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Karly’s Transgender Story: Not being afraid to be different

We’re honoured to share the story of one courageous woman who completed placement at SACARE last month. Karly’s story will empower you to be yourself by celebrating your differences. Her words of wisdom reiterate the fact that being different adds colour to this world...


“You don’t need to live in the shadows of everyone else, you can go out and live a fuller life and in doing so you also encourage others to do the same.” – Karly

Why did you decide to become a support worker?

Being transgender, I started off by needing support myself within transgender support groups 12 years ago. During this time I produced a digital magazine that was about what rights were happening around the world. I really enjoyed helping, assisting and educating people and the reward that came with it. Supporting people gives you a lot of inner strength. When I discovered this inner strength, I realized that by helping others you can help yourself. I lived in the shadow for far too long and if it wasn’t for my support team to help me take the extra step, I’d never thought that I’d truly be able to be myself. The support was there, but I was too scared to trust people to give me the support I needed. For me, that was the biggest step, to trust that people are out there who are willing to give you the support you need to enhance your life. This encouraged me to become a support worker and help enhance other people’s lives, especially those with differences.


What did you look for when you needed support the most?

My friends in some ways were more supportive than my family. I believe that family should always be there, and mine were. My family accepted me when I told them that I was transgender, and in doing so, I felt I didn’t have to hide myself all the time. However, it was my friends who gave me that true support, as they were able to “go with it” alongside me. Whether it be out to a restaurant or to a night club, that social interaction with not just family but with true friends was the life changer for me. To feel loved outside your own family circle and within your community is very important. To feel wanted. To be loved by not as you appear to be, but by who you are.


What does being transgender mean?

Being transgender basically means that your mind and body don’t match. You’ve known in your mind that you’re different. What you see in the mirror isn’t really you, that’s what your mind is telling you. Until you can put the two together with support, friendship, love and caring, can you really actually make that step to accept and to make the life that you deserve.

People often think that transgender people are just “down and out” they’re not, there are a lot of incredibly intellectual transgender people out there. The fascinating thing about transgender people is that they work with both sides of their brain because they’ve had to learn to do that. So when you have that true acceptance within yourself you see things and react to things differently because your brain is working both sides. You actually feel balanced and blessed.

Being transgender I have realised that you’ve got to accept your life first before others can accept you. This principle applies to anyone. By accepting myself, I had the courage to let my friends know who I really was. I’m the same person, same mentally, same manners. I still love the same things. Now I don’t have to pretend I like things just to feel like I fit in.


What difficulties have you faced because of your differences?

On my 50th birthday (I’m 54 now), I invited every person who was close to me in my life and shared with them about being transgender. From the 54 friends who attended the party it went down to about 3 of my closest friends and my immediate brothers, within the first 6 months. My work/life dropped considerably, to the point that once my local community knew I was transgender, out of my 360 job applications I only got one interview and that did not go well. It got very depressed because I felt like nobody accepted me for who I was.


What has been one of the most rewarding things you’ve experienced?

True love! And I found it just by stepping outside the house. When I was depressed, I struggled to get outside and it was through the support of a very good friend (we’ve been friends since we were 18) – he said, “I don’t care how you look, as long as you’re you.” With these words, he encouraged me to attend a Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute Night where I met a woman who loved me to pieces and my Frankfurter costume!

We became good friends and after six months we began our true relationship.

Only two months after this, I was diagnosed with Bowel cancer and I had the lower section of my bowel removed. She stuck by me through it all. I’m now 3 years all clear and we are still happily together. There is true love out there.

For anyone who’s hiding and thinking that they’re not worthy for someone else, I want to tell you all that everyone has a soul mate. You just have to bump into them by being outside the house. You don’t meet them staying inside. You’ve got to be social. You’ve got to take that step outside, too many people try to interact on the internet and it’s difficult to find authentic connections. Electronic communication has nothing on physical communication. To me, communication is 90% eye contact. The eyes tell the soul of a person and by communicating in real life, and not through a screen, that’s contact.


What was it like studying Certificate III in Aged Care and Disability?

It gave me more confidence than I could ever imagine. I’m no longer afraid to stand up in front of people and I’ve never batted an eyelid about being in public since being part of the course. The other students gave me confidence. I just love people. Whilst Disability Care and Aged Care have many similarities, the personal and intellectual needs are different. In Aged Care, people really want to tell you their story and want you to listen. They want to tell you everything and they want you to experience what they have experienced. They want to pass knowledge on and I think this is beautiful. I’ve a hunger for knowledge, real history. What I like about Disability Care is that it’s never a challenge to be myself; I talk to everyone the same no matter who they are. I never talk down to people, not even children. I talk to them as if they’re little adults. I found that by doing so, you get equal respect back, no matter their disability. See the person, not their disability. I don’t see labels because I’ve had one my entire life and I’ve always been afraid of that label. *I’m getting teary*. I don’t put people in categories. To me the only difference is a good person or a bad person. If you’re a good person, I’d like to be your friend. If you’re a bad person, don’t be around me as I like people with genuine hearts.


What advice would you give to someone who is not feeling quite themselves?

The first thing you need to do if you’re not feeling yourself is to trust someone like a true friend who you know will believe in you. Trust them that they’re going to be there for you. Reach out. There are great support groups in Adelaide such as BeFriend, The Carrousel Club of South Australia and Transgender Radio for Australia wide social interaction. Take that step out with someone that you trust but do not rely on that someone for everything. Talk to the community as it’s easier than ever before. What I’ve realised is that most of society doesn’t care if you’re different. When you accept yourself as who you are and not what you are, then others will accept you as well. By accepting myself, this gave me the courage to want to help other people live a fuller life as well.

Be true to yourself, because if you’re not being true then you’re only acting in someone else’s life. That’s how I felt; I was acting for the benefit of others, rather than living for the benefit of me.

To me there is no such thing as normal, everyone is different. If the world can accept that everyone is different and unique, then the world would be a far better place. Accept who you are, accept that other people are different than you. Be with people who you want to be with. You don’t have to be angry at anyone else. Don’t violate anyone else’s social group. A friend of mine says that the freaky people make the beauty of this world and without the freaky people, life would be grey. The freaky people bring colour to the world. The most beautiful thing about the world is that everyone is unique.