Stories & Articles

Roxanne White: My life as a trans woman

Left Max now Roxanne White (supplied).

Vanessa de Largie | The Huff Post | May 13th, 2017

Roxanne White is an Australian trans woman residing in Newtown, Sydney.

I discovered White on social media in 2016, through her unapologetic views about politics and transgender issues.

Recently, I got the opportunity to interview White about being transgender and her journey thus far.

Thank you so much for allowing me to delve into your life Roxanne. I’ve been looking forward to this interview. So, lets begin…

How old were you when you first realized you were trans?  And that your gender didn’t match your body?  How did this realization affect you emotionally, spiritually and mentally?

I first realized I was trans when I was 8-years-old. I came to be familiar with the perceived differences between my body and those of the girls at primary school. It also came with watching television. I noticed a physical passivity that was part of the culture back then. This isn’t to say I felt women were lesser people but I wasn’t quite suited to the more aggressive nature of being a boy.

I often had dreams about having a female anatomy that proved surprisingly accurate when I reached puberty and started to have sex with girlfriends. I was learning what a female’s body had as opposed to a male’s. My first sexual act was to perform inept cunnilingus on my then girlfriend but it was an act of inspection — little did she realize!

In the early days of your realization, were you able to discuss your feelings and concerns with friends, family or the medical profession?  What was their initial response?  And how has that initial response impinged upon you today?

In the early days of my realization I felt unable to discuss my latent need to be a woman with anyone. I had witnessed my dad getting angry at my sister for having sex “out of wedlock” so I felt the need to keep quiet and equally my family felt themselves too pragmatic to be anything but dismissive towards any psychological medical practice. Thus when I was old enough to understand what psychology was I’d become too used to hiding my needs anyway. Similarly these initial reactions of mine had encouraged me to keep my feelings to myself, sadly to my detriment.

Transgender folk were considered ‘freaks’ in the 80s and 90s by much of society.  I, for one, remember tabloidy articles in women’s magazines subtly mocking them.  What affect did this kind of media have on trans children and adolescents from that time? 

Growing through my teens in the 80s and 90s, I didn’t even know the term transgender. The only term I knew of was the derogatory “tranny” and of the idea of being a transvestite which of course isn’t derogatory. But I knew I wasn’t a transvestite, I knew my needs were different and encompassed the physical but I only had reference to Australia’s first well known trans woman Carlotta and a well known Kings Cross drag show Les Girls. And both were ridiculed around me growing up.

These factors made me keep my mouth shut. Additionally until I came out about a year ago I did some stupid things to distract myself from this overwhelming need which included a lot of violent behavior, a heroin habit (now long beaten) and resultant gaol time.

Photo of Max (centre) now Roxanne White (supplied).

You’re currently transitioning from a male to a female.  Tell us about the weight of that decision.  Tell us indepth about the process of your transition and where you’re right now with it. 

The decision to come out was reached following a serious motorcycle accident which stole 15 months of my life but which allowed me to think VERY deeply about my future.

The process of my transition is fairly straightforward.  I’ve begun HRT which is physically and mentally changing me for the better. Physically I’m undergoing what’s called fat redistribution and a loss of muscle mass. My face is changing into a more feminine shape. My cheeks are becoming higher and my lips are becoming fuller. I’m growing breasts, my bum is growing in size and my hips are more pronounced through fat cell growth, especially more visible in jeans or tights.

Other physical changes include softer skin through an increase of subcutaneous fat and a decrease in the size of my sebaceous glands (which is also making my skin less oily and my pores smaller). My overall body hair growth has slowed, helped by waxing, laser and electrolysis (OUCH!!!).

Mentally, I’m more relaxed and consider the feelings of others because I’m in touch with my emotions. I’m MUCH less angry MUCH less often. I realize these mental changes are likely resulting from both hormonal and psychological reasons. Nature and nurture I suppose.

I started HRT in September last year but I’ve still got a long way to go. I assume at least another 18 months before I feminize enough for me to be happy. Passability is a two edged sword. For a myriad of reasons many of my trans sisters will become passable and many will not.

“Trans visibility could ultimately be helpful to our overall acceptance but it can also be dangerous to our personal safety. “

Photo of Roxanne White (supplied).

Have your friends and family been supportive through the process?  And does their approval matter when it comes to a significant life decision such as this?

My friends have all been surprisingly supportive, all tattooed-goatee-wearing lads! And my female friends have been wonderfully encouraging.

My immediate family took some time to get used to it. I now realize my mum will always love me. And It appears that we have a more positive relationship now — less arguments and such. It’s an absolute joy for me!

My older sister became implacably angry months after I came out, stating that I was hurting our mum despite my protestations to this and evidence to the contrary. Who knows? People change I guess.

But the support of my mother and friends have buoyed me immensely. Apart from my sister’s attitude, I’ve had no real cause of grief.

I do dread what I might have suffered without all this widespread support from a wonderful psychiatrist that I’m seeing, a fantastic endocrinologist and my helpful counselor at Sydney’s Gender Centre. I feel especially fortunate for this help after witnessing the hell trans-acquaintances have been through.

What is it like living as a trans person in 2017?  Has the focus on trans issues by media, pop culture, politics and the like made it easier to identify and live as a trans person?  And what film, person or piece of literature do YOU think has contributed most to the transgender community in the last couple of years?

Living as a trans person in 2017 is difficult. It takes courage, determination & patience. Courage to go against the culturally accepted binary nature of a gender assigned at birth.

Transgender people are still too often seen as weirdos and wrong. Especially in Trump’s America and other nations. One must be determined to continue as trans to overcome this. One must have patience to accept the time transitioning takes with saving the monies needed and for HRT to work.

Popular culture has made it easier, for me to identify as trans. It was during my convalescence from my bike accident that I first became aware of today’s possibilities in regards to transitioning. While lying in hospital I noticed Caitlyn Jenner on television and was dumbstruck. I thought “wow! I can do that!”

I’m also noticing some wonderful things emerging!

I’ve always liked Batman comics.

Batwoman is openly lesbian, as is Wonder Woman but best of all for me, Batman now has a scientist helper who is a trans woman!

Photo of Roxanne White (supplied).

What needs to be done as a society to assist and support transgender people?  And how should society go about educating individuals in the workplace and education system/s?

In order to assist and support trans people I think society needs to recognize that gender dysphoria needs to be taken seriously. We’re copping harassment from unexpected quarters.

For example, Barry Humphries called gender reassignment “ self-mutilation” and Germaine Greer has mocked us. Perhaps if either of these people had actually suffered the certainty of being a different gender they’d shut their mouths.

To steal from a great American president, Abraham Lincoln, maybe “the better angels of our nature” will prevail over ignorance and hate.

Follow Roxanne White on Twitter.