Joe talks about Q-topia and Forge

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in Hi, my [00:00:05] name is Joe. [00:00:07] For the last few years, I've been involved with facilitating utopia, which is a queer support network for queer youth, and runs in Christ Church. We have kids aged between 13 and 25, coming along every week. And we basically just hang out, have a bit of fun. Occasionally we do a few workshops and things. And we do quite a lot of cool stuff, because we do a lot of fundraising. So if you want to come along, go for it. How did you get involved with utopia, I kind of got kidnapped by my flatmate who was a facilitator at the time. And at the time, I was identifying as lesbian and I got dragged along to a meeting one night. And look, I found the Lisbon and that was it. I was the only female facilitator. So that was that I wasn't allowed to leave. So yeah, it's been five years. And I've kind of shifted my focus to the offshoot of that now, which is Forge, which is for trans youth. But I think it's one of those things you never really leave. [00:01:07] So can you tell me a wee bit about forge? [00:01:10] Yep, that was put in place by one of our facilitators even probably late last year, and was just sort of out of a need for trans youth to have a bit of their own space, because some of them don't identify as queer. And a lot of the issues that trans youth and trans people have are different to the ones that queer people have. So we thought we'll start something up for them and just sort of see how it goes. And it's going really well [00:01:32] at the moment. What are some of the different issues that are different from being queer? [00:01:39] I think Well, I mean, everybody struggles with body image, but for trans people, that can be a lot more of a big deal. And also for trans youth being taken seriously is quite a big issue. When you come out as queer A lot of people will get hassled you know, maybe it's to face You're so young, you don't know what you're doing. But she wanting to realign your din gender to how you feel inside as he huge, big deal in a lot of the time. Our parents struggle with a lot more as well. [00:02:05] So we'll kind of an age group I were talking about [00:02:09] I think the youngest we have in forges 16 in around about mid 20s. I think. Yeah, the facilitators, I think we're both 28. We've got quite a few young people around the 1617. Mark. I never figured it out that young. It's amazing. [00:02:30] Can you talk about some of the perspectives on life in trans issues? I mean, does it surprise you some of the stuff that they're coming up with? [00:02:39] It's amazing that some of them just don't seem to struggle with it. The way that I remember struggling with it I go is I don't know, maybe it was the age thing, I wasn't really thinking about it till I was in my mid 20s. But them at 16. That's so sure. This is who they are. This is what they want. This is what they're going to do. And it's just that simple for them. Like, I'm guys, I'm a girl. And that's really just as simple as it is. And it's just really amazing to see 16 year olds with such assurance about themselves. And just some of the stuff they say like, Oh, yeah, I'm the guy. And I say it like it's just the most natural thing in the world. Whereas I was just a mess for ages about it. [00:03:17] Would you think that assurance comes from? [00:03:21] I really don't know, if I knew I will be going to get some myself I think actually, [00:03:26] I just [00:03:29] I don't know, maybe it's something I've been thinking about for so long. And also, I think having the trans space helps them a little bit. Because when they come along, they automatically get gendered correctly, call by whichever name they want treated the gender they want. I think that helps them feel a little bit better about it, too. We might be the only people who are taking them seriously. So when they come along, they automatically know that they're going to be treated that way they want to be treated like that. [00:03:55] Can you relate some of the experiences that have told you about you know, what it's like to be in the system at the moment. [00:04:03] We've got [00:04:05] one young trans guy, and he's just finding it really, really rough at school being trans, I won't be called by his preferred name by any of his teachers, and his guidance counselor's probably the only support that he really has. And I can't really imagine what that's like, because I didn't come out as trans towards in my mid 20s. But it must be really isolating because people, especially young people who haven't really had too much life experience, just sort of lump it all in with the queer thing. Or they get the whole fetishized, you know, trends, they start kind of thing, and it's just really not like that. And a lot of the time, they just feel really ignored. Yeah, I think actually, most of the kids we've got finding it really, really rough at school at the moment. And a lot of them just haven't even come