Tonight I watched my niece on 60 Minutes. She’s almost 16. I think she’s incredibly strong and brave. At a time when most teenagers are struggling to figure out their identity and what they want, Izzie knows. She’s a girl. But as a transgender teenager, it’s been a fight to be her real self.
When my sister told me that they were going to be on 60 Minutes, I felt a bit worried to be honest, worried about haters. But as Izzie’s mum, I know my sister knows what she can cope with but it didn’t take long for the trolls to start once 60 Minutes uploaded the trailer onto social media.
It’s a sad side of social media that people bully others. That people feel the right to tell other people how they should live their lives, whether they are right or wrong in their life choices, especially when they don’t even know the people they are criticising or have any clue what they might be going through.
From a very young age, Izzie’s preferences were for things that are traditionally associated as girly. Princesses, mermaids, pink, purple, these were her favourite things. Izzie was one of five brothers. She often told her younger brothers to call her Izzie when they were at home.
I remember being at their house and Izzie was a sartorial ball of wonder in a crocheted poncho my mum had made, a camo tshirt given to the boys by my dad and a pair of flared, purple and pink embroidered, sequined jeans. Izzie put on a song and dance for my partner and I. It was fantastic!
Izzie saw a psychologist for some other issues when my sister first mentioned gender dysphoria during a phone call. She was 10. I didn’t know what it was, I just got stuck on dysphoria, thinking of a similarly named play that I’d wanted to see. #selfabsorbediknow
Louis Theroux produced a great doco about transgender kids in America. He asked a psychiatrist how young is too young to take a child’s expression of gender dysphoria seriously? How do you know it wasn’t just a phase? The younger they express it, the more likely it is to be the real thing, was the (paraphrased) reply. I wasn’t really surprised when my sister explained Izzie’s feelings of gender dysphoria. To me Izzie had always been ‘camp’ for lack of a better word. To her younger brothers, Izzie had always been like a girl. For them, it wasn’t a big deal.
Izzie started to wearing girls clothes all of the time, outside of school in 2011. Not too long after she told my sister that she wanted to go to school dressed as a girl. High fives, sister! That’s an incredibly brave 11 year old. Long story short, Izzie went to a Catholic school who were very supportive of her but didn’t have any policies needed for this to happen.
My sister has been Izzie’s biggest champion. She’s gone in and fought some incredibly hard fights, navigating a seemingly impossible web of bureaucracy to fight for her child. I’m not a parent so I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be to see your child struggling to be who they are, to live in a skin that doesn’t ‘fit’, to be someone who other people think they should be, a round peg being forced into a square hole.
My sister’s determination has paved the way for many other transgender kids in the Hunter Valley to be able to attend a Catholic school in the uniform of the gender they identify with. Izzie was incredibly lucky to have returned to her primary school with great support from her classmates, who wrote her a beautiful card and bought her girly hair things, etc. She went on to be voted the Sports Captain in Yr 6.
Izzie’s now in Year 10, she’s bright, she’s smart and does the best hair toss! She wants to study Criminal Forensics.
To see Izzie tonight on TV, I was humbled. Humbled because I really have no idea just how tough this has been for her. She always comes across as cool as a cucumber and handles things with total aplomb. Izzie described living as a boy as being trapped in an incredibly small cage. Who could ever, ever deny someone the right to be themselves.
To Izzie and my sister, her husband and my nephews, I think you’re all pretty damn amazing. Acceptance and being loved unconditionally, for who you really are is the greatest gift.