Miss Katherine Wolfgramme FRSA receives a strong result for the Australian Trans Community
A great outcome has been achieved for the Transgender Community and its Allies earlier this year, settling a complaint against The Australian with the Anti-Discrimination Board. The basis of the complaint was that an article published under The Australian’s ‘Gender Issues’ column incited serious contempt for transgender people.
Miss Katherine Wolfgramme FRSA, award winning trans advocate and gender diversity consultant, believes strongly in educating the wider community on the issues transgender people face and raising awareness of the distress such publications cause.
As Miss Wolfgramme recalled:
“I transitioned over thirty years ago when there were no rights for my community. I and other trans advocates strive to help pave the way for future generations to be happy without persecution – as my trans elders and trans ancestors strove to pave the way for us now.
None of these things can be achieved without stronger allies, in the legal and political and corporate arena who stand in front of us when we cannot speak, stand beside us when we cannot be brave and stand behind us to give us a platform so our voices can be heard; and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for how far we have come and continue to go.”
Following conciliation, The Australian agreed to both amend the headline of the article and publish an Editor’s note to the online article. This is a strong result for the transgender community. It not only provides necessary context to the article’s commentary, but importantly acknowledges the harm the transgender community and its Allies consider the article caused.
The outcome of the complaint provides a clear reminder that words and the context in which they are used matters. The significant impact felt by the transgender community and their experience of minority stress cannot be overstated.
Miss Wolfgramme would like to thank The Australian for:
“acknowledging the community stress and distress their articles may have caused and their grace in deciding to publicly acknowledge that and take action to help change the narrative.
Slowly, slowly with each generation we are all learning to accept each other’s differences more kindly and it is my hope that one day all media outlets will learn to be more respectful and kind towards people of all genders and all diversities.”
The Editor’s note is published as follows:
“The original version of this article carried the headline “Health chiefs can’t ignore ‘global epidemic’ of transgender teens”, but following concerns raised by Miss Katherine Wolfgramme on behalf of the transgender community and its Allies, who considered the article could cause harm to the transgender community, The Australian has chosen to amend the headline to read, “Health chiefs can’t ignore ‘global epidemic’ of transgender teens, inquiry told” to clarify the headline was reporting on submissions to a Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry.”
Clyde & Co is proud to support the LGBT Community through our Pryde network (also referred to as ‘Pryde & Co’) and wish to further the important goal of educating the larger community about the issues that LGBTIQ+ people face.
I have been officially awarded a Fellowship at The RSA – The Royal Society of Arts Manufactures & Commerce, the Fellowship is a global network of change-makers who have created positive impacts for their communities. I will now have access to financial and social support for possible future community endeavors for the betterment of my community particularly in education and employment.
It is an honor and a privilege to be entrusted with this award which is in recognition of my trans advocacy, trans education and trans awareness training programs.
In 2019 I was invited by a young film maker still at university to feature in her short film on feminist intersectionality, not out of feminism but because of the earnest good intention of the film maker did I agree to the project, I was already heavily laden with speaking engagements, social events, community based volunteer work and board meetings with various boards and committees I belonged to, so even though I felt reluctant, saying no would have made me feel like I had killed Bambi.
Filming with the girls was a treat for us all as The Pullman Hyde Park generously lent me a suite for my filming location and I was also dressed by Camilla for the occasion.
At Intersections has been shown at short film festivals around the world and has garnered nominations and awards for Fern Mei Sim, I hope you enjoy this delightful short film documenting the diversity of LGBT Feminist Intersectionality.
I also wish Fern Mei Sim a fruitful and successful career in Filmmaking as she goes forth into the film industry.
Even though I have stepped down as Board Member and Public Officer of the Wear It Purple Board, I am still a part of the Wear It Purple Family, I had a really beautiful experience today, and I feel very blessed for it.
I participated in a short film about inter-generations, my portion was a conversation with a young man called Billee who transitioned a year ago..I transitioned 10 years before he was born, and through gentle conversation we learned so much about each other.
I often worry about the future of the Trans Community because of a very angry and vocal and dominant Trotsky inspired queer identifying minority, who I even question are actually transgender.
