a lot of autistic people, I struggle with changes to plans, but I found it especially hard in this situation, as it was something so life changing.
Life again took over, and I moved to Melbourne two days before the Stage 4 lockdown. After settling into a new house in a new suburb in the middle of the toughest COVID restrictions in Australia, my thoughts again returned to my gender identity. I reached out to the gender clinic, but I was advised for different reasons they were currently without a gender specialising doctor, and therefore unable to offer me an appointment date. They did say they’d get back to me when they had replacements though. I also contacted a couple of other clinics, who weren’t currently taking new patients due to the lockdown restrictions.
Finding a group where I belonged
Waiting and taking things slow can sometimes be really beneficial.
Whilst waiting for a new appointment with a gender clinic, I joined Spectrum Intersections, a free peer-led group in Victoria for adults who identify as neurodiverse and LGBTIQA+.
Due to the ongoing restrictions, the support group was running online using the chat app Discord, which meant I didn’t have the anxiety of attending meetings in person. The group has different threads for different topics, and there’s measures in place to ensure everyone is safe, including content warnings and blocking out text that may be triggering so you have to click to read it, changing the subject if someone is uncomfortable, respecting pronouns, and so on.
Joining the group led to some really intense waves of gender euphoria. I felt I had found somewhere I belonged, with people who understood and accepted me. I was welcomed. Respected. Validated. Heard.
It was that moment, not in May 2020, that I knew I needed to do something about my gender expression. Unfortunately this led to a couple of days of really bad gender dysphoria, where I felt really unhappy with my body, but apart from this it was an affirming, positive experience.
The group helped during that time when I didn’t have real medical support. My GP was supportive; however, they aren’t trained in gender-diverse health, and reached out to one of the gender clinics for advice. At about the same time, the Preston clinic called me saying they had new doctors and booked me an appointment for the following week. It turned out the doctor my GP spoke to, was the doctor who was going to be working part time out of the gender clinic! This meant I went into the first appointment aware that the doctor had some background info about me via my regular GP.
At the first appointment we spoke a bit about my history and my goals for hormone treatment, and I was sent off to get some hormone-level blood tests done. I had a follow-up appointment three weeks later, at which we discussed the risks, and decided due to sensory issues an oestrogen patch wasn’t the best method, and I subsequently started on oestrogen tablets.
That was just two weeks ago, and the process of body changes is likely to take a couple of years, and then I’ll be on medication to manage my hormone levels the rest of my life.
How do I feel now?
Within a couple of hours of taking my first dose of oestrogen, I experienced a wave of emotions. I became really relaxed, like, extremely chilled out. My girlfriend said to me they experienced the same thing the first day they started on hormones – a sense of euphoria.
A week and a half later, I’m still managing how my body and my mind adapts to the oestrogen. I’m finding I’m quite emotional a few hours after taking the tablets, but I also feel more relaxed and happier.
If there’s interest, I might write an update in six months or so once there’s time for some of the physical changes to really happen.
I’m excited, nervous, anxious and happy all at once – the emotions are all wrapped into a ball. Sometimes I find myself randomly bursting into tears for no reason whatsoever, because apparently that’s what happens when you first take oestrogen!
Right now I’m focused on being a more happy, comfortable me.
Thanks for coming to my GenderTalk.
What to talk about during Trans Awareness Week – Minus18
TransHub NSW has resources and support information for trans and gender diverse people; and also information on how allies – partners, families, carers, friends, educators, employers/colleagues, researchers and more – can best support trans people they know
QLife provides anonymous and free LGBTI peer support and referral for people in Australia who want to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. They provide supports over the phone and webchat.