Resilience in the face of change 

Jez's story

I'm Jez, and I identify as a trans-man. Which means, that I was assigned female at birth, and I'm a transgendered man.

From a young age, I just thought I actually was a boy, until I guess I was maybe in late primary school years. When I was young I used to run around with my top off, and play with all the boys, and I had short spiky hair in the 80s, and life was great.

But it wasn’t until society and my parents and school started to expect me to behave like a girl, or more feminine, and started to place all these pressures on top of me. Like, for example, even getting married to a man. (Laughing). You know, being, talking to a young eight year old about that is pretty intense.

My parents were able to send me on a basketball trip to America, and I found that to be really exciting, but the trip itself was very challenging, for me to be, I guess, out of my comfort zone, out of safety. And I was also playing on the girls team, and it, everything started to come up for me.

And I think when I came back, I was a changed person. I think, I, I lost a lot of weight. So I probably just stopped eating. I think I became more reclusive and less outgoing. I sort of stopped talking, stopped engaging with people. I, I stopped doing the things that I enjoyed doing. I think I even lost interest in playing sport.

And I sort of had a, a quite, a bit of a mental breakdown for a 15 year old.

In my teenage years, my parents were concerned that, well, they weren’t really sure what was going on. But really, at the end of the day, I was probably just struggling with my gender identity and sexuality. And, there was no way, nowhere, or no one to talk to about any of that. So, it was kind of misdiagnosed, and mislabelled as other things, I think. Other kinds of mental illnesses. But, so I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, and however, I never really spoke to either of those professionals about how I really felt, or what was really going on. So that wasn’t a useful exercise.

I think when I was a 15 year old, up until about 22, that time of my life I felt as though, if I was to express myself to people, that I would be a burden on them. Speaking about my emotions would be not interesting, or boring, and, and draining for others, and I would avoid doing it.

But I've learnt that through finding a good counsellor in my 20s, that being able to identify what I'm feeling, and being able to express it in ways that are, that are helpful to either assert boundaries, or to identify how I'm feeling, and how to look after myself, it’s a really empowering and helpful and important thing to do.

And my experience in, in talking to people has, has been one that has brought me a lot closer in a lot of my friendships and a lot of my relationships. And, I think that having the ability to reach out to people and, and talk to people when you need support is important to maintaining a connection to yourself, and a connection to people that you’re close to. And I think that people actually really appreciate the opportunity to be hearing what I have to say when I'm, when I'm having a hard time. And I think we both, me and my friends, we share that with each other, and my partner.

Every now and then go back and see a therapist or a counsellor, if I'm having an extremely difficult time, because, and I don't think it’s something to be ashamed of. I think it’s something that’s really healthy.

I find that getting a lot of exercise is really helpful in getting, getting out toxic energy, or any overused energy, or any stress or anxiety that I'm experiencing. If I get regular exercise, it tends to help me feel more balanced and calm. But that has to be coupled with, you know, eating well. And I don't mean you know, like, dieting or anything like this. I just mean getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients, whatever the portions are. And, I also think it’s important to get a lot of rest.

I can identify when I've straight away started having a hard time. It’s when I all of a sudden think it’s not important to have breakfast any more, or if I, if I've gone to bed at 10.30 at night, but I'm tossing and turning for three hours because I can’t let my mind rest, I realise then I must be experiencing some overwhelming feelings or stress, and I need to try and identify what that is immediately, before it gets out of control.

Yeah, I have found it really important to gather information to help me work out potential solutions to any problem I might be having. Accessing certain resources is a really important way to educate myself on, and understand who I am, and understand my behaviours or what services I could even access if I was having any difficult times,

And there’s been a few different resources that I found really helpful over the time. And how I go about finding that is by talking to people, calling, making an appointment with my GP, or doing a lot of research online. Ask, asking people in certain community forums, on, either on the internet or social groups are extremely helpful.

And something that I found, yeah, found pretty inspiring was some of the beyondblue campaigns, with the LGBT community, especially Robbie, yeah, some of the indigenous campaigns, and the Other Sister Girls through the beyondblue projects.

A message that I would have for people who feel like they relate to my experience, experiences that I have had, or anyone who might be going through any day to day difficulties or from anywhere up to questioning gender identity, I think my message would be to make sure that there’s an outlet for you to speak to someone about it.

Even though it might feel uncomfortable or challenging to even speak about how we feel, it’s important that we do it, and, and sit with each other and hear what is challenging. Because I think through that, we can work out ways to become stronger, and more resilient, and overcome some challenges, either on our own, or together, in different ways than we weren’t able to before

And if you don't feel comfortable speaking to someone, you can start by writing down your feelings, and working out and identifying what is a pattern for someone, what is a pattern for you.