I was bullied after coming out as trans – it takes courage to be who I am

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From not being accepted by her family to being sexually harassed, a transgender woman has revealed the hurdles she has had to overcome.

Melissa Griffiths, from Melbourne, Australia, was 10 years old when she first realised she was different to the boys around her.

Later coming out as a transgender woman was challenging and difficult for her as she didn’t know how her friends, family, coworkers and the general public would react.

While she has come a long way, Melissa spoke exclusively to Daily Star about the difficulties she has faced.

“Telling your parents that you are now a female and starting the process of transitioning is not an easy thing to do,” she told us.

“My father told me he accepted it before he died however to this day my mum doesn’t fully accept it.”

While Melissa says her mother hasn’t been supportive, she thankfully has a few close friends who are.

The 51-year-old added: “When you come out … it can be scary as you feel your way in life knowing that everyone close to you now knows who you really are in this regard.”

Melissa explained that going to new venues or nightclubs that you have never been to before can be daunting and can knock your confidence.

She said that when she went out for the first time as a transgender woman she dealt with people staring at her as well as receiving disapproving glares from bartenders.

Melissa has also had to overcome people’s prejudices and lack of acceptance of transgender women.

“Having people who are close to you reject you or no longer want to be friends with you because you tell them that you are transgender female and going to live as such full time like I did meant I felt like an outsider or unwanted,” she said.

“Overcoming being bullied, harassed and sexually harassed was also quite challenging. Whilst I don’t talk about this much now it leaves scars and you question people’s motives for doing so whilst trying to come to terms with why me?

“Learning how to handle the glares or stares from members of the public when out for dinner with a friend was a learning curve.”

While there may have been a variety of negative experiences, Melissa says there have been far more positive ones.

Melissa has helped introduce a gender identity policy at the Victoria Racing Club and has been able to speak at various events by sharing her story and raising awareness about transgender people.

She also received an Australia Day Achievement Award in 2019.

“These highlights help remind me to keep going on those days when I feel like society still doesn’t get transgender people or feel a bit glum,” she said.

“Also sharing my story on Facebook as well as LinkedIn has helped people become more understanding of transgender issues as time goes on.

“I have continued to share my story which means people see the good days as well as sharing how I feel sometimes on a bad day. “

Melissa explained that she knew she was different when she was a young child but didn’t know what she could do about it.

“This was in the days of no internet and at that stage, as a child, I never heard the terms gender identity or transgender,” she said.

“I knew then that there was something wrong but never really understood what without being able to research it and at the time probably too scared to ask anyone or thought about doing so as to why I felt so different to the other boys.”

Being brought up in Auckland, New Zealand, in the 70s and 80s, people’s attitudes were a lot different compared to now.

“If I told someone back then I thought I was a girl I probably would have either been sent to a psychologist to ‘correct’ my behaviour/thinking or told I was going through a ‘phase’,” Melissa explained.

“Knowing I was different meant that I was shy and often if played with or hung out only with one other boy at intermediate school.

“Mentally I was confused and scared of what I was not fully grasping why I had been born this way at that time.

“Emotionally I was reserved and quiet as I was also dealing with parents often fighting at home being caught in the middle as a lonely child.”

Melissa says it took her a while to come to terms with her gender identity, which she achieved through counselling and talking to her inner circle of friends.

Now her main goal is to educate the general public about the pain that transgender people go through to be their true selves.

“The process we go through individually to make the decision to come out, live full time as such can be challenging," she said.

“I wish people knew about the anxiety and panic attacks that I have had in the past going through transition and even now, some days I feel anxious because I worry about not knowing when I will be having any more surgery, let alone if I'll ever be able to afford it.”

Melissa also pointed out that none of the medical visits, medication or surgery associated with transitioning is covered.

When it comes to surgery as a transgender woman, you can consider having breast augment surgery, facial feminisation surgery, gender reassignment surgery and voice surgery.

Melissa explained further: “If you decide to only have gender reassignment surgery or facial feminisation surgery you have to consider electrolysis to remove all your facial hairs or genital hairs. Whilst not crucial for facial feminisation surgery it is crucial for gender reassignment surgery.

“So far I have only had breast augmentation surgery for which I took money out of my pension for so by the time you take tax into account I took out nearly $20,000 (£10,898) of my pension to pay for it.”

The financial burden can be overwhelming, which is why Melissa has only had a breast augmentation surgery so far.

While she is looking at more surgery options, she is yet to decide 100% if she will do more given the costs involved.

“I also wish the general public knew that it takes a lot to come out and then acknowledge to everyone around you who you really are,” Melissa continued.

“It takes true courage to be the person you are really meant to be. Courage comes from within and finding that courage can be hard sometimes.

“However, if you find it and are brave enough like I was, then you can come out and live your life to the fullest as your true self. My final message is today be courageous, smile and most importantly be you.”

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