“IT sounds like [we live] in a world within a world, but the truth is we are just part of the general community,” Tiffany Tossman says, crossing shapely legs encased in sheer stockings.
She and friend Karron Swinn were talking to the Herald about their transgender journeys.
The frank discussion went from the deep-seated pain of family rejection, the psychological and physical trauma of gender reassignment, the side effects of hormones, surgery and the difficulties in finding partners and jobs, to discussions and tips (for me) on make-up, and unwanted hair removal.
“Look at us boys doing girl talk,” Ms Tossman laughs, before correcting herself: “Well, we really are all girls.”
Ms Swinn was 34 and Ms Tossman 40 when they made the transition. Neither had been particularly “girly” as children.
“In retrospect…I was jealous that I couldn’t wear dresses and skirts,” Ms Swinn says, recalling being bullied for being small and overweight, not for perceived gender differences.
Ms Tossman’s family were in fashion so she’d put her interest in female apparel down to her environment.
“I was always in awe of transgenders, looking back there was probably some aspects of femininity [in me].”
Travelling through the US a friend took her out cross-dressing for the first time, “[and] Tiffany had her epiphany,” Ms Tossman jokes of her deciding moment.
Aged 10, Ms Swinn watched documentary Tommy Doesn’t Exist any More, and that began a journey that would take another 24 years: “It was the first time I’d heard of trans-sexuality.”
Hamilton Hill teacher and counsellor Bronwyn Maddock specialises in transgender counselling, and says transitioning in later life brings its own set of problems, including overcoming years of inculturation as male.
“They might need speech therapy…sometimes it’s a big decision because their social field is big…for children [other] children are generally more accepting.”
For kids the journey is, hopefully, taken with supportive parents, but for adults transgendering it’s a “solo journey”, making it much harder, Ms Maddock says.
The pair is supportive of the Safer Schools program, currently under assault from conservative politicians and religious groups. For more information go to cottesloecounselling.com.au
by JENNY D’ANGER