Brisbane man Seth agrees there's a need for transgender housing.
Brisbane man Seth agrees there's a need for transgender housing.

‘I still let my daughter call me mum’

AS a child, Seth didn't know there was a name for what he was feeling.

"I couldn't put those feelings in a box. I used to cry if I was put into a dress," he said.

"I'd climb trees and wear boys clothes and I used to bind (my chest). I do remember my mother saying to me 'you're going to get a sex change when you're older', and I didn't even know what that was."

Seth was born female and in the last few years, has transitioned to a male.

The process hasn't been easy, and has involved many periods of homelessness which began when he ran away from home at the age of 12.

""I've been homeless more times than I've had somewhere to live," he said.

"I had dyslexia and a learning disability and I really struggled at school," he said.

"Then I got into a relationship with a male and ended up having three children. I struggled with my sexuality in that relationship and realised that I am actually male."

When the relationship broke down, Seth said he left his children with their father because he wanted more for them than he could provide.

"I thought I would sacrifice my need to be with them so that they could be educated better than I ever was," he said.

Seth - who is also indigenous - lived in his car and couch surfed with friends, but said the separation from his children was the most devastating.

"It's caused me a lot of pain," he said.

"I still let my daughter call me mum because that's who I am to her."


Seth had three children as a woman but has now transitioned to a man.
Seth had three children as a woman but has now transitioned to a man.

Seth is currently living in a friend's garage, but dreams of having a home of his own.

"I just want to live like a normal person, but I've lived off fight and flight my whole life," he said.

He has tried to improve his education, but says his uncertain home life has made it difficult.

"Because of my lack of education, I've tried to do courses and I can't afford it. And even when I can afford it, I've got nowhere to study in peace because I'm constantly homeless. It's just frustrating," he said.

When he lived as a woman, he worked in retail and childcare, but has found it difficult as Seth.

Three years ago, Seth began hormone treatment, but hasn't had any other surgery.

"To be honest, even though I have my dysphoria at times and I wish I could afford my surgery, I am the happiest I've ever been," he said.

"As a female, I was so angry with the world. I'm so much happier being a male."

Seth agreed there was a need for trans-friendly housing in Brisbane, and said he has often kept the fact that he's transgender "a secret" because he's unsure of the repercussions.

"I went to one place and it was aggressive and violent," he said..

"When I've tried with real estates or private rental, I've already got my name legally changed, but sometimes they say 'do you know this person?' and I have to go into this whole spiel and it leads to dysphoria and depression and anxiety," he said.

"For me - and it might be different for other people - I feel like that person never really existed. It was like putting on a mask for society."

Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland secretary Kristine Johnson said emergency accommodation for transgender people is urgently needed.

"They get kicked out of the family home, they lose their kids. The rest of the family cuts them off, and quite a lot contemplate suicide," she said.

"They've got nowhere to go. They're lucky if we can get them in with another trans girl or guy who has a spare room."

Ms Johnson said being diagnosed with gender dysphoria - where a person's emotional and psychological identity as male or female is opposite to their biological sex - can be lonely and isolating.

"We've had a lot of males to females who've had to stop all treatment just so they can get somewhere to sleep in a mens' boarding house, and mentally, they have spiralled downhill. And of course the females to males are too scared to access them, and there's nothing out there for them," she said.

"Our idea was that it would be emergency accommodation between six and 12 months, so they could get on their feet, save some money and move them into their own places with social worker support."

Donna was born male and transitioned to a woman, and also spent long periods of homelessness after she was forced to leave her hometown as a teenager.

"My facade was pretty good, then someone in a mean way decided to tell my uncles who I really was, so I got kicked out of town just before my 18th birthday," she said.

"You get right down as low as you can. I have trans friends who have attempted suicide. It would be great if there was somewhere where they could live in a hostel where there are going to be people like me who've gone through it and they can talk things through with."

