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Mani Bruce Mitchell profile

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:05] So you will have money Bruce Mitchell, money, Bruce Mitchell is the first out into six person alter or New Zealand. And that happened in 1996. How did all that come about money? [00:00:16] I hear no cure and clarity everybody. How did that come about? Well, it was a long journey. [00:00:24] I was in my mid 40s when that happened. And so you had to talk about the coming out really, we have to go back to the beginning. So Born in 1953. [00:00:40] An Auckland actually even though my parents owned a very remote [00:00:45] farm in the middle of the country, my mom had lost three children was miscarriages. So she was under the care of a specialist. And this story is now somewhat famous, because I've talked about it a number of times, but I, the only my mom and I only talked about the circumstances of my birth and my reality once and I was in my early 20s asked her what had happened because I had these vague and worldly memories that didn't really make sense. And she said, Sure we were an Auckland staying at peak and barbs. She said my waters broke early in the morning and she's talking and I said a conversational way like we are now. She said dad got up they drove from Tata to Auckland to the hospital. Meet by the matron, apparently a very famous woman. He told mom that she couldn't have her baby because there were no doctors and the maternity hospital. So mom and dad would have been separated mom sent down to the Birthing Unit with a noose. And I believe I was born some 20 minutes later. And again, mom's just talking like this conversation, Lee. And she said the nice feet down to pick you up. And as my mom's talking, her voice changes, and she sort of screams out the new seed. I my God, it's a hermaphrodite, [00:02:17] and my mom runs out of the room. [00:02:19] So I'm Lyft Well, you know, this information, the word hermaphrodite, which, at that point in time, this my early 20s, I didn't understand what it meant. [00:02:29] Not really. [00:02:31] I certainly didn't relate it to myself. I'm saying my mom incredibly upset. And this is a woman of her generation, he didn't show emotions in so I'm trying to put all this together and she was gone for about 10 minutes. And when she came back, she'd been crying. Her eyes were all red. [00:02:52] She looked out of the window, and it was a very [00:02:55] beautiful blue sky summer's day. of the kind we have a head much this summer. Um, she looks out and she goes, you know, dear, I think it's going to rain, we better go and get the Washington. So we both went down the steps up to the back of the house got the washing and neither she nor I ever talked about it again. [00:03:18] Wow. So how did you start coming? Like we did that conversation even come from because you saying you You came out in your 40s? Because he kind of you'd known before you'd been thinking about before. He'd been confused before it was a completely random conversation or [00:03:35] I recognize now as a child, I tried to make sense of what had happened. I don't have any sense of the ever being a question around my what people today would call gender and gender identity. Although I know that, how I behave, this occurred from time to time got me into trouble. So I was a tough tomboy at times, because I also like dressing up and playing with dolls is to sort of aspects of self. But what I observed and notice when I was in a particularly bought tour, tomboy phase at my mother would get very agitated. And she during teenage years, which were hideous, she was always, you know, wanting me to have boyfriends. And I remember one year she bought me makeup for [00:04:37] a birthday present and, you know, these nonspecific [00:04:45] desires on her path for me to tune into what we would call a normal girl. And I use that word very cautiously. Yeah. [00:04:53] So you were you were at the hospital. Your parents were at the hospital. Yeah. And the nurse said, Oh, my God, that's amazing. Africa. You would you wouldn't obviously we've seen home isn't measured on his own. You bet. Okay, yeah. [00:05:06] Go back to that. So what what happens and I effect filler get some because I didn't have that conversation with my mom. I'm imagining at that point, you know, the hospital's mobilized, so staff would have come running. My mum's probably [00:05:22] sedated. She saw it was like a real emergency. [00:05:27] Yeah, it treated like an emergency, I'm taken away. And the would have been the feast of minute, very invasive examinations. So let's be clear to people when you go and [00:05:39] maybe while [00:05:43] the the more commonly commonly used tumors and two, six. [00:05:49] And we have it's a medical umbrella term that covers all kinds of conditions. And it's on a continuum. So it one end, baby would look completely normal, a male or female. At the other end of the continuum, you would look at the genitalia and not be totally sure. You know, and it's interesting, this binary world of ours. Apparently you have