out at school, because it's just not worth it. I think they'll just wait until they leave school at universe in sort of do the change in, which does make a lot of sense. sort of trying to change that in the last couple years of high school be a bit of a mission, I think. [00:05:09] So what are they like when they you know, the first point of contact when they come to contact with the group? [00:05:15] They're usually pretty quiet. And we're sitting here, hello, how are you? What's your name and all that sort of stuff in there, just monosyllables, which is not that uncommon, queer youth anyway, a lot of the time, they don't really want to talk that much. But yeah, once they realize that we're not actually trying to preach it, them, we're not trying to change their mind, we're not trying to educate them. They just really get into it. And we just talked about all sorts of stuff. And I think they find it a relief that, you know, we don't think they're crazy. Like, it's not really a massive support group, like we think they're not through anything, we just want to hang out and have a space where it's kind of test that you don't really have to say I'm trans all the time and talk about trans stuff all the time. But most of the time, we just talk about movies and stuff, but it's just really nice to know that people understand what it's like. And it's sort of freeing just to not have to talk about trans things. It's really cool. was talking about whatever. [00:06:12] So did you have anything like that when when you were coming up? [00:06:15] No. I didn't even know how to be gay. When I came out. I just kind of thought, Well, I'm gay. Now what do I do? Hit the dating sites, bad idea. Never mind. I didn't even know where to start. So I just started, the wrong end went from there. And there was nothing when I was first questioning when I was 1819, there was only just one group at university. And I just went along and they were just some middle aged women there, I thought no. So just kind of had to find my own way, which was really, really hard. And if it had been something like utopia out there, then I would have probably not quite so much of a nightmarish time and the first couple years of being out. But a lot of our facilitators have started working with utopia, because there was nothing like that when they were coming out. And I think it's just such a good thing to be doing. And especially with the trans thing, it's just, it's Christchurch For a start, it's just unheard of people don't talk about it. And really the only thing we've got as agenda, and that does have an older person focus, it's not really geared towards really young people. So it's quite good to have something out there that sort of focuses on young people and what issues they might be having with being trans and agenda sort of, they feel like they have to cover everything. But with just a specific focus on the trans stuff. I think it's quite valuable for our young people. [00:07:43] So just the just the youth group have any tie in with agenda. [00:07:49] We're working on having a bit more to do with them, they've got quite a lot of really valuable resources. And I think a lot of the trans people who are within agenda will be really, really good for our kids to talk to as well. I know that teenagers aren't often that came to talk to people about things, but man, everyone's story is different. Everyone's transitional journey is different. And I think it might be quite good for them. To hear quite a few different opinions on it. Yeah, there, I have so many books in the library. And I think we have the national agenda library at the moment and think I might be quite good to just put a few books in the kids direction and have a bit of a read, be good for them. It's good for us to so maybe a little book group or something. [00:08:35] So what's Christchurch like in terms of the kind of queer and trans scene? [00:08:40] It's conservative, slight understatement. It's getting a bit better, because they're obviously really strange people like me floating around, staring things up or trying to when I'm awake. But it is quite gendered, [00:08:56] lesbian, [00:08:57] gay, in there's not a lot else it goes on, at least not publicly, which is a bit of a shame. The trend seems really, really small is really not that many of us around who actually Well, I mean, we're always around, we're everywhere, but not really get together much. So you have to sort of find your own frames where you can find them and just stick with them. I have got quite a few trains, friends, and we'll just hang out together. But it's taken me a long time to find them. I don't think we really get taken it seriously on the quiz same, which is a shame. By I know, when I go out people still think I'm a lesbian, which is unfortunate, because I never liked being called lesbian anywhere. Could you at least call me a homo be great. But you know, when we want to do stuff to trans people just go to the other queer stuff. And just people