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More than skin deep
Pte Scott Smith shares his story with Sharon Palmer to help people struggling with gender issues.
GENDER transition is more
than skin deep -- it goes to the
very heart and soul of those
struggling to just be them-
selves. The journey can also be a long
and lonely one.
Pte Scott Smith, of 11 Bde, has lived
the struggle, initially as an unhappy girl
and young woman, and has come out the
other side a happy man.
"For me I had a deep need to transi-
tion," he said. "My parents have always
encouraged my brother and me to be our-
selves, and I just couldn't go on living as
someone I wasn't.
"When people have a need to change
gender, it goes beyond anything you can
imagine. It's not related to sexuality, the
colour of your hair or skin -- it affects you
to your core, because there is no easy fix."
Now part of a group running a new
anonymous online support network for
transgender, intersex and gender-question-
ing ADF personnel, Pte Smith hopes it will
be easier for others contemplating gender
transition than it was for him.
"The idea that I am a part of something
that can help others is great. No one needs
to go through this alone," he said.
"Before I started to transition I had to
do a lot of research and there was no one I
could bounce thoughts or questions off."
The network operates through email
and online where members can receive
support anonymously. It gives advice on
issues such as changing names, getting
new IDs, specialist equity advisers or
which Defence doctors are well informed
about gender change.
Born in the UK to military parents,
Pte Smith said he was a tomboy as a child
and came out as a lesbian when he was 13
because he thought that was who he was.
"It wasn't until we moved to Australia
and I was hanging out with friends at a les-
bian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth
centre that I was introduced to the possibil-
ity of changing genders," he said.
"It wasn't until I was about 19 that
I really figured it out. It was my then-
girlfriend who confirmed what I was trying
to understand, she told me it was obvious I
was unhappy living as a woman.
"After a while I started slowly chang-
ing things I was doing in my everyday life
from female to male."
Pte Smith said being in the Army made
it easier to blend in as a male, but his ini-
tial inquiries about gender transition were
dealt with poorly.
"I enlisted in 2008 and first approached
the medical system about transitioning
later that year," he said.
"However, at that stage, the medical
staff weren't too receptive, so I stopped
doing anything transition-related at work."
The idea that I am
part of something
that can help others
is great, no one
needs to go through
-- Pte Scott Smith
Pte Smith started living as a male
socially but after about 18 months he was
finding it difficult to be one person out of
work and another one at work.
"I was then 20 and eventually I
couldn't do it anymore, but I didn't want
boss and the medical staff and basically
put my career in their hands," he said.
He has since undergone comprehensive
mental and physical treatments and sur-
gery and said while transition varied from
person to person it was never easy.
"It usually starts with a lot of medical
assessments, leading to hormone therapy
and then surgery depending on how far you
want to take the transition process. So it's
not something that is taken lightly," he said.
"This is why having a network to talk
to is so important because there's a lot of
misinformation out there and talking to
people who have been through it, under-
stand the issues and can offer good advice
Pte Smith said the transition process
didn't stop with the medical procedures.
"You have to change your name and
gender on all of your documents," he said.
"That's more of an embarrassment than
anything else, because you have to out
yourself to people who have nothing to do
with you, and it's not really their business."
Pte Smith married his partner in April
and is thinking about his future.
"My uncle is in the British Army and
worked his way from a private through to
the rank of major -- I'd love to do the same
thing," he said.
His advice for personnel struggling
with gender issues is to talk to someone.
"You don't need to do this alone and
even though, at the time, it feels like eve-
rything is moving at snail-pace, you're still
further than you were when you started,"
Pte Smith said.
For more details on the network contact modera-
tor Catherine Humphries at catherine.humphries@
defence.gov.au or at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are not alone: Pte Scott Smith hopes he can help other people struggling with the challenges of
Photo by Tim Asher
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