MARCH 31 is Trans Day of Visibility.
If you haven't heard of that before the gist of it is that it's a day to celebrate the pride and euphoria that comes with being trans, acknowledge the achievements of those in the trans community and to bring to light the struggles trans people face just for living their lives authentically.
In the spirit of the day I wanted to share my experience of being trans in the Wimmera.
So, hello! I'm Lily, my pronouns are they/them and I'm non-binary. I grew up in Horsham and lived here pretty much all my life.
It took me a while to realise I was non-binary, there wasn't some lightbulb moment where I shouted "aha!" and finally knew myself. Retrospectively, I always knew that there was something "going on".
I was a pretty big tomboy as a kid and it took me a while to realise that wasn't just because I hated pink and wanted to play in the mud.
I know now that me using masculine terms like nephew to describe myself, trying to make my voice deeper, outright rejecting things on the basis of them being "for girls" were all ways I was trying to be myself despite not having the tools to understand what that was.
Something a lot of people don't realise about queerness is it's not necessarily as simple as you realise you are queer, you come out and you live happily as your true self.
It can be fluid and ever-developing as you learn things about yourself and the world around you.
I think in part, this made it much more difficult to understand myself in a rural community like this one.
Being trans, or just queer, is made so much more difficult by virtue of the fact that there's less of a queer presence around you.
While there were definitely LGBTIQ+ people within Horsham, there weren't any queer people I could look to for guidance because most of us were all just trying to understand ourselves as much as the other.
Until I looked to other places like Melbourne or internet communities, I didn't know that I wasn't a girl because I had never had any reason to think that wasn't all I could be.
My coming out was extremely difficult. I came out as gender fluid initially, at the time I'd always seen gender on a sliding scale of man - non-binary - woman.
So when I had some days when I felt feminine and some days masculine I thought that meant I couldn't be non-binary.
Honestly, I really didn't understand myself at all and felt a lot of pressure to come out so I could fight for my rights with authority.
This was a really bad idea, I never anticipated the amount of harassment I would get, how scary and isolating it would be.
Not all of it came from Horsham, a lot of it was people I didn't even know, but the sheer number of people in this town who hated trans people just because they were different, or because it was something new to them broke my heart.
It was such a stark contrast to the amount of joy learning about these things brought me. For a long time I really resented being trans because of this, I wished I could just accept people seeing me as a girl and forget about everything.
It took me a few years to figure it all out, but I know now I am non-binary with certainty.
Sometimes what that means for me still changes, it probably always will, and sometimes I still catch myself wishing things were simpler. I think that's just part of the process of self-acceptance though, especially when you've been given so many reasons to doubt yourself.
Despite everything, part of me still loves this little town. There are so many people who supported me, heard and learned the things I had to say even if they didn't quite understand.
In the years that followed me coming out I've been able to find the community I yearned for so long ago. I've been able to cultivate lifelong friendships with people who respect me, as a result I have more gay and trans people in my life than I could ever comprehend.
I'm able to actually make tangible changes to this town through the Wimmera Pride Project so that the future trans kids of Horsham have an easier go of it.
I can't remember there ever being anything for us that we didn't have to cultivate ourselves, so to see events, support groups and actions being taken to advocate for LGBTIQ+ people means the world to me.
To know I've been able to help achieve some of those things means more.
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I know this story deserves to have a happy ending, I wish I could tell you that I changed the hearts and minds of everybody in town. The reality is that while things have gotten easier most of the time I don't feel comfortable at non-queer events here even with the security of supportive friendships and self-confidence.
I am misgendered every day of my life, both through words and the assumption that I am a woman. The importance of me ever mentioning my gender is always questioned, sometimes to the point of interrogation.
I constantly have to fight for myself as people laugh, sneer or try to discredit me. These things aren't the worst of what I've experienced in my life, but together they wear you down. I am worn down.
My queer identity is ever developing, I feel it pulling me away from here more and more each day.
There are so many things I'm yet to learn and experience and I know that I won't find them here.
It's bittersweet to leave a place you love and you've fought so hard to forge your place in, especially when you've lived there nearly all your life.
I know when I leave it'll be the right decision for me though, like I know that this town is in good hands and that one day I'll be able to come back here and feel just as safe as everybody else.
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