make what they want of us, which is, unfortunately, usually incorrect. But nevermind. It is very conservative here, we don't have a lot that goes on on a regular basis. It's just during pride weekend, occasionally, they'll be a big event. But it's really not that often. So people just kind of do their thing quietly in the everyday lives. Basically some that Christchurch actually just kind of keep to ourselves, which is a shame, it would be nice to see a bit more community. But we're working on it. [00:10:17] So did you come out? Both in terms of sexuality and gender at the same time? [00:10:25] No, I thought I'd do the ultimate shock value with my parents and do it twice. The ultimate torment, the sexuality came first. And I sort of settled into that. And then I was like, No, no, there's something still not quite right with this picture, and taught me another probably probably about five years and between the two coming out. So it took me a little while I kind of settled into being queer, and people would label me as a lesbian. And I think now, I don't quite like that. Why do I prefer being called a homeowner? Why is that? And eventually I figured it out anyway, came out again and make my mom cry again. That's so good now. [00:11:05] Which do you think was hardest? Or were they both equal? [00:11:09] I think [00:11:11] the trans was actually easier. In some ways, it's harder to be taken seriously, because I haven't transitioned yet. I'm still not taken seriously a lot of the time, which is fine. I don't really care anymore. But the sexuality was hard, because that was sort of the first shift from being what was considered normal. But by the time I've been living the queer lifestyle for five years already, and I was already out there, doing pride, we can drag can drag queen, drag everything I could get my hands on just really, really, really gay. Anything I did after that was not going to be as much of a shock. And most people in my life has been really good. I think it's harder for mom and dad because they're losing the daughter and they're gaining a son, but that's hard for them. But in general, I think I really could have shocked them that much more. [00:11:58] It was already pretty weird. [00:12:01] Actually, I'm a guy where it wasn't as big a deal as I thought it would be. [00:12:07] How did that conversation happen? [00:12:10] Um, I've seen him coming over, I need to talk to you. And I just sort of sit on the couch and what miserable for about an hour. And a mom just said, All right. Okay, what symbol, you know, have been really depressed lately. So reason for that, and transgendered. And she said, Oh, my God, no, and just kind of ran out the room and dad was sitting there saying, What's their [00:12:34] name, she wants to be a man. [00:12:38] But yeah, a couple of hours later, and lots of crying and lots of hugs. I had to try not to overload them with too much information straightaway, because it's just huge. I've been a doctor for when I came out 26 years. So I tried not to talk too much about what the transition process would evolve. And I just sort of tried to focus on you know, this is how I feel about it. [00:13:00] And let him know that [00:13:03] it takes as long as it takes for them to get used to it. I thought about it for God knows how many years before I sort of came to terms with that. So it takes them at least that long in CO labor that near they're getting their head around it now and help me choose my new name and everything. So kind of helping me get involved and stuff, which is really cool. [00:13:22] When did you start having gender identity thoughts? [00:13:27] Um, I think it will be the first time I dressed up in drag as a drag queen when I was maybe 21. I think I saw the first time I see bound down my chest and I was like, Ah, this one is supposed to be like, this is cool. And I was thought, you know, I just I go into shows and stuff. And I'd spend hours and hours and hours and drag home practicing. And then I realized it wasn't actually practicing. all I was doing was just looking in the mirror thinking yeah, this is cool. And eventually, I realized I don't actually like performing either at a good really bad stage fright. Why am I doing this Dean, excuse to dress up like a guy. I could just be a guy all the time. Simple. So I once I started thinking about it like that, it kind of went downhill pretty quickly from there. And probably only about six months after I really started seriously thinking about it. I thought, right? This is how it's going to be now. So yeah, I think was about the beginning of 2009 when I finally sorted it out. And I was heading up to Wellington for the whole evening. So that right? Try the new name, try the new agenda, see how it goes. Just because I've got to meet so many people that didn't know me. So I wanted to see what it be like to be gendered correctly call by my new name, and it was fantastic. So I've never looked back from there. [00:14:47] What are your thoughts when you see somebody