Transgender people according to the World Health Organisation do not have mental health illness, but the madness and insanity this vocal minority is trying to indoctrinate as Trans has connotations of Dissociative Personality Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) – I also believe this vocal minority are trying to use the Transgender platform for their own agenda, which is embedded in an extreme left political ideology that is more queer theory, and this is definitely not Trans.
But meeting Billee and chatting with him reminded me of my duty to protect trans youth and trans children because true transgender people are peaceful and beautiful souls, and once transitioned are at peace.
I looked into Billee’s beautiful young face, and I saw peace and love and a beautiful spirit.
If the Transgender Community is led by good people like Billee in the future, then the future of the Transgender Community will be ok.
The film is a collaboration by Facebook, Instagram, Junkee Media and Wear It Purple.
“Stand Up, Stand Out” will be released next week for Wear It Purple Day.
Anexcerpt of my memoirs which I am currently writing.
Before my transition, in the depths of my greatest misery, in the darkness where there is no light, no hope of future, no escape, only defeat and distress – I dreamed a dream.
“I am an adult and I am in a
bedroom with a man, we are getting ready for a party, we can hear our guests
downstairs socialising and enjoying the night. I look at the bedroom door just
past the modern four poster timber bed and I say to the man “we had better go
down stairs, they are waiting for us, please put my necklace on for me”, he
gently places the necklace around my neck. “Thank you”, I turn to leave the
room and the man stops me, and says “Wait, look in the mirror, you are so
beautiful”, I turn to look in the mirror, and there I am, a woman, not just a
woman but a beautiful woman wearing a most beautiful necklace that surrounded
me in the most beautiful iridescent light I had ever seen”
My eyes opened, I am filled with peace, I am filled with strength. I have seen myself. I have seen my future. I will be fine.
It really is an honour to be nominated for any award, especially one so prestigious as the Australian LGBTI Awards, I was already so happy with that – imagine my shock when my name was called as the winner of Inspirational Role Model of the Year, and just to add the cherry to my sundae, Wear It Purple won best Community Initiative.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate my fellow Wear It Purple Board Directors – President Ross Wetherbee, Vice President Marc Field, Treasurer Alex Stefan, Secretary Gemma Allen, Brock Galway, Robbie Robertson, Pete Foley and Brenna Harding.
Wear It Purple is driven by our youth, I would like to also acknowledge the hard work of our Youth Action Council and Executive Committee who have worked tirelessly through the year to empower and bring hope to rainbow youth across Australia, we dedicate this award to you.
I would like to also acknowledge past president Matt Janssen for his tireless efforts last year.
It is very important to also thank our former Wear It Purple Patrons who paved the way and opened doors for our organisation Dr Kerryn Phelps and her wife Jackie Stricker Phelps.
It was really wonderful to see other strong trans people win awards in other categories including Mama Alto for Best Artist, Jordan Raskapoulos for Local Hero and Georgie Stone for Hero, it was a great day for trans visibility, and high time that gender diverse people be finally acknowledged for their contributions to our wonderful LGBTI Community.
I have always been fascinated by my own reflection, I do not believe it is because I am vain, I believe it is because I transitioned into a woman and during that journey I struggled so hard, and I fought so hard to achieve my goal that I celebrate that now by cataloguing my evolution from the very beginning going now into aging.
You could say my Gender Dysphoria has become Gender Euphoria!
Many artists have tried to capture a part of me over the years, which has always thrilled and flattered me.
I wanted to share some portraits of me from over the years in different mediums and styles, there are more I may share at a later date.
I enjoy the process of sitting for a portrait, and I find what other people see in me so different to what I see in myself – and that can be very interesting.
Here are a few portraits by artists over the decades.
Yiorgos Zefirou and I collaborated on a series of photgraphic portraits in the Grotesque Style in 2018, I enjoyed the process immensely.
*Trigger Warning* In advance I would like to apologise to any transpeople who are triggered by the word "tranny", I have had to use this word to make my case very clear and I would like to warn anyone that will be affected to not read the contents of this article.
This will be the very first and last Opinion Piece I will publicly write about the problem with the word “Tranny“.
On Friday I was sent a legal letter from a property lawyer acting as a defamation lawyer on behalf of his friend – a certain drag queen by the name of Penny Tration, aka flight attendant Daniel Floyd, the owner of a business formerly known as Tranny Bingo.
