Pauley decided to come out as a transgender person a couple of years ago while she and her family were living in the small country town of Simpson. Some people had suggested she should wait until she was back in Geelong. But she knows she made the right decision when a mother from Simpson primary school, told her, “Thank you for making the change in our small community. Up until now, the kids had two choices, to leave or to take their lives. Now they know, they can be accepted in our community, like you have been.”
Pauley Johnson has lots of positive stories to tell. Like the fact her dirt bike club, the Otway Trail Riders, still call her ‘Johno’ and proudly ride behind her when she leads the annual “Tomahawk” ride. These positive experiences have enabled her to be empowered to support others.
Pauley lives in Geelong now, with her wife and three children. The kids have been very accepting and have a bit of fun calling her Muddy or Dummy, mixing up the letters of Daddy and Mummy. Her youngest daughter also loves to critique Pauley’s dress sense. “Essentially we are just another run of the mill, normal family.”
Pauley leads Geelong Gender Group, an adult trans and gender diverse support group that organises social catch ups, and works in with Psychologist, Catherine Bull from Barwon Consulting suites, who runs a clinical support group. Dr Nicholas Brayshaw, of Kardinia Health, is also sympathetic and supportive of the community’s health needs. Pauley says the Geelong Gender Group has an emerging leadership group with people like Amielle keen to build support for trans and gender diverse people.
“While there is a huge amount of acceptance and the vast majority of the public are polite, unfortunately, there is still an underlying issue of non-acceptance. Some kids aren’t accepted by their families. There’s acceptance when it’s someone else’s child, brother or sister but when it’s their own… There’s still work to do.
“If you’re not sure whether to call someone, he or she, just ask. We won’t take offence. We have many people in our community who don’t go by the labels of him or her, and prefer to be referred to as “they” or “them”. This can take a bit to get used to, but is pretty easy once you understand the logic behind it.
“The trans narrative that exists in our society has grown in oppression. But as the world becomes more accepting, we see young people developing new ideas about gender.
“I think we are about to see a big change in this narrative. Watch this space!”
Thanks for entrusting me with your story Pauley. It’s a story that needs to be told. Everyone should feel safe and accepted in all their diversity.
Pauley will be attending the Humans in Geelong Expo on Sun 7 Oct at Deakin Waterfront from 10am. She hopes, “people will feel comfortable to say hello and ask questions about gender and the Geelong Gender Group.”
Story: Jacqui Bennett. Photo: Pauley and Amielle