coming along to the support group, as a 16 year old and just very different about, you know, the agenda and things like that? [00:15:00] Oh, my God, I'm so jealous of you right now. I didn't figure it out, what 10 years after they figured it out. And I think with the transitional process, which is so long and so painful and so expensive and time consuming. They can start so much earlier. But then again, that's not always a bonus, I had an extra 10 years of maturity sort of, I can see a lot of young trans people and like I have to do this right now I need my hormones, I need my surgery, I need this I need there, everybody has to call me by my right name all the time kind of thing. And they just so desperate. And I think the Edit experiences made me just a little bit more patient. things take time, in the appointments, take time surgery takes money in. You know, I've lived enough of my life already to realize that patience is the key. It's taken me how many years to get used to the idea, it's going to take another how many years to transition. And that's absolutely fine. It's cold. But these young people, I think, you know, even if they can just start the process when they're 18, they're going to be amazing, whether 2025 they'll be done. I hadn't even started when I was 25. So I'm so jealous. [00:16:08] Can you talk a wee bit about the just the practicalities of transitioning, and you were saying how you know it takes time and money? What are those kind of requirements nowadays, [00:16:19] um, the first step is to get a referral to a psychologist from JP. So you have to convince you, JP is serious enough to be sent to psychologist but most GPS should realize that it's not their place to make the judgment. And that's why you're paying no $4 million an hour for psychologist to say yes, or actually transgendered. And you need a psychiatric letter from the psychologist, as usually a couple of sessions with, they just sort of make sure that you know what you're doing, know what the consequences are, and make sure that you're sort of in your right mind and able to take on the, it is a mess of thing to be doing. So just want to make sure that you're okay about it, doing it for the right reasons and that sort of thing. And once you have that you can get a referral to an endocrinologist. Well, that's different sort of wherever you go Christchurch, you need a psych assessment first. I think Wellington, you can just go to the indo but you need to get your psychologist later after that. So in some respects, I'm ridiculously jealous, because I could have just gone to an endocrinologist and got my testosterone already have awesome Wellington, but just the white cross church is quite backwards like that. So psych assessment first, and then the indo was just a huge period of waiting. It's a six month wait for an endocrinologist appointment here. Which is ridiculous. But that's just the way it is. So I can wait. And if I wanted to be awful, I could play the mental health card and say, I'm really depressed, I need my testosterone right now. But boy, I don't really need it. I want it really badly, but I don't need it. Whereas some people who go to the endocrinologist actually have something really seriously, hormonally wrong with them. And why should my wanting to transition sort of be put above what they need physically to be alive. I mean, I'm pretty healthy, I'm alive. And my body may not look the way I wanted to. But I can wait a few months, my testosterone. So waiting it is, and that's absolutely fine. I'm a surgery, sort of, it's just a money thing. And it's a preference thing. [00:18:19] It's around [00:18:22] for a trans guy to get us to stun, it really depends where you go in New Zealand, it could be up to $15,000 18, maybe I know a guy recently who got it's done for about that much. I'm personally looking at going to Australia, there's a really good surgeon over there will be about 10,000. And she does some really good work. I know a couple of guys have gone to Thailand, and they've had results that they happy with. And one of my friends went to America to one of the best surgeons for chest surgery that he wanted. So it's really just a preference thing. But for me, depending on the size, where to start with, you might need a revision or something. And I don't want to go to America and then after go back to get it fixed up. So thinking Australia. But yeah, that's just sort of depends how you want to pay for it. I don't personally want to take out a loan, because I've just paid one off, and I've nearly paid off my student loan. So I'm looking at saving. And I mean, it's just sort of depends on the comfort level, like some guys really big treat just to whatever they're just really just let it go on. And I can understand it. But I'm quite lucky. Can't really think about it that much. Because it's easy for me to hide mine. So if it takes me a couple of years to save up, and that's fine. [00:19:31] I'm really not that worried about it. But [00:19:33] it's