The letter extolled a list of complaints the (misled but well intentioned) lawyer told me my actions to expose the word “tranny’ as an insulting and debasing word to transwomen had failed and the legal action I took (sending of legal letters to cease and desist using the word “Tranny”) wasn’t a legal action, “Tranny” was not insulting, also the former Human Rights Commissioner told Daniel he could legally use the word. I legally didn’t have a leg to stand on. The anti discrimination law didn’t protect me. The anti vilification laws didn’t protect me etc. And to remove the Facebook post shaming Mr Floyd.
This letter was in retaliation to my exposing Mr Daniel Floyd publicly on Facebook for his decision to degrade my person by calling me a man and making fun of my proud pacific island lineage on social media while being heavily intoxicated.
My interpretation of the question the legal letter posed to me was why should I be so angry? Who do I think I am? How dare I shame someone who disrespects and makes fun of me, a transgender woman on a public forum by shaming him in return? And why should I a transgender woman be surprised that he would disrespect me by calling me a man after running “Tranny Bingo” for 17 years and everything else he caused to debase and dehumanise the trans population? He who claims to “respect trans people”.
Of all his many years of cyber bullying others he has never been so insulted in all his life, the irony was not lost to me.
I fired a very rude letter back telling the lawyer that all I wanted was an apology. Daniel’s (property) lawyer (friend acting as a “defamation lawyer”) told me he advised his client that he could not apologise because that would be admitting guilt – he cannot apologise for calling me a man and making fun of my proud Fijian heritage because that would be an admission of his guilt. Even though he did it, and I have witnesses to prove it, interesting. And very bad advice.
The biased and ill informed lawyer also tried to point out that our disagreements were dividing the community and I was being selfish. And to stop it. I mean how dare I demand to be respected. How dare I show other trans people how to demand respect. How dare I upset the apple-cart by demanding equality?
It all goes back to that word “Tranny”, so I am going to spend the rest of this post explaining why the word “Tranny” is so incredibly insulting to most transwomen in Australia and abroad.
Unfortunately the general public is often confused between transpeople and drag queens, some people cannot see any difference at all, and here lies the problem.
Transgender/Transsexual: Someone who identifies and has transitioned physically to the gender which is opposite to their physical gender at birth. Trans people most often permanently live as the gender they identify with. Some transwomen do drag shows for artistic purposes, but generally they identify as showgirls, not drag queens. The most famous Australian trans showgirl is Carlotta.
Drag Queen: A man who dresses as a woman for entertainment purposes aka female impersonator, drag artist, theatrical or cabaret performer. Drag queens live and identify as men when not in drag. Drag is a traditional art form associated with gay culture globally. The most famous Australian drag queen is Courtney Act.
Female Impersonator: An actor who is male who takes on a female character for artistic purposes. Australia’s most famous female impersonator is Barry Humphreys and his alter-ego Dame Edna Everage. Some drag queens identify as female impersonators but not all.
Transvestite: a person, typically a man, who derives sexual pleasure from dressing in clothes primarily associated with the opposite sex. Often referred to as a kinky pleasure rather than an identity or art form. The best known transvestite would be Dr Frank N Furter from the musical The RockyHorror Show. It is very rare for a drag queen or female impersonator to also be a transvestite.
The Trans Umbrella: Since the amalgamation of T with LGB, Trans has come to represent far more than just binary trans-men and trans-women which was historically the case. Trans now includes non-binary (people who do not identify as either gender) and a very small percent of the transgender population are gender fluid and gender queer (people who identify as every gender and enjoy and vocally celebrate confrontational labels such as tranny as a part of their identity). The best known gender queer person in Australia is Norrie. Some drag queens identify themselves under the trans umbrella and occasionally eventually transition. It is mainly young transwomen and many transmen who find the term tranny offensive, because 1) Young trans-women are exposed daily to the slur as a form of abuse, and 2) Many trans-men remember the misogyny they experienced before transition so understand the connotations of the situation.
Origin of the word Tranny
The origin of the word Tranny is very simple, Transsexual was way too long to say in casual conversation so we abbreviated the word so it was quick and easy, it was never a word we would use outside of the trans community but it was a word we could use to identify each other in a most casual but non offensive way. Nobody outside the trans community used the word twenty years ago. Tranny was never short for transvestite.
