Suzie St James – The Early Years – Darlington

I was born in December of 1967 at St Margaret’s Hospital in Bourke Street Surry Hills, in the wee early hours of the morning. I was a Xmas baby, oh how I hated it as I got older. It really isn’t the best time of the year to be born.

I was born 4 weeks premature and stayed in hospital in a Humidi crib for 3 weeks. I was a slight ranger as a child, reddish strawberry blonde hair and I was named Steven John. I always thought it was nicer than my brother’s name. Micheal Reginald. Like most families we got names given to us after other family members.

I was the younger of two boys; I had an older brother Micheal by two and a half years. Mum actually had more children, a set of twins, but she lost them due to a miscarriage. Twins were very common on Mums side of the family. She is a twin herself. I often wonder how different things would be if we had had a larger family.

We lived in a house in Cleveland Street Darlington. Darlington is a lovely little suburb just on the fringe of the city. It’s much different these days. There was a higher population of Aboriginal people back then and there were also a lot of factories still operating in the area. It was a little rough in Darlington at the time and Cleveland Street was notoriously busy with traffic. I wasn’t aloud out the front of the house, it was much too dangerous. A lot of people don’t even know where it is. Darlington is a small little suburb tucked away in between Redfern and Chippendale. The best way tell someone where it is today, is just say I’m near Sydney University or the Seymour Centre. Ah they say, never heard of it before. They often think we are in Darlinghurst.

Mum was a factory worker and Dad was an interstate truck driver when I was young. We were just your very average Australian family. I remember the house well, it was quite run down, but Mum always did her best with what we had. She had a certain style about her, in her younger days she was a ballerina and dancer. Dad was your typical Aussie bloke, loved his beer and had a love for animals. Especially pigeons. Oh my, the animals we used to have. Dad enjoyed racing his pigeons and he also went rabbit hunting quite a lot, so we had ferrets that he would keep and take on his hunting trip to chase the rabbits out of their burrows. I was warned to stay away from the ferrets as they can be vicious animals. They were not tamed, they were kept for hunting. Boy could they bite, and I learnt the hard way. Dad used to let them loose in the house as rats were a small problem in the area, or was it due to all the animals we had. I used to run as fast as I could as they chased me around the house and I would jump up on the lounge to get away from them but they would jump on you and nip you with their sharp teeth. They are very funny animals to watch they are quick and have this unique little jump they do. We had numerous fish tanks in the front room with a wide variety of fish, goldfish and tropical, we also had a turtle until it fell down the drain and we never saw it again. We had rabbits and dogs and it was just a menagerie of all sorts of animals.

Mum and Dad had their issues, they fought a bit. I used to get scared when they had a fight. I would run to my room and try and block it all out. It wasn’t nice. All the screaming and shouting. I admire them though, in the end they actually stuck it out and managed to get through their issues and have been married for over 50 years now. That’s tolerance and determination for you.

I was around about 4 years old at the time when my Grandma Rose, Mums mother, bought me a cleaning set. Broom, mop, bucket and dust pan set with a feather duster. It was my pride and joy. I used to follow Mum around the house trying to help her do the house work. I was in love it. A bit OCD really and I’m still the same today. Sadie the Cleaning Lady was a song by Johnny Farnham which was released in 1968. It was a huge hit for him and his first solo single. It was still very popular on the radio in 1971 and My Grandma Rose nicknamed me “Sadie The Cleaning Lady”. How very apt is that. Who would have thought… lol

Nana M, Elizabeth is her real name was always known as Betty or Blossom to everyone else. She was my father’s mother and she has played a huge part in my life. Nana M and Pop M lived just behind our house in a small terrace in. You could go out our back gates and run up the Dunny Lane and into Nan’s backyard it was that close. As I got older Mum changed jobs a few times, she was a Barmaid at The Brittania Hotel. It was so close, just 20 mtrs from our house, it was a little too convenient I think. But I got to play in their sometimes and go upstairs to the accommodation rooms. I even ended up learning how to play Pool in that Hotel. Mum then moved on to work for Parker Pens in an administrative role in their factory just up the street. I would go in there sometimes and sit at Mums desk and play on the typewriter. I always thought I was an efficient receptionist.