also I'm quite comfortable with my body. It's not the way I want it to be. But I'm quite comfortable with it at the moment. And if I have to live with it like this for a couple years, and that's sweet. [00:19:44] You mentioned earlier that when you were coming up to your parents, in terms of the agenda that you had had depression for for a while. Was it specifically because of what was going on? And it was a gender and sexuality? [00:20:02] I think it was, [00:20:04] I get depression quite badly anyway. And I think a lot of the problem was that I'd been out as guy living as Joe for a year, and I still hadn't told mum and dad singing these are two of the most important people in my life. Why haven't I told him? Well, that's really wasn't sure what sort of reception I get. But I don't like keeping things like that from them. And they've always been really good to me or have always been really close. So I felt kind of shitty about it. Why haven't I told mom and dad and I knew that once they got used to it, they'll probably be my biggest support. And I would need them to do the transition thing. I needed them to be on board. So it's sort of like the pressure got to me in the end, and I was just a mess and thought I'd have to tell them. I've been doing this for ages. And it's getting to the point where I have girlfriends who didn't know me as and the girls, I knew me as Joe the boyfriend. And I felt like I couldn't bring them over to introduce them to my parents because my parents told me no. And they'll be like, Who's there. And that'll be really confusing for them. And Bry really uncomfortable for mom and dad. in them. It's also I'll just tell them, now the sooner they've got a chance to get the head around it, the better. And I sort of felt like I wasn't giving them enough credit thinking that they wouldn't cope. Mainly my mom and dad. And they've always supported me through everything. And I've put them through hell and back. So why wouldn't they support me through this? So I thought, let's give them a chance. And they have been good. They've been really good to me. So yeah. [00:21:31] Has the depression gone away? [00:21:34] No, it just kind of, it's always there. And it changes a bit, it gets worse, it gets better. At the moment, it's rough. Maybe next week, it won't be so rough. [00:21:43] But really, I think of [00:21:46] growing up a little bit helped me manage it quite a lot better as well, just sort of knowing what I need to do to take care of myself. And if I keep the rest of my life and balanced in the depressions, okay. So anyway, things get a bit out of control, lack of I'm having stress at work a bad relationship or something, it's quite hard to keep it managed. And I do lose a little bit sometimes. But generally speaking, I just have to be a little bit vigilant and sort of make sure that I'm looking after all the aspects of my life, [00:22:14] which is a bit [00:22:15] tiring. And I really wish I didn't have to do it. But at the end of the day, I have depression. So it's really my responsibility to manage it. And that means taking two pills a day, and that makes me a happier guy, then [00:22:27] that's worth it. [00:22:29] Do you see many mental health issues in your youth support group? Is that something that that is frequent, or [00:22:38] it is surprisingly frequent, and I'm not sure if it's just the result of being queer, or it's just something that's happening in general, with more young people these days, and people are going to make diagnoses and put people on pills and all that sort of stuff. It just seems to be like, every second can the groups on some sort of drugs for ADHD or depression or they're into the self harm thing, or it's just it's actually really, really sad. Because it just wasn't, I don't think it was really recognized as much when I was [00:23:11] sort of, I didn't really know anyone who was depressed myself. [00:23:16] And now it seems that just about everyone is, but it doesn't really seem to bug out kids that much was amazing. I like when you think about depression, you quite often think you know, can't get out a bit sad all the time. And these kids are taking the same medication that I do. And they're fine. They come around and they just buzzing and they're all jumping around with their friends. And it's just it's really cool. Like, they don't really seem to let it bother them. It's just sort of like another fact of life. Yeah, I'm queer. Yeah, I've got whatever mental illness they'd like we were with today and data school that? I think No, they don't make as big a deal out of it, as older people do. Like I think older people sort of lived their diagnosis a little bit more maybe young people just think oh, well, you're labeling me anyway, just whatever. But older people I've got depression I've got this I've got there and I seem to focus on it a little bit more young people are seem to feel like they've got too much to live for and who cares about being depressed sort of thing. [00:24:14] So that's quite