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Just because a man wears a dress, doesn't mean he's gay

Emma and Reg Colin are open about the transgender community to raise awareness and encourage acceptance of diversity.
Emma and Reg Colin are open about the transgender community to raise awareness and encourage acceptance of diversity. Brendan Bufi

HERVEY Bay transgender Reg Colin can rise above the odd strange look while out wearing a dress, but getting punched in the face was taking it too far.

Reg, 40, is calling for more support and education about gender issues on the Fraser Coast after being assaulted at a nightclub.

Reg identifies as neither a man or a woman and is proud to be known as 'Shima' (a combination of she and him).

But being open about being transgender and wearing women's clothes is not without risk.

"I was at karaoke on a Wednesday night a few weeks back with Emma and a friend of ours and this man started harassing us," Reg said.

"He kept asking me why I was wearing a dress and was calling me gay, but what people need to know is that just because a man wears a dress, doesn't mean he's gay.

"Anyway I stood up to ask him to leave us alone and he punched me in the face."

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Reg said Bayswater Hotel was supportive of the LGBTIQ community and was not to blame for the incident.

"It was just unfortunate that it happened there because Bayswater is so supportive of gay and transgender people," Reg said.

"But it's not the only time I've been harassed because of who I am, unfortunately there are bigots everywhere."

Reg was once laughed at by young employees at a local discount variety store and believes they took photos on their phones.

Reg said better education for people at an early age would prevent situations like that.

"Teaching people about the difference between being transgender and being gay, and the different types of gender would go a long way in stopping bigotry," Reg said.

"I think it should be taught as part of sex ed and in the workplace."

Reg explains that they have been openly transgender for almost a year, but has struggled with gender identity for a life time.

Reg spoke to a psychologist about the possibility of being transgender and in August last year, became confident enough to openly identify as a transgender and gender-fluid person.

Reg's partner of two years Emma Colin, who also identifies as gender-neutral, stayed with and supported Reg as they went through the gender transition process.

"He supported me through my problems and so I was so proud to support Reg when he went decided to open up as gender-fluid," Emma said.

"Any obstacle we found that we came up against we just talked it out and really it was the outside world that had the issues and judgement but he has treated me like a queen since we met and I said to him 'if you want to wear a dress honey, you bloody well wear that dress.'"

But Fraser Gays co-ordinator Sally Cripps said while the people on the Fraser Coast were generally accepting and welcoming of people in the LGBTIQ community, the area still had a long way to go when it came to supporting transgender people.

"It's a big change and Life is really hard for transgender community and there is absolutely no support for them in this community at all," Ms Cripps said.

"They need to go to Cairns to see doctors to subscribe hormones, but there's just no support for them locally, aside from certain psychiatrists and doctors.

"We [the LGBTIQ community] don't really have anywhere to go, but we do have support hotlines that we have can ring to get help, and the rest is done by people like me who just do it off their own back."

Ms Cripps said she wanted to make it clear that homosexuality and bisexuality and transgender were two separate identity issues.

"The gay community is about sexuality and not just homosexuality but a large spectrum of sexualities," she explained.

Transgender people were born and assigned a sex a birth, but they weren't that sex inside, they don't identify that way."

Ms Cripps said transgender people can lose close friendships and relationships with family during the process of their transition.

"It can be quite confusing for not only the people who are going through the changes but also the people around them," she said.

"They can't come to terms with what that person's going through because they've known them as one way for so long."

Ms Cripps said the Fraser Coast was heading in the right direction of supporting LGBTIQ community members, but more education would go a long way.

"Generally most people here are quite accepting," she said.

"But there are still people who are homophobic and transphobic but you get those people everywhere.

"We're just normal people just trying to have a life, and we all just need to understand each other."  

Topics:  editors picks fraser coast gender hervey bay maryborough transgender



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