to be male or female, makes everybody happy. So at the time I was born 1953, the paradigm that was still largely operating here in New Zealand was a Victorian one. And the thinking was derived from medical legal thinking and it went something like that it was considered inappropriate to deny the rights and privileges to somebody who may potentially be male. Okay, so under that paradigm, children who, for whom the genitalia was ambiguous, it's the time to mature were largely assigned male, so my parents took home and male child with the with the name Bruce to lead. And that's how I left for the first year of my life. However, things went completely normal, I would have had what was considered a small penis, and probably it was assumed undescended testes. So just before my first birthday, I went back to Oakland for another medical procedure, where they quite literally cut me open and had a new otherwise healthy, I've totally, yep, so this is, you know, this is huge invasive surgery, basically pulled on my guy that on a little baby. And inside they found a uterus. So in a 24 hour period, I went from being my parents some feature or black inheritor of the fam, to being the daughter in somebody's future bride, you know, and my poor parents with as far as I can work out no psychological support at all. So they wind up with brace and they they came back with Margaret, a huge, I have reached the place where I can just think what that was like for them. Which is good, because there were many years where I was very angry at my parents. And thankfully, they were into life because I would have hated what I would have done to them if if they had been around this, I tried to figure all this out and make sense of it. [00:08:43] So you traveled quite a bit money. And I'm you were saying that they took a trip to America was really real major for you. When was it? [00:08:52] Okay, so, you know, you asked me before how this had gone. So I have these periods of time and my life, I try to get information and make sense. And like when I got that lead hermaphrodite, I actually couldn't find a place to hold that in my reality after my mom died, and it's about 24 years ago now, and she left a whole lot of documents, very organized peace and for all of us and, and my pie was my blanket book. And it was one day when I was going through that I found that it's it's weird. It's a shame, we haven't got it to look at but it's somebody with his very carefully cut butts out of it. And and what I think happened as my mom went through that book, and I think she thought she'd removed all the references to my being different. But there's two that are still in the so there's one, I think I'm aged about six months, and it seems nicely LED. And then just before my first birthday, it says six, seen by Dr. Blah, blah, blah, six to two murders female winner read that and realize that was a book about me, like I just ran into this wall. You know, I'd grow I'd grown up on a farm I'd been inculcated with our culture, that seed that you were either male or female, you know, so how could I hold this information. And the other thing I couldn't work out is how the hell could someone make a mistake, because at that point, I didn't know anything about ambiguous genitalia. You know, I just thought that children were born with genitals that look typically male or typically female. So, you know, I, that that's a journey, and I get little bits of information. And sometimes I can hold it. And sometimes I just pack it sort of deep in my head. But I'm in my late 30s, it gets harder and harder. [00:10:56] And what I would recognize now, as I was suffering from a former depression, I become quite suicidal. [00:11:06] And thank God, I had a neighbor, a person that I had a lot of time. And I happened to talk to this piece and randomly about some of the stuff that was going on. And she picked up on enough of it and said, I think you need to see Harry Rosenberg, who was a fabulous doctor, he is still alive at the time she practiced in the hut. So I, in those days, I worked for the Regional Council. And it's funny because that because we didn't do our own typing, we had type us to type for us. This was pre computers. And there was a fabulous piece. And then the typing Paul, who's still a close friend, and I asked if she had type of personal leader for me, and she said, surely will do it after work. And so we set and Keynote took five hours to type the leader. And, you know, I will always hold gay, close to my heart because she did that leader without blinking. You know, and I'm trying, that was my first attempt to try and put what I knew to words. It's interesting to think about now how hard that was, anyway, this little wind off and I unfortunately, don't have a copy of it. And, and he got the leader, and she had what's called called a closed practice. But she contacted me and said, she would see me once. So I went up, and that amazing doctor saw me that first time for an hour and a half. And she would tell me later, but she herself didn't know what into six was, she carried out a very team to