The misappropriation of the word “Tranny” was not sudden, it was eventual. Drag queens found it hilarious and fun to say, in fact around 1999 I remember they started calling each other trannies in nightclubs and bars in Sydney, they found it extremely naughty, funny and catchy.
Some entrepreneurial drag queens, who were female impersonators or drag artists – but definitely not trans, decided it would be fantastic marketing for their drag bingo, two-up, and other events designed not for the lgbt community but the general public, after all, Tranny was so taboo and naughty. They were right, the branding did catch on. Their events gave the general public permission to not only use the word but also make fun of the drag queens on stage who were making fun of themselves – as trannies, not drag queens. For 17 years.
Permission for the general public to use the word was not given from the trans community, it came from the drag community.
Two decades on and Tranny is universally considered to be a word which is a derogatory slang towards Transgender Women in most English language dictionaries.
The reason it is considered a derogatory slang now is simple, non trans people will use the word to debase a transgender woman if they are angry with her or they don’t like her, it is also used during physical and verbal abuse as if to justify their hatred and violence towards her. It is often the last word a victim hears before she regains her consciousness in hospital.
The word Tranny is now used as a weapon of hate towards transgender women.
Language is important,and language can hurt, it has been used as a weapon to oppress others since the dawn of time.
Time and again trans people and trans organisations came forward to let Daniel know this was offensive to trans people, in public they would say “we are open to discussion” in private those requests fell on deaf ears.
Daniel and Tranny Bingo first gained media attention in 2014 because Indiana Edwards, a trans activist decided to take them on, she organised a picket protest and challenged them on TV and in the media – Even then, Daniel (dressed as his sparkly and fun alter ego Penny) said “we are happy todiscuss this”. Unsurprisingly when the cameras were off nothing happened.
The media were very unkind toward Indiana, who was just trying to do the right thing.
One Tranny Bingo hostess wrote to me last November “I hated standing up for Tranny Bingo whenever a trans person would come up and complain to me, because I hated having to stand behind something I didn’t support, and the thing is I know you’re fine using the word if its used amongst sisters, but using it the way Penny was it was not ok because non sisters were using it”
A former bingo hostess privately wrote in an email ” I have not been a part of those events for over 12 months and a lot of soul searching in that time has led me to the truth that if the word hurts so many it is not my right to use that word – its not ok”
Why I Took Legal Action Against Friends.
I entered Sydney’s drag community in 1995, I was a showgirl and did drag shows in clubs on Oxford Street, I have always loved and had the greatest respect for the drag community because it is somewhere I have always belonged and been welcomed. Most trans showgirls within the drag community don’t find the word Tranny offensive, even I didn’t until very recently.
In 2017 a young transwoman and member of the social group I was Admin for posted her outrage about a large sign saying “Tranny Bingo” outside a hotel in Balmain. She said she went in and asked to speak to the manager, she told the manager that the word Tranny was offensive, he replied it was ok because the drag queens hosting the event were “trannies”, she said no they are not, and she was trans and she was offended – to which the manager curtly said “The sign is staying up”.
Complaints continued to be pathologically ignored and the word that is so expressly insulting to many was displayed in public for all to see on a busy road. This may not seem outrageous to non trans people, but to transpeople who are regularly maligned and oppressed verbally by the word, this triggered not only bad memories but also sent a sense of dread and helpless outrage through a community who were already marginalized and defenceless. It was insensitive and insulting to people who had already made their feelings very clear and had been pathologically ignored. This sign stood for oppression to many transpeople.
A new admin to the page of the group I adminned also posted something about it on our public page, he cited his outrage and his partner’s rage who also confronted the manager, I told him he couldn’t do that on the page because as admin we had to remain neutral, he would not back down so I deleted his post. I was very uncomfortable being placed in that position without my consent, tranny was never a word I personally had a problem with. That is until just before this incident when I was verbally attacked on Oxford St by a group of men hurling a string of abuses at me which included “f___ing filthy tranny, nothing but a stupid tranny, disgusting tranny you should be ashamed of yourself”. Those thugs left me quite unsettled, never before had I heard the word “Tranny” being used with such hatred and violent fury.
Afterwards one of the senior hosts of Tranny Bingo and former friend privately messaged me and personally thanked me for defending them, I said it was something that needs to be discussed to which she replied “we are always open to discussion”.