So I got spend a lot of time with Nana M as I grew up. She would baby sit me and my brother a lot as Mum and Dad worked. She was a very strict and stern woman. She scared me sometimes, but she was always there for us. She had worked hard most of her life, she was 14 and had a job in a lipstick factory. Forget that, at 14 we’re still going to school. Pop worked on various councils, he was a garbage man. Now he was a crap collector, and I know where my father gets it from. Anything and everything he would find on the streets would be brought home. One day he brought home a Corella, for those who don’t know they are similar to a Cockatoo. He said to Nan, just minding it for a mate who’s gone on holidays. Nan gave that usual raised eyebrow stare. Well that bird was still here, approximately 35 years or more later, he passed away about 4 years ago. Nan loved birds she taught the bird to talk, or better still, swear. She taught him the saying, “Get out of it you bastard”. Later on the bird was actually Nana M’s watch dog to let her know anybody was in the yard.

During my younger years Nan bought us an array of toys and stuff to play with, even a record player each and a record. We had the choice to choose between to records wrapped in Xmas paper. What did I end up with? Liberace. The writings on the wall….. lol. Nana M used to bring home toys like KerPlunk; it was a game of sticks and marbles in a plastic tube. It was so much fun. We even had a Meccano Set that used to be dads, I loved building things.

Nana M had a thing for keeping everything. Nothing was thrown away. I feel it stems from growing up during the war and depression. There was always something to do at Nana M’s place, it was like my wonderland.

I used to love waiting for Santa to arrive, until one night I woke up and was sitting at the top of the stairs watching Dad put our bikes and toys together while having the beer and fruit cake we left out for Santa. I was shattered, there was no Santa, it was just a big myth, but I still loved waking up in the morning and making a mess opening the presents. Then we would go to Nana M’s place for Xmas lunch. There we were all sat around the table in a small dining room. She would put on a huge spread. Baked dinner with the works. Pork, Chicken, Turkey and Ham with lots of baked vegetables. It took me a while to get used to some of the vegetables and I would try and throw them away or put them on my brother’s plate. Dessert time was interesting, Nana M made the usual Xmas fruit cake and pudding. When you got pudding with custard and if you were lucky enough to get the Three pence she put inside the pudding, whoopee , but you had to hand them back. I was always scared they would break my teeth. It was an old Xmas tradition that went on for years; it’s believed to bring good luck and wealth in the coming year. The tradition died out sometime later as the introduction of metal based coins was introduced, but Nana M still has her Three pence collection and was always used in her Xmas puddings, except the ones she would give away. Weeks before Xmas you would go to Nana M’s house and see them in pieces of fabric hanging in the laundry room. Nan always made things in bulk. She would give the extras away to family and friends. Every Xmas we would get a fruit cake to take home. I didn’t like it much as a youngster, but I certainly do now.

My relationship with my older brother was the usual love hate brotherly thing. He was the oldest so he would always throw that one at me to get his way. Mum would constantly complain about us fighting and sometimes we copped a good whack for being naughty. Dad was the worst, when he would come home and find out what we had been up to, it was on again. I don’t hate them for it, it’s not a done thing these days, but discipline was needed to keep us in line. Nana M also used the strap. She would give you that look and you knew it was coming. I would run, but she always got me in the end, and boy did it sting. Sometimes children take longer to learn, and that was me. Always the slow learner when it came to getting into trouble, but I eventually learnt my lesson.

I enjoyed when Aunty Joe used to visit, I loved sitting down with her doing some colouring in. I remember if I went outside the lines I would tear the page out as if it had never existed. OCD again. She was extremely patient with me. I think from a young age I had the perfectionist trait in me. Everything had its place, colour in between the lines and I loved cleaning the house and tried to organise everything. I adored the animals; I would cuddle the rabbits and my cute puppy dog. I don’t remember if he was actually bought for me but I rose to take the responsibility of keeping him, Buffy was his name. A little fox terrier. He was cute as a button. A little trouble maker too. He used to climb the ladder of the pigeon loft and play up there, getting him back down was a different story.

