Fate, coincidence, call it what you will but I observed this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Adelaide. The Department of Premier and Cabinet there had invited me to address a breakfast on Tuesday morning. I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the picturesque Adelaide Oval. Other than Trent Bridge in Nottingham Adelaide is my favourite venue for the game that I love deeply, and which has embraced me without demur as a trans woman since I announced my gender transition during the First Test Match of the Australia‐ South Africa series in Brisbane in November 2012.
Whenever I pause to reflect on the past four years my mind invariably retrieves inspiring, humbling and emotional encounters with some of the greatest players ever to grace the global game. Some of these men, notably Ian and Greg Chappell, were my heroes as a shy young kid growing up in regional Queensland in the 1960s. I have been incredibly surprised and humbled at the manner in which cricket has accepted me.
Jacqueline Lunn interviews Catherine McGregor about transitioning and the Order of Australia.
My friend, the essayist and former England player Ed Smith, has written of the ‘rich poetic heart’, which beats inside the breast of the game. My batting coach, an amiable giant fast bowler from Kent, Simon Cusden, believes Mother Cricket is the Goddess who presides over the game. See there is a feminist angle! You just had to be patient!
But if such an alpha male environment can accept a trans woman why can’t the media organisation for whom I write about the game? Over the past two weeks the News Limited tabloids have proudly ridiculed trans women in various guises. Tim Blair smugly insists on referring to Caitlyn Jenner as the “cross dresser Bruce Jenner.” Mark Latham has revealed in posing with his porcine head atop Jenner’s evening gown swathed body to make a point, which eluded me. I gather in the first case he was deploying his leaden humour to attack the Safe Schools program for the umpteenth time. Had it been around during the 1970s he would have been Australia’s Caitlyn Jenner. Drum roll. Get it?
For the record I was not a supporter of the Safe Schools program primarily because of the pivotal role in it of a Trotskyist Roz Ward. But Safe Schools does not create trans kids. Had it been around in the 1970s Mark would still have been Mark. Moreover, he would probably still have been a bully as well.
My conviction is that trans people are born. The chasm dividing our assigned birth gender from whom we feel ourselves to be widens the longer we live. It widens causing agonising emotional and mental suffering know to medical practitioners as Gender Dysphoria. While News Limited provocateurs think it is source of hilarity it is a recognised medical condition. The best treatment for gender dysphoria is gender transition.
My gender dysphoria reached crescendo pitch over the summer of 2011‐12. It culminated in my decision to end my life on the eve of Australia Day 2012 while I was covering a Test match at the Adelaide Oval. A fortuitous Sliding Doors moment that diverted me from that decision occurred in the car park outside that ground amid an azure tinted Adelaide twilight sky. That is why this IDAHOT was especially poignant and why every visit to Adelaide affirms survival against the odds.
Survival against the odds is at the heart of every trans story. Mine is more widely known than most but it is actually unremarkable at its essence. I suffered great distress and ultimately decided that I was willing to lose anything to be myself. I have been more fortunate than most. I have been able to maintain a career and with a few exceptions my significant relationships have survived. I am estranged from some friends and two siblings. Each loss is deeply personal and a cause for grief. We do not do this on a whim nor in the grip of delusion or because we are turned on by female clothing.
We all pay a price for authenticity and in some cases unemployment homelessness and self‐harm accompany our choices. The statistics about the suffering among trans men and women make bleak reading. So to be accused of being a pampered elite enjoying inordinate power and prestige in our society as many of my former colleagues insist is both factually incorrect and morally reprehensible.
While we have something to celebrate each IDAHOT the challenge of replacing ignorance with acceptance and bigotry with tolerance remains daunting.