I realised then, that I had heard this dialogue four years ago on television, in newspapers and on social media – they definitely were not open to discussion, otherwise the past complainants would have been heard.
It was the sheer arrogance of a non trans person telling transpeople where, when and if they would decide they were going to continue insulting them or not that I found most astounding.
The problem was none of the complainants were known to the LGBT Community so their complaints could quickly be swept under a carpet or they could just be called trouble makers and their complaints were soon forgotten. Change could only happen if someone with a voice from within our community came forward.
So, I decided to do something about it.
On my behalf, pro bono, three lawyers from Allens Linklaters, a major commercial law firm sent legal letters to all businesses advertising and holding Tranny Bingo on their premises and the owner of Tranny Bingo to cease and desist using the word because it is offensive and hurtful.
I was not going to nicely ask a non trans person to stop using the word Tranny, because the establishments and Daniel Floyd had been asked very nicely for years to no avail. The other reason I did not ask was because the word did not belong to the drag community, it belonged to the trans population – because they were the tran(nie)s.
Some older transwomen are proud to call themselves a tranny, they fought very hard to exist in a time when they were not allowed to, and all power to them, but they generally wont accept strangers calling them that. I too am a stakeholder of the word as are all other transpeople, I don’t have issue with transwomen wanting to take ownership of the word, if it empowers them then fantastic. But it doesn’t empower all transpeople, only a few, and to my way of thinking , you cannot own a word until it is taken possession of it from those who had hijacked it.
When I talk about ownership of a word think about the “N” word. Some Afro Americans have decided to call each other “N”s – but they wont hear of anyone else using the word.
There is also a parallel to “blackface’, white people covered in black boot polish and dressing up as afro Americans and making fun of themselves – they are not making fun of white people, they are making fun of black people. So too was tranny bingo, they were men DRessed As Girls calling themselves Trannies and making fun of themselves.
What I was demanding was very simple. I was demanding respect, which is the equality everyone is spouting about.
Again Daniel used the opportunity to promote his events claiming he was a victim and 17 years of tradition was at stake and the Aussie Battler was under threat, lapping up the media attention with newspaper, online magazine and radio interviews. Attempting to confuse the public by claiming to be a transvestite. Even one of the hotels stated they would “fight on”.
A former Human Rights Commissioner told him he could legally use the word, that there was no law stopping him from holding the event, this is quite different to the Human Rights Commissioner telling him it wasn’t insulting or hurtful, or morally wrong.
There was definitely a furore on social media among our friends who didn’t, and shouldn’t have to take sides.
I had never been publicly called a troll, a bitch or a trouble maker before. I was called militant,a word Nazi and many other things from a piranha to a worm.
Quite Ironic considering for almost thirty years prior to this I was considered by the very same people to be kind, beautiful, understanding, genuinely nice and always coming from a good place.
By some I was misogynised, by others demonised but most importantly by most I was sympathised with – to them what I was saying made perfect sense.
The final Outcome
Whilst dealing with the stress of social media attacks and so many friends being furious with me for upsetting the apple cart, I remained strong and stood by my actions.
Gradually all the main organisations within the LGBT Community acknowledged that “Tranny” was indeed derogatory slang used to debase transwomen.
Everyone now knows this word is offensive, and when they use it they do so with the full knowledge that it is hurtful.
There are no longer any businesses in any state in Australia hosting events using the word “Tranny”.
The trash media persists in using the derogatory slang in their headlines and that is to sell more papers at the cost of persistently dehumanising women within the trans community. But one day very soon they too will have to stop. It is such a shame that it will be under force and not by their own volition.
Language changes, some words that were once acceptable in polite society are now considered awful and inconceivable to most young people that these words could ever have been found to be acceptable in the first place. That is evolution.
I gave a voice to those people within the trans community who did not have the courage or aptitude or public profile to stand up for themselves, I bought this issue to everyone’s attention which was previously swept under the carpet for nearly two decades.
That’s why I sleep well at night, because I did the right thing.
Daniel at the end of the day also did the right thing, he changed the name of his bingo event to Gender Bender Bingo.
I am very proud to be associated with Out For Australia.
Did you know that mentoring is widely considered a critical component to career success?
Yet 63% of women reported that they have never had a formal mentor.
Not having a mentor could be the difference between what makes or breaks your career.