and probably was probably the first time in my life, that adopter a touch me in a respectful way, you know, that in itself was so healing. And really, that's the start of the journey. So through Haiti, I started going to Elizabeth Kubler Ross workshops, which were therapeutic, they were week long, intensive workshops for people who had experienced significant trauma in their lives. And that's really where I start to learn, you know, some basic tools that really anchored me as a person and, and I used to joke and say I was a heat that total body around, it's not really very funny to me anymore. But that's what it was, like, I love completely out of my body, what we would call being emotionally illiterate. [00:13:50] So you know, I start, I start the journey. And it's really once I become a bit more anchored and self. [00:13:59] And realizing that you're actually entitled to a good life, that I start my own research. And so was a friend, Jeannie row, and he's now mirror cover the coast, had been at a conference, and she overheard someone talking about and to six in America. And so Jeannie knew enough about my story to go, I thought this is someone that you need to be in touch. So I wrote to the organization and America, which is funny when I say organization, because in those days, it was just one person. And Cheryl wrote to me, and we exchanged leaders and been invited me to LA invited lots of people to go to California for the feast retreat. [00:14:56] Wow. And that's the first ever fantasies, yeah, rude, or [00:15:01] anywhere else in the world. And you know that for me? was life changing? Because [00:15:07] I, what year was it? [00:15:10] That's 9697. Wow. That's the first time that I meet other people [00:15:18] I had prior to America and managed with haiti's support and help to get access to medical books. [00:15:27] These are appallingly hideous way to try and work out who the hell you are. I mean, this is pathology, photographs of people with the eyes blanked out and standing naked and the, you know, different bodies on display. [00:15:44] So for me to meet another piece, and I recognize one of the things that has happened in the six people is we have no Echo, no mirror. And one of the things that you need, as you're growing up is the development mean to sequence. And I think similar thing happens to many trans people as well. You don't have the Echo, there isn't that this is what reflection, that reflection to see yourself totally. And so you know that that 10 days that I was away in America and hanging out with other indices people and hearing these stories was transforming. So, you know, I came back and made a decision to set up a similar organization to as now. It's changed and evolved over the years, it's become these days, exclusively an educational training organization. And the early days, I tried to have it more as a peer support organization. But we didn't have the resources we didn't have the train people to, to manage that [00:16:51] call. So tell me a little bit about your work now. So you work as a counselor, who's your client base, and you've also you've just come back from a weekend in Hamilton. Yes, real massive exhibition ketone, catalyst. [00:17:04] I mean, my life has completely changed. So [00:17:10] around about that time that I face went to see Haiti, you know, I was coping Alright, emotionally, because as I may have explained, I was completely cut off from my emotions, I function very sort of cognitively in my head. But it was really affecting my physical body. And so I had something like a physical breakdown, and heck to leave my job. And in those days, I was in a very good, very well paid job. And so trying to work out how I could raise the rate to Korea. And I'd been working on civil defense. And the area I'd been really interested in was critical incident stress management, which is really interesting, because I never thought that it was about me, I always thought it was about looking after my staff, though, I realize now, obviously, those part of me that was trying to understand. And so it was fairly obvious once I started thinking about it, that I could retrain as a counselor and pull across some of those skills and knowledge, which is what I did, I retrained as a counselor, [00:18:27] I've had a very small private practice for years, [00:18:31] and [00:18:32] always ran at a loss. And I didn't see lots of people. [00:18:37] But then, I think three years ago, I was made redundant from my main job. And, you know, had to face what I was going to do. And I made the decision that I always wanted to have this private practice, and doing more work in this area. And it just seemed like the right, the right time to do that. So I do I have a private practice. I have a speech, I've developed a specialty working with people with gender issues. And people who are struggling with difference. NET comes in many forms. It's not just around gender and gender identity and sexual orientation. There's many people [00:19:23] for whom being different. [00:19:26] It's hard [00:19:29] education, part that was it quite