Finding the strength to say ‘this is me’

April 07, 2018

Linda and Diane Reeves have been together for 36 years and Linda helped Diane to become her true self publicly.

It was the 1950s on a farm in the Riverina, when this little person found out that being who I thought I was, was not accepted by my parents — and the confusion started.
But the influence of my mum and dad was all I had at that stage, so I tried to do what they wanted and became the son that was expected of me.
This grew as I did, and the girl I wanted to be was pushed to my innermost thoughts and dreams. And oh, that longing to spend time as a girl was strong.
I spent a lot of time on my own as a kid, which to me was a safe way of being just me.
I developed an imaginary friend called Jass — a girl of course — and spent a lot of time as her.
Then the school years came along and there I was shoved into a ‘boys over here and girls over there’ place, where I did not fit at all.
So the skill of being who I was expected to be, began to develop fast to enable me to survive.
The little girl was suppressed further to the extent I felt guilty about having any feminine thoughts at all.
There was no-one to tell or talk to about this; I felt totally alone.
It was an awful time and continued right through school.
Then puberty came along and took me to a mental low I never thought existed.
Looking back on it now, it frightens me just how close I came to finishing life there and then.
At the same time, I entered the workforce at the age of 14 with a very limited grasp of literacy, while developing an ever-stronger male cover.
This male persona influenced the type of work I sought; butcher, welder, truck driver, rouseabout, shearer, timber faller and plant operator. Oh, how that hidden girl yearned to work in a dress shop!
I married at age 21, because that was what a young man was expected to do. A terrible reason to marry.
My marriage lasted seven years and in that time a baby girl came along, but inevitably we parted and divorced, another major guilt trip.
I then became involved with a theatre group and found I did not have to be this macho male all the time.
I found a lady who was much more animated about the fact I could not read and write, than the revelation I was transgender.
We spent a couple of years together and in that time I learned of a club which catered for transgender people and suddenly realised I was not alone — there were others.
The next few years included a series of male-oriented jobs and even stronger female feelings.
Then I met Linda, and on the second outing with her I told her I was transgender, to which she shrugged and said, ‘‘what’s that?’’.
The explanation came from the heart and was as honest as I could be, as I did not want to start another relationship without my partner not understanding what she was in for.
To my delight she was more impressed with my cooking skills than my ever-growing guilt about the female I was hiding.
This relationship, and subsequent marriage, has lasted for 36 years and still is as strong today as it was then.
Linda has literally saved my life and I love her dearly for that.
But I still needed to live as my true self and throw off that male facade.
With Linda’s help and backing, we did just that three years ago.
We got involved with GV Pride in Shepparton and came out to our town here in Violet Town, very tentatively at the start, but now I live as Diane full-time, officially changing my name along the way.
Earlier this year the ABC’s Back Roads television program included and interviewed us for its Violet Town episode.
As a result of the program, I have been amazed and thrilled with the overwhelming acceptance and support I have found in my town.
I never thought I would have the confidence and peace of mind I now possess, and yes, I am 6 foot 5 inches tall and have a male body, but it’s now decorated as the true me.
I get the inevitable stares, but they are mixed with the smiles, and sometimes the friendly nod, from a total stranger and that makes my day!
We had the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 and the trans flag flies proudly in our front yard.
If someone out there reads this and knows the feelings I have described, male or female, you are not alone — you are definitely not alone, not any more.
- Diane Reeves, Violet Town

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