To discuss the importance of women mentoring, Out For Australia (OFA) is hosting a free online event for women and non-binary folk on the 14th of September at 6:30pm.
• Hear from our amazing panel of speakers about their experiences with mentoring.
• Uncover what mentoring can do for your career.
• Understand what stops LBTQIA+ folk from engaging in mentoring and why we need more of us to be involved.
• Be inspired to find your next great mentor.
• Be inspired to get involved as a mentor.
At OFA we aim to bring the community together and offer a supportive and nurturing environment where people can network, build relationships, and assist each other in their professional journeys.
We have over 1000 participants in mentoring relationships Australia wide and are the countries’ largest and most successful mentorship program offered for LGBTQIA+ and allies. It is 100% free, open to anyone 18+ in Australia, and is quick and easy to sign up!
I am very excited to be invited to speak on The Director of Fiji Fashion Week -Ellen Whippy Knight’s recently picked up by a Fijian National TV Station, Fashion Talks with Ellenabout my advocacy and my pivot into fashion with the creation of my new floral crown label Katherine Wolfgramme Handmade.
Ellen is also a well regarded current affairs television presenter and prominent socialite in Fijian Society and a leading luminary of the Fijian Community in Sydney Australia.
It is an honour to be able to present myself to the people of my country of birth with such a lovely debut.
broadcasting live via Zoom on Facebook on Wednesday September 8 at 4pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.
I have just started creating floral crowns especially designed to go with Camilla Kaftans and Leisurewear.
So….I’ve launched a label!
Unfortunately with COVID lockdowns, there is no elegant launch with a fashion parade and champagne but I am now creating one off handmade floral crowns and headpieces to stock in boutiques across the Eastern Suburbs, specifically made to adorn elegant leisurewear for glamorous outdoor events, weddings, day gala, summer cocktail parties, swish afternoon tea events, dance parties and of course Mardi Gras; or just to make the great unwashed, feel unwashed, ha!
Something perfect for COVID Brides who cannot access hairdressers and makeup artists.
Also designed to be moderately priced to meet the gap in the floral crown market (an issue I was faced with annually) I sincerely hope my new hobby that was borne out of a need to keep my mind busy during this lockdown becomes successful enough to pay for itself so I can continue to do something I enjoy.
Wish me luck!
My first physical stockist is Sharon ‘Sha Sha’ Barclay’s Oasis Emporium on Macleay St in Potts Point.
You can also view some of my stock on Instagram at KWflowercrowns
To Stock In Your Retail Showroom or for Editorials Please Contact Me Directly at email@example.com
I knew the second wave, the Delta Strain of Covid19 from India was going to be absolutely horrific if it came to Australia, and I prayed and hoped that it would not because I saw in advance how it had ravaged my country of birth Fiji.
So when the Delta Variant was first detected here in Sydney with the first cases reported in Bondi I went on a manic online shopping spree because I knew I would be locked down for months, instead of shopping for toilet paper – a baffling and mysterious first world phenomena where panic shoppers will buy all the toilet paper available in supermarkets rather than important things like food and medicals, I bought a plethora of silk flowers, florist wire, florist tape, silk ribbons and headbands, 71 separate 0rders each order containing several items not because I was completely crazed but because i decided to join the world wide trend of Pivoting.
In 2019 and 2020 I was very ill but I didn’t realize it, so ill I ended up in hospital early 2021 and then admitted to Sacred Heart Rehabilitation in Darlinghurst in Sydney recovering from a broken leg I had not healed from both mentally and physically, I also had undiagnosed Cushing’s Disease and Diabetes.
It started with my broken leg, unfortunately I was not given the right aftercare after I fell off a stage (truly, I couldn’t make it up) and fractured a bone in my leg, so I remained isolated in my third floor apartment for three months because the stairs caused my leg too much pain for me to even think of descending and ascending the stairs to and from my home; eventually I picked myself up and started leaving the apartment and I was also excited my rehab was was finally set for April 2020..I could see people were shocked by my appearance, I had gained weight and I used a walking stick but could only walk short distances, I was basically an invalid.
By March 2020 the global pandemic began and Australia and the world was sent into self isolation, which in turn caused all my medical follow up appointments to be canceled.
