It feels funny to call someone a friend when you only met them a week ago. But there you go.
Sometimes you just click with someone and you feel like you’re going to stay connected in some way.
I felt like that about Cate McGregor, the first trans-woman I’ve interviewed.
I’ve been diving deep into the trans experience lately. It began with learning more about Laverne Cox, the trans actress who plays Sophia on Orange Is The New Black and was kick-started further when Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out last year.
Listen to Mia’s No Filter interview with Cate, here: (Post continues after audio.)
I watched her interview with Diane Sawyer with my kids because I thought it would be a good way to introduce them to the concept of what it meant to be transgender.
We used to use terms like “sex-change” or (incorrectly) transvestite to describe trans people. Now, thanks to Sophia and Caitlin and Cate and all the other trans activists, we are far more aware of the nuances of what it means to feel like you were born into the wrong body.
I’ve also been binge-watching Transparent (via Stan), the award-winning American drama/comedy about a man who, like Bruce Jenner and Malcolm McGregor (Cate’s identity before she came out as trans), comes out later in his life.
I may have used the wrong pronouns just now. There is a lot to remember and a lot to be careful about when talking about trans people. Pronouns and names are hugely important. I used the male ones because I was talking about the lives of those people before they publicly transitioned into being women.
I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do or not but good intentions and benefit of the doubt counts for a lot as the late, great disability advocate Stella Young used to say when people asked her about whether she wanted to be referred to as a disabled person or someone with a disability.
One thing I have learned is that trans people don’t like the obsession we seem to have with what’s in their pants. Their decision whether or not to have gender reassignment surgery is a personal one and not a deal-breaker for whether they identify as male or female.
As a society, we’re on a steep learning curve and that’s awesome. Because suddenly (it seems sudden in terms of pop culture), trans people are visible.
Cate was named Queenslander of the year which automatically made her a finalist for Australian of the Year. She wanted to win.
When I met Cate last week and interviewed her for my No Filter podcast, I was struck by so many things. I looked a lot like a butch lesbian next to her, that’s how feminine she is.
And it’s not in any way a forced or exaggerated type of femininity. It simply emanates from her in the same way it would a born-woman. She’s just…..innately female. The way she holds her head, the way she gestures, her intonation.
Today, she’s in pieces and I’m feeling for her. She made some thoughtless comments in an interview that have blown up in the media and she’s copping it big time.
I feel her. I’ve had more foot-in-mouth media moments over the past few years than I care to recall (except I can recall all of them in vivid detail).
Some have been me genuinely engaging my mouth before my brain. Some have been a case of shockingly bad timing. And some have been a case of my words being wilfully twisted and distorted to use as a weapon against me by people who are just looking for any excuse because they hated me (or the world) already.
I take responsibility for all of them. As Cate has taken responsibility for what she said – and apologised for it.
I know she is mortified. I’ve been mortified too.
At the time, it feels like you’ve wrecked your life, trashed your reputation, accidentally upset people you never meant to hurt. It’s pretty dark.
You don’t have to be in the media or be in the middle of a Twitter pile-on to feel this way. If you think about it, I bet you can recall a time when you did something or said something you regret.
I have a long list – a fraction of which have been done or said in public. Honestly, it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t said or done the wrong thing. But it doesn’t change who you are as a person. It doesn’t.
Cate McGregor in conversation with Mamamia’s Jacqueline Lunn (post continues after video):
It can – and it should – make you more cautious about what you say in the future, especially if you are talking to the media (it’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson, I’m still learning it).
So I guess I just wanted to say that I’m thinking of Cate today. I’m thinking about her bravery as a soldier and as a transgender person. And I’m hoping that she – and we – can give her the benefit of the doubt, accept her apology and move on.
Because nobody deserves to be defined by a few poorly chosen words (and please remember this next time I find myself with my foot in my mouth, OK because we both know it’s only a matter of time, right? Thanks)