Catherine McGregor transitioned from male to female in 2012. (Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Australian military officer Catherine McGregor, considered the most prominent transgender woman in Australia, functioned as a male until just after her 56th birthday, she shared in a speech at a National Press Club event in Canberra, Australia this week.
“I choose the term ‘functioned’ advisedly, because my relationship to my birth gender was fraught from a very young age,” McGregor, who is a group captain in the RAAF Reserve, said during her speech, reported Buzzfeed.
For people who are transgender, there is a difference between that person’s physical gender and the gender he or she actually identifies with. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which says, “for a person to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months.”
It can be hard to describe what it’s like to actually live with gender dysphoria (“Grammar fails to express" what it’s like to live with it, McGregor said). The writer of the Tarnished Sophia blog, who says in her “About Me” section that she has gender dysphoria, explains that it’s like being ready and comfortable with playing Romeo, and then on opening night being told you must play Juliet. “You haven’t played this part before, you don’t know the lines, the costume doesn’t fit at all, and you feel no connection to this character whatsoever. You don’t understand what her motivations are, and the director can’t explain them in a way that makes any sense to you.”
McGregor said in her speech that before she transitioned from male to female in 2012, her inner conflict was unbearable. “I suffered from it acutely and consciously at intervals over the course of my entire life,” she said in her speech. “I now believe my entire life was spent repressing and compensating for my gender variance.”
Making the decision to come out about gender identity can be difficult. But McGregor had the support of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He “embraced risk” to stand up for her, she said, as reported by news.com.au.
“It never occurred to me that my life would be as rich and fulfilling as it is today,” McGregor said in her speech.
For more on gender dysphoria, watch the video below: