A Part time-girl
Joanne Coleman - Guest Speaker on 25 August 2001
Joanne is a heterosexual male; Shirley and Ainsley were men. Welcome to the largely unknown world of Transgender. Introduced by Geoff Ostling, the three spoke to a sometimes startled and always fascinated audience.
Elegantly dressed for an evening appearance, Joanne has been 'a part-time girl' since 1996. The eldest of four brothers and the father of two grown-up sons, he is a Rotary Club member with a very successful track record in business.
Married for 20 years, and feeling very masculine, he separated (and then divorced), and began to cross-dress in order to bring out the strong feminine side of his nature: "I wheeled a shopping trolley around a supermarket wearing a short skirt and high heels."
I'd never met a gay or lesbian.
After seeing an advertisement for the Metropolitan Community Church he met Rev. Greg Smith: "At that time I'd never met a gay or lesbian," Joanne said. "And I didn't think ministers were gay". Through MCC he made lots of good friends in the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual and Transgender community and participated in Mardi Gras, Sleaze, etc.
Joanne joined the Seahorse Society in Sydney which has about 100 members, all of them men who cross-dress, in the 35-40 age group or older. He explained that the Transgender community (a) does not include drag queens and gay guys who dress up and that (b) it includes two groups, Cross-dressers ("Me") and Trans-sexuals. There's an estimated 40,000 men in NSW and ACT who cross-dress, often secretly but mostly openly.
Being trapped in a man's body
Trans-sexuals are people who have started hormone therapy; may be pre-operative; or may be post-operative. There are 1500 Male to Female Trans-sexuals estimated in NSW, and a smaller number of Female to Male.
Among Transgender men strong feminine feelings are felt generally from the early years of childhood; the desire to express those feelings grow in the 20s and often guys are in their 30s or 40s before coming out. Among Male To Female Trans-sexuals the sense of "being trapped in a man's body" and the need "to be female" seems stronger than among Cross-dressers.
"Cross-dressing is not just about putting dresses on," said Joanne. "There are strong feelings about understanding women, what women do, how they feel, and even how vulnerable they feel."
Joanne commented: "I sometimes feel jealous of my gay friends - they're very balanced people...perhaps I don't have that balance".
Question time was fielded by all three guests.
Thanks to Shirley and Ainsley for travelling down from the Central Coast specially to answer members questions.
Contact Shirley at (02) 4357 2221 or visit the Central Coast Transgender Support on the Web at users.bigpond.com/cctgs.