separate from, [00:19:33] well, you know, I, my original training was as a teacher. And it's funny because I spend a lot of my life avoiding or trying to get away from that. And one of the really nice things that's happened is, [00:19:44] you know, I've actually accepted that. [00:19:48] I like teaching, I'm actually quite good at it. And there's a huge amount of training and education that needs to occur in this area. [00:19:57] We live in this stone, you know, some things have changed. [00:20:02] But some things happen that we live in a very binary, [00:20:08] your ice cream truck world. And [00:20:12] it's actually a poor capture of humanity. I think humans are far more diverse than that, at some point model [00:20:22] would lead us to believe, and [00:20:26] one of the things that really interests me, and my research that I've done is [00:20:31] many, [00:20:32] so called third world countries [00:20:37] have cultures where gender is captured in a [00:20:41] much more complex [00:20:45] way, then the West is. In fact, here in the Pacific. We have examples of that. And so I see, actually, the West, tonight's the thing that we are most advanced about everything. Not very well advanced in the area of gender and diversity. But it's changing that's got an exciting thing. [00:21:10] Let me assume nothing exhibition that you just been up to him and Hamilton, this, this, this permissive part, I think I'm [00:21:19] here, huge. So [00:21:23] photographer, Rebecca Swan, [00:21:25] originally took these amazing photographs, that became part of a coffee table book called assume nothing. [00:21:35] And it is a [00:21:37] book that captures [00:21:40] gender diversity, not just the narrative, [00:21:43] because people from around the planet and that book, though the majority of people would be from a table. [00:21:50] And [00:21:52] when the book was launched, the book launch was seen by a filmmaker Christy McDonald, who have approached Rebecca to see if she could make [00:22:04] a documentary film about assume nothing. [00:22:09] or several years went by in a net project, you know, developed into something [00:22:16] that's more than that. It certainly does capture the process of Rebecca working with people, which is wonderful. [00:22:22] She's an extraordinary person. [00:22:24] But but the assume nothing film, I think, has has another layer and a few like, photography is two dimensional. And Christie's film really made this a three dimensional reality now, the daoists here and lower hat, picked up on this. And, [00:22:51] and seven, I think, [00:22:54] last night, 2008. And the first exhibition opened, and the exhibition has gone on and traveled to it's it's been in, it was the longest running and the daoists. And then it went to [00:23:10] Auckland to Christchurch, Palmerston North [00:23:14] and finished and Hamilton, [00:23:18] you know, and I'm so proud, because for people who have seen the exhibition, a lot of the images and follows what people would call nudity, to beautiful, stunning photographs of people without clothes on. And yet, that's not what it's about. It's about this astonishing celebration of human difference. And I think it's how big has taken those photographs. And as I say, amplified by coos, these beautiful filmmaking, [00:23:53] this exhibition is [00:23:54] being a very safe way. And I like what you said, How cute it's been, because I don't how many thousand people nursing, but I'm imagining it's getting up there, probably over 500,000 people, but no huge numbers have been through where the exhibition is being, you know, and, and it's been a safe and gentle way for people to explore what many people find very scary. I think there's something core in humans, when we're around something we don't understand that's frightening. And that that exhibition is probably mean that there will be some young people grow up and you don't have to have the experience that I've had and many other people I've had [00:24:45] I've [00:24:48] of it being frightening of not getting the appropriate support. [00:24:52] So do you think what happened to you as a as a baby in the 50s? Would that still happen today? [00:24:59] And say it could easily happen today [00:25:01] would depend very much on the household that you were born into the computer literacy of your parents, how comfortable they are with difference. And the other key ingredient is the medical people involved. So the midwife, the specialists, I'm pleased to say that there are people who are doing it differently and in this country, but there's also people still in their own paradigm. And there's still parents who are freaked out having a child is different. So on one side, parents will say, you know, they just want the best for the children. And I believe that's largely true. There's also that sort of black underbelly side. What your needs to talk about is the shadow where people are more consumed, what are the neighbors going to thank [00:26:00] you know, how could you do this to the family and all clear identifying people sit me know about that? You know, [00:26:09] so