cool. [00:24:16] It makes me sort of look at mine a little bit more positively to I think it's thinking well, I don't let it bother. Marshall, I'd be miserable. [00:24:24] So it keeps me young. [00:24:27] Do you think it's easier coming out now than it was when you did? [00:24:31] Yeah. Even must be about nine years since I came out. And even now it's just so much easier. When I came out my mom and dad and my friends and stuff, I didn't really know any gay people. You know, every second person's queer, which is cool. I think it's awesome. We should take over the world. There's just so many there's so much more queer sort of stuff going on in the media. And you know, oh, isn't it Ellen DeGeneres, queers lesbian sort of thing everyone knows awesome a guy on American Idol gay. You know, everyone knows of someone who is queer, which is fantastic. Anyway, even like trans stuff is getting out there. Like the movie trans America and stuff, I got my parents to watch that and i thought was great. So I think people are getting a bit more aware of it, which is quite cool. And it's just not such a huge big deal anymore. And people are making such different lifestyle choices to the choices they're making. Even 10 years ago, people just doing what they want to do to be happy now, which is cool. So I thought it'd be a lot easier to come out now. Like if I could come out now to my parents, I'm sure will be a lot better. [00:25:38] So when you were coming up, what were the things in the media, like on TV or in films that you remember as being queer? [00:25:47] I think when I came out, [00:25:50] it was around about the time on that program bed girls were that present officer was in love with the inmate kind of thing. I was like, Oh, she's so hot kind of thing. So I was like, Oh, you get this the guy stuff. And I think The L Word was to sort of coming out too. So I don't know it's kind of misleading because it's not really like real life. What it's like to be a lesbian was like, well, I wish it was but unfortunately, no. It was that going on in and it wasn't really a lot of lesbian stuff going on in was more Priscilla queen of the desert. It just come on from there was playing in Melbourne or something. Everyone's like, Oh, cool. And, you know, they just hear about a couple of New Zealand celebrities would come out as gay or something or then we the man's gay kind of thing. But it wasn't really a lot going on then. I think The L Word was the worst bit though. Because it what you're like, no. Oh, and the top twins, which is? I don't know. [00:26:52] I think my mom was scared. I was gonna end up like that. [00:26:55] Gonna be like one of the top twins. I'd be like it already. But you know, I [00:27:00] think she the people just thought I was going to change or something. But [00:27:02] I was just exactly the same person. I just told him about it. It was the only thing was different. Can you go to know, I can send but I'm not Yardley. It's really not my thing. I'm more like barbershop in jazz. [00:27:19] Hey, we were looking through some of your old photographs. Just before we started recording, what was it like seeing yourself? As a young girl? [00:27:32] Um, I think I was cuter than than I am now. And I don't really look at it and think, oh, that was so wrong. That was so wrong. Like a lot of trans people. Sort of that felt wrong their whole life. I didn't really feel wrong. Like I was happy kid on it. But I think with a lot of young kids, I don't think about the agenda at all. Right? You get labeled as a boy or a girl you think cool, but you don't actually care. It's just not important. And it was it wasn't really started mattering when I was a teenager that I even thought about it. But so I just think I that was just me when I was a kid and I was just really happy. And I was really happy kid I had a great childhood. So I just like looking at the photos. And it seems weird seeing me with long hair. But apart from that it's cool. [00:28:19] If there was anything that you would say to somebody coming out now either through for sexuality or gender, what would that be? [00:28:29] I would just say there's no right time to do it. There's no wrong time. There's no right or wrong way to do it. And it's different for everyone. Just get support from wherever you can find your allies and stick close to them. And just be really patient it takes time. And you may have been thinking about it for years but often the people you've been you know you're telling one have been thinking about it so you give them a bit of a break. [00:28:54] And I'll it's really hard when you're young and you want everyone to understand so desperately. But people won't always or or take them time. And it does hurt when the people you think are going to understand don't die. You could be really surprised by people you think they won't get it. We're just amazing. So just be who you are. Stick with the people who care about you and give people time

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