In this honest, raw and illuminating episode of GET REAL, we are joined by Lauren McGovern, who shares her experience of being a transgender woman in Australia, her hopes for the future, and how allies can better support trans people with their mental health.
Lauren grew up in Tasmania, where LGBT rights were a bitterly divisive issue for decades. Although things have changed since then, Tasmania imposed the harshest penalties in the Western world for homosexual activity until 1997; fellow Tasmanian Hannah Gadsby has called it “a really harmful and horrible place to grow up in the closet”.
Being trans can unfortunately predispose a person to a higher level of mental health challenges and distress, due to the emotional pain that can come with transitioning and/or continuing to live with gender dysphoria. This pain can lead to depression and anxiety, and it is these mental illnesses that are the problem – not, in itself, being trans.
In today’s episode, Lauren speaks honestly and openly about her experiences of growing up trans in Tasmania in the 1980s and ‘90s; the trauma imposed by decades of being someone other than who she really was inside; and her joy at coming out as trans at the age of 45. She also shares her grief at the loss of previously close relationships with her four children - who have not found her transition easy - and speaks to her kids directly about her love for them, and her hopes that they will reconnect again some day.
Lauren writes beautiful poetry about her mental health journey in her blog, Shortened by Anxiety, shared here with permission.
Content note: this episode discusses suicide and suicide attempts. If you find any of this discussion distressing, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Growing up and hating who looked at me from the mirror.
Parents love, non-existent, left me feeling bitter.
Knowing that each lap around the sun just made me fitter.
I'm stronger than I ever was. Your hate won't make me wither.
Shortened by Anxiety (blog)