At first the isolation seemed calming and beautiful but having no control of the world around me must have had a very deep negative psychological effect on me because I was also so terrified I only left my bed to go to the bathroom and collect the home delivered groceries and food deliveries left at the door. I had by this time subscribed to every streaming service available so my days were filled with non stop television.
I think it must have been during this time that my undiagnosed Cushings Disease led to Diabetes, I had gained 30kgs so I was diagnosed obese to boot, a series of unfortunate events led me to be become very sick.
When I finally went to St Vincents Hospital in Sydney in January 2021 it became very obvious to myself that things were serious because the hospital strongly advised me to stay the weekend until a bed was available at the rehabilitation centre – hospitals usually chuck you out as soon as possible.
To be honest I was in shock, I mentally did not grasp what was going on but I did know rehabilitation was my salvation so I stayed in the hospital and waited for a bed in the rehabilitation clinic, also knowing I could die made me very compliant and obedient – contrary to some jealous rumors I actually do take direction well when instructed properly…
Rehab was a dream, the care and empathy and sympathy shown to me helped me heal in leaps and bounds, with all my ailments diagnosed and treated, and with my physical rehabilitation taken care of I was able to heal both mentally and physically, I don’t wish to whitewash things so I will say it was physically and mentally very demanding at times and I cried a lot but in the end I pulled through this year with flying colours, the deep depression lifted, I no longer have Cushings and my diabetes is taken care of; oh and I am also walking without a walking stick 90 minutes every afternoon and have also gone from Australian dress size 22 to a size 16!
Post first wave of Covid19, work and society and virtually everything else returned to normal, all was wonderful until the Delta Variant from India arrived in Australia late July 2021.
Instead of defeat and returning to my bed again like the last lockdown I decided to pivot – change direction, do something I have always wanted to do but was never able to do, and my idea came from my annual issue which occurs around every Mardi Gras Season.
Every February The Sydney Gay Community puts on a celebration like no other – The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, an internationally recognised event where my community comes together to remember the past crimes committed against us but also to celebrate the rights we have won as a community by a gigantic street parade followed by a legendary dance party second to none . The Mardi Gras Arts Festival runs for a month culminating with the dance party.. our last hurrah before our season ends and the Autumn weather sets in.
I digress, every parade night I like to wear flowers in my hair in memory of my glorious trans god mother Carmen Rupe who was always adorned in enormous jewels, glorious gowns and a gigantic flower in her hair, she was a striking a figure in every parade and an iconic and much loved transgender woman of Sydney and New Zealand’s Gay and Transgender Communities, basically she is a legend.
Every year I would scramble to find flowers for my hair to pay tribute to Carmen’s memory, I myself cannot wear just a single giant flower, I prefer flower crowns and every year I am faced with the same dilemma, a milliner will charge me between $500 to $700 for a silk flower crown, a florist will charge me $220-$300 for a fresh flower floral crown or I can buy a plastic one from the discount store for $4! I could see there was a gap in the market.. and I thought I could attempt to meet that gap, I am in lockdown and there really was nothing else for me to do.
I had never made millinery or floral headwear before so I decided that during the impending lockdown I was going to learn to make them to keep my mind healthy and far too busy to worry about the world around me which I had no control over.
I was always very artistic and creative growing up, and drawing, painting, sketching, singing and all forms of decorating was my creative expression, I was destined to be a designer of some kind; be it interior or fashion design. In 1990 I attended design school in Melbourne, I deferred for a year to transition, but when I tried to return in 1991 the school declined to take me back, not because I was transgender but because they could not guarantee my safety and did not wish to hire security to ensure my security travelling between classes, I was told the people a year above me would remember me which would be the cause of the issue.
Thus ended my dreams of of being a designer, this would not have happened today, but sadly thirty years ago was another era.
That is how I came to my new hobby, designing floral crowns and floral millinery, and for a novice, I actually don’t think I am too bad.
The world is an uncertain place with Covid cases rising in Australia, as of today there are 500 new cases a day in Sydney alone, we will no doubt reach a thousand soon. I have no control over the future of my community or the outside-world but I do have control over the small bubble that I live in – so each morning I play beautiful operatic arias and start creating silk floral creations to adorn imaginary heads for weddings, racewear, parties and gala events…. I go into a cocoon of creativity and I feel so impossibly happy, happier than I have felt in years because for the first time in thirty years my creativity has again been able to flow freely and so beautifully, so I am in heaven – I’m designing again.