you've done heaps of years I've been tapes of the education stuff that you've done within diverse group communities as well as in mainstream as well. And so a lot of your your client base for be part of kind of a diverse queer communities. How do you think we you know, as the as the are wanting to create community or New Zealand have to equate communities to risk free communities? And if there are, yeah, what what see kind of what could we will be doing better already see, is he doing or [00:26:41] nice questions? Um, [00:26:44] I think the thing that's really changed for me is these days, I'm very comfortable in my own skin. [00:26:52] And [00:26:54] I have fun doing this. So there's that element of celebration and playfulness. So I do not try to pass. So this is a radio interview. And for people who don't know me, I have facial hair. You can't describe it as a beard, because it's not Pitts abstain, but it's facial here. I don't wear a standard conforming quotes. And I like, you know, and I'm doing more and more of that. So I always wear a tie, but you might find me a tie with a pink shoot, you know, wearing jewelry with things that would be assumed to be masculine. And, and this there's a level of deliberateness about it. But there's also just, yeah, me being playful and wearing things that I like wearing had to do because they're not easily close to find. [00:27:53] You and clothes shops, and it's amazing how conforming just, you know, what the mess marketers are? what's available for people to buy. And so I think that's the key. And, you know, my parents gave me some really good things. And one of the things that my dad gave me genetically is a sense of humor. [00:28:15] Thank god [00:28:23] week, we can do better. I think the queer community is quite tough on itself. At own probably more accurately, we should say, queer communities. [00:28:35] And it's interesting, I think minority groupings [00:28:42] right across all cultures can sort of start to have roles that are even fiercer than mainstream sometimes I see that. [00:28:54] So economy about policing. [00:28:56] Yeah. You know, there's a right way to say yes. [00:29:02] And I guess where I'm coming from, [00:29:04] is I want people to pull forth, you know, this unique, beautiful being [00:29:09] who that they are. [00:29:11] And I don't see that conforming to some kind of railway track conformists notion of [00:29:19] that people have to dress a certain way or wear certain kind of clothes to pass. That's to me that's said. I love [00:29:30] will like living here in Wellington, because I think it's much easier to be ourselves here. It was interesting being and Hamilton I had a very warm reception up there, [00:29:41] meet some fabulous people. But what I noticed as walking around the town, people stayed at me all the time. [00:29:47] And people would talk to know you, as he going down the street. He see that, but a really nice thing happened. I was walking near the Technical Institute, and there was some young people was sitting at a table and I had gone past and it seemed weird to stop. So I just carried on but as out of all I can tell, and this young Marty guy will [00:30:10] chime in and see the gender check. And it was said in a really kind of [00:30:15] positive excited way. That was probably the nicest thing. Most of the comments were more in the sort of shock and it's just an important reminder. Because we can forget, you know, what Wellington gives us? And it is that ability to be ourselves and relatives. [00:30:37] And I say relative safety. [00:30:39] I would be pretty careful about where I walked around at night by myself. [00:30:45] So So gender check that sir, I haven't heard that term. So you've got we've got govt I think sometimes it's been extended to govt I TC que dating on and on and on. Yeah, but the terms are changing and young people are using using different terms. [00:31:03] And I see that and some of the people that I'm working with this a real deconstruction and they wouldn't use that academic term. And it gives me hope because it does not seem to be as role bound. So people really sort of throwing that Who am I and pulling that forth? I get excited by that. You know and and the God we need to attend to the language because we're so restricted. [00:31:37] So maybe we just get back to it. You know, simple word like queer though I know has her [00:31:42] older people hate that team. [00:31:48] What would I like to see us I'd like to see us be more gentle with each other. More supporting. [00:31:58] Celebrating more. [00:32:06] Anything else? I'm very excited by the guy games coming here. [00:32:13] I planning on playing anything. [00:32:17] I'm not at this point. You know, I certainly plan to be involved. But it's probably going to be more and the sort of social educational component. It's interesting I I was a runner and not a bad runner when I was in high school, but I think my running days might be past. Thanks. [00:32:42] Awesome. Thank you very much money Bruce Mitchell for sharing with us.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.