This is a series shining a light on people living and working in reporter PETRINA WRIGHT found out what it is like to be Southland transgender woman Shauna Scobie.
A ONCE angry and tormented young boy is now a happy, confident woman living a “f—— fabulous” life.
Invercargill transgender woman Shauna Scobie said the transformation saved her life.
“In 2015, if I didn’t do something I would be dead by 2016,” she said.
“I would have killed myself because I was just so depressed and hated my life.”
Shauna was born and raised as a boy, growing up in Southland with her parents and two sisters.
It was when she was about 7 or 8 years old she first realised there was something different about her.
“I felt different. Like I didn’t fit in, but I had no idea what it was growing up in the 1980s with no access to the internet.
“I identified as being a male because that was all I knew, what I was taught, but in my essence I felt I was female.”
The technical term is gender dysphoria, a feeling of discomfort about one’s gender.
“It felt like a deformity. [My body] didn’t fit with my mind.”
The confused and tormented young boy became increasingly angry and disruptive.
“As I got older it became more and more severe and I became rebellious and self-destructive as a teenager. I started taking risks [so big] that if it went wrong I would end up dead.”
She developed depression, panic attacks and social anxiety and became isolated in her home.
Shauna said the turning point in her life was when she started to research what she was experiencing and found out about the transgender community, something she immediately identified with.
“Once I identified as transgender in the early 2000s the rest of my life fell into place.”
She was in her 30s when she came out to her then partner and mother of her daughter.
“Because I cared about my daughter’s mum I wanted to tell her. I told her what I was going through, spilled my heart out to her.”
They split up soon afterwards.
She later came out to her family and her daughter.
Their initial reaction was one of confusion, but once the shock passed, they wondered why they hadn’t seen the signs earlier, she said.
At the time of coming out to her family, her father said – “I love you and I understand this is what you have to do to be happy and live a full life, but you probably will always be my son to me.”
However, a year after Shauna started hormone replacement therapy (HRT), her father told her he realised Shauna had always been his daughter, she said.
“It made me cry as it was so great to hear that from my parents. It showed they 100% accepted me for who I am.”
Shauna was now taking oestrogen and testosterone blockers as she transitioned into a woman.
To complete the process, she intended to have sex-change surgery when she could afford it, she said.
Shauna would have to take oestrogen for the rest of her life, but could stop taking the testosterone blockers after surgery.
Although her family was accepting of her transformation, it had been more challenging to secure employment, in part because employers were uncomfortable with her being transgender, she said.
She now worked as a cleaner.
Shauna said she had no regrets about becoming a woman.
“It was definitely the right decision.”
She had lost much of her social phobia and anxiety and she no longer needed to act out or take drugs to numb her pain, she said.
“My self confidence has grown and I am so much happier inside myself.
“I love myself. I love my life. I love who I am.
“My life is absolutely f—— fabulous.”
However, she admitted it had not been an easy journey.
“I have been verbally abused by people… and people stare, but I am not sure if that is because I am transgender or because of the Gothic clothing I wear.”
She did not let the opinions of others get to her though.
“That is their problem. I know who I am. I know what I am as a person. Their problems and opinions are just that, their opinions.
“Why should I let their lack of understanding determine who I am as a person?”
And, there was some misunderstanding in the community about what it meant to be transgender, she said.
“It is not a sexual fetish for us. We do this not because we want to get a kick out of it. We do it because we have no choice. We do this or we don’t function in society. The only way to function in society is to be who we are.”
People also often mistakenly thought transgender people were the same as cross dressers, she said.
“Transgender people are totally different from cross dressers. People who cross dress can function as their assigned gender during the day and wear the other gender’s clothing when they feel like it. Whereas transgender people identify every day as the gender they are transitioning into.”
Her advice to others struggling with their sexuality or gender identity was not to rush into making any decisions and to reach out for help from someone they trusted.
“Don’t rush into a decision because as you are going through your teenage years you are confused anyway.
“Just be who you are. Be true to who you are. The best thing you can give the world is your true authentic self no matter who that is.”
Shauna said someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation did not define them.
“People like to put us in a box, but it is only a part of us. We live, we love, we work, just like any other person.”
Shauna said New Zealand society still had a way to go before truly accepting the transgender community.
Her ideal future would be one in which the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, other) community would not have to come out to people.
Where “…we are just understood and accepted as the heterosexual community is. [After all], we are just like everybody else.”