I feel like a busy bee surrounded by a garden of silk flowers and I feel euphoria in my beautiful silk garden, and my newly created floral adornments are my honeypot.
I already have a Potts Point boutique to stock.
I feel so fortunate that I was able to pivot and explore a side of me that has been locked away so long, I hope I can make a small successful little cottage industry to supplement my income out of this so I can continue creating beauty for many years to come – just for the joy of it.
On a practical note, if they don’t sell they each match one my kaftans so I will be set for every Mardi Gras and wedding from now until Kingdom Come.
My first day at Tafe, I still maintain going back to school was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.. and I’m pretty brave, but leaving the safety net of my community and meeting a classroom room of young straight people was a terrifying prospect to me.
I never quite felt comfortable not being open about my journey to them, I always think things made hidden will always come out and the only person who suffers is the person hiding the secret, so, in my first semester I did my disability presentation on Gender Diversity, it was so wonderfully liberating and though some were surprised, my classmates were very accepting.
During the presentation I told my fellow Community Service and Social Work classmates that it would probably be the first and last time in their life they will work beside a transgender person and the next time they will meet someone like me will be serving them in their new jobs at the front line – it was very liberating for me.
Its so important to always be in control of your own narrative because the story will inevitably be told differently by someone else.
So much has changed since then, the experience and education was life changing.
Being a transgender woman doesn’t define who I am, but being open about my gender and sharing my experience gives me the freedom most people can only dream about. It empowers me and gives me strength, so I celebrate my journey and acknowledge that I transitioned from one gender to another – to find peace and happiness and contentment….what more could any human being wish for?
I love Mardi Gras in Sydney, it is like Gay Christmas, we wear our best, act our nicest and there are parties everywhere, one of my favourite this year was at Chuuka Restaurant in Pyremont.
It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, motor tricycles ferried us from the street to the end of the Wharf.
DJs played on while drag queens swayed and we all laughed and chatted to the effervescent sound of free flowing French champagne and an eye popping abundance of delicious morsels arrived from the kitchens – classy, sydney style.
Thank you Star Entertainment Group and CMO George Hughes for your wonderful hospitality at Chuuka, a restaurant I will definite return to.
YIORGOS is a photographic portrait artist who has a remarkable
way of making photography look like paintings.
The Voyeur was taken at precisely 3pm when the light is most beautiful, I do love my skin against a black velvet foreground and background, the Venetian mask adds mystery to the portrait.
I love this painting because I think as a trans-woman I often feel like I am on the outside looking into a world that is not mine, studying custom and culture that belong only to non-transgender people.
If you know me you will know I only wear kaftans, rain or shine I will be sporting an elegant mu-mu, I have many kaftans from many designers but my favourite is Camilla…
Camilla Kaftans are a sentimental favourite for well heeled Sydney women, much coveted by those who wish they owned one and much loved by their wearers, to the point that most women know her different collections and recognise a “Camilla” from a mile away, their popularity has reached a point where a kaftan from any other designer is called a fake “Camilla”.
Their resale vale is very healthy, thus why though expensive Camillas are good investments.
With shock and delight I took a call from Camilla Head Office to invite me to participate in a Mardi Gras Campaign with Camilla Franks – The Goddess of Kaftans… needless to say I said yes without fuss or stipulation, haha.
Camilla has an abundance of energy which made the photoshoot nothing short of magical.
To top off the daydream, I was paid in Camillas – Thank you universe.
21 Feb 2020 What Matters. This weekend we are celebrating What Matters. We celebrate acceptance, inclusiveness and above all, equality. We will be parading through the streets in the name of love, so very proud of our LGBTQIA Tribe. We love you endlessly and this weekend, we honour you.Happy Mardi Gras, with love Camilla xx
I was invited to recite a story that had inspired me as a young LGBT person along with 7 other giants of Sydney’s Gay Community at The National Art School, the event sold very quickly this year and it is no wonder, the settings and surroundings were truly spectacular, and the many recited words were an inspiration to hear.
The air in the room was cultured and refined, cosy and welcoming, and uber elegant.
Congratulations Terese Casu and Dino Dimitriadis on such a thoughtful and visually beautiful and unforgettable event.