Donna was bashed with an iron bar six years ago, and was homeless after being released from hospital.

"I was in a coma then I came out and because I hadn't paid my rent, I turned up and I'd been evicted," she said.

"I had so many people say 'there are so many share houses everywhere', but a lot of my friends didn't know (I was transgender). My occupations were all to cover up who I was because I had a fear of what people would do if they found out," she said.

"I lived in my car for three and a half years and I couldn't be Donna because I only had a car and a bag of clothes, so I pretty much had to live as a guy - and I've been Donna all my life."

Donna said she was on a disability pension for the injuries sustained in the assault, and was unable to afford to rent alone.

"And there was an anxiety level about coming out to someone that you don't know and living in their house... it's a big fear that you have," she said.

"As trans people, we feel a lot of guilt for most of our lives because we're lying to everybody. You're essentially just lying your arse off all your life, and when you can get into that spot where you don't have to do the lying thing anymore... I am so clear."

"If you haven't got a home and you're trans, part of it is trying to be yourself, and if you're on the street, you can't do it. The options aren't very wide."

Donna said she spent time in a mens' hostel where she was forced to present as a man.

"It was a horror story. I was so scared in that place. I had to put on the full man suit, the whole facade, and the whole time I was surrounded by people who weren't nice people. You fear for everything," she said.

"I was told not to wear nice sneakers because they will steal the shoes off your feet. It was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done."

"You could go out and come back and somebody would be in your bed. The trans people I know - there's no way in the world that they would even consider that as an option," she said.

"I had to go back to a man mode just to survive, and that really fooled with my head because I was back in a situation where I was not the person I am. You go from one person to another and switching between the two extremes is really going to do your head in."


Donna was forced to live as man to get a room in a mens’ hostel when she was homeless.
Donna was forced to live as man to get a room in a mens’ hostel when she was homeless.

Donna now has a home and is returning to work after recovering from the injuries sustained in the assault.

"People don't understand if you haven't got anywhere to live, there's not a lot of places that will let you turn up and use their toilet especially if you're trans," she said.

"When I finally got a house, I had the best sleeps of my whole life. I would lie in my bedroom in my swag and I'd have the biggest smile on my face because I could have a shower and go to the toilet. I don't have a lot - I don't live a luxurious lifestyle - but it really makes you appreciate things. I don't take anything for granted."

Donna said transgender support groups are hard to find, and not to be confused with cross-dressing.

"Being trans is so different to people who are on the cross-dressing level. You need to find people who are going through what you are going through so you can get support," she said.

"There are a lot of young people coming up through the trans community who have that anxiety and fear, and it would be great if there was somewhere they could go and be around people like them and not be afraid."

Donna said she was fortunate to have had a car when she was homeless, even though she was often moved along.

"It was a little Hyundai Excel and I was lucky to have it because people were sleeping on the ground," she said.

"One of the things I did was join a gym and I'd just use their facilities. I got fit too."

"If I didn't have a car, I don't know where I'd be now. I had a cattle dog who lived with me at the time, and he was very protective. It would've been great if there was some sort of hostel."

Donna said accommodation specifically for trans people could ultimately save lives.

"I believe I got on top because I've got a very strong will but to be a trans person and be living on the streets, there's no way you can build that will up unless you can get some respite and be around some of your kind so people can lift you up," she said.

"I go about my life every day and I'm out there. People see me. I invite them to ask questions if they want to because society has a fear of the unknown and that's us. It might take a little bit longer for them to understand that we're not bad and we're not perverts, and somebody might find a way to fund a small hostel. It's a bit of a fantasy at the moment."

"A lot of the trans people I know are scared to go out into society. I'm six foot, I'm covered in tattoos, I haven't had any surgeries to make me pretty. You do have to overcome some obstacles, but once you do, you realise that people don't really care," she said.

"There's not a lot of support and if they just got a little bit of help and if something like this got started, it would be there forever."

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