I would constantly help Dad with the pigeons, when racing day was on you used to have to go up to the loft cages and shake a tin with seed in it and call the birds in. Try and get them back into the cages as quick as possible. I would yell, Come on. Come on. Come on, and they would fly down and go into their cage and Dad would clock their rings and race day was over.I was always and still am fascinated as to how they would find their way home. Mind you some never returned. Attacked by bigger birds or lost their flight path.

I’m sure a big part of my flare has come from my Mum; she was a very social person. I remember she loved going to Redfern RSL for the Easter Bonnet Parade. She would have a huge hat and dressed smart, I can’t recall if she ever won. But in my eyes she did. She had fancy hairdos and clothing and always tried to look her best. She always had a huge wardrobe full of clothes and shoes, nothing’s changed. Now she has 4 wardrobes full of them.

Easter time was my favourite time of year. We used to walk all the way from the Newtown end of Cleveland Street, up to the old Show Ground at Moore Park. We would go and have fun on the rides and get lots of show bags, eat lots of Pluto pups and candy floss. Then we trudged all the way back down Cleveland Street all the way home. We were all exhausted by the end of the day, but not before I would go through all the show bags and enjoy all the treats.

Our house was scary sometimes, due to being run down. I recall Mum and Dad were having a party once and all of a sudden the cockroaches would crawl out from the brick work and fly at you. I screamed and ran. The upstairs back room was terrible, if I remember it as I do, the floor was falling in. Mum would always say, don’t go in there. A huge memory from that house I have is from when Dad would play dentist. He used to tie the string around your tooth and then tie it to a door, then slam the door. Your tooth was gone. Ouch.

I was a bed wetter as a child. Nana M recalls the times when I would stay at her place and I would piddle the bed, all the way up her back. During the night she would wake me up to change the sheets. I was in a total daze and had no idea what was going on until the next morning. My Dad didn’t deal with it too well. He used to spank me for it. Mum tried to explain it was something I had to grow out of but he didn’t get the message, and it continued on for a few more years yet.

Today I walk around to the old house on Cleveland Street and just stare at it and all the memories come flooding back. Where the pigeon loft was, the old dodgy back gates, of course it has changed, it’s been renovated like everything around here has, but the memories are still strong in my mind of how it used to be and the time we spent in it.

I can’t recall having feminine feelings at a young age, but I did feel that there was something inside me that told me things would be different and would sort themselves out. When we visited our cousin’s place I would ditch my Evel Knieval (American Motorbike Stunt Man) campervan for my cousins Barbie pool set. So maybe I did have the urge for feminine things.

Looking back at the early years I was just your average boy. Mum says I was normal. Growing up in Darlington was fun. We would ride our bikes up and down the street, bang pots and pans at New Year’s Eve and play with the neighbours. There were lots of friends that lived in the area and mum and dad were having parties or going to our neighbours places for stay overs and being minded by them if Mum, Dad and Nana M weren’t available. I loved music and dancing and being the entertainer amongst the family. It all started very early.

Now the school yard was calling.

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Suzie St James – The Early Years – Darlington – Pictorial

I am sharing a series of photo’s that show a lot of our family history. Some are from my mother and fathers wedding, Nana M’s family in the early years and a whole bunch of stuff that relates in some way to my journey.

As this is also an interactive E story, please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.

All content copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be reproduced without my consent.

#SSJMYSTORY

 

 

Suzie St James – Primary School – Darlington

Primary School was a big game changer for me. Soon I would find out just how much impact this part of my life had on me being who I am today. What I can remember of the early years at school is very little. It was however the first place that I got an appreciation and a love of older historic buildings and the history behind them.

The old school was built in 1877 and was grand in my eyes. It was 1973 and I was excited to begin learning and getting to know the other children I remember sitting on a bench on the verandah of the old school doing needle work. When I look back I think it was a rather strange thing for a boy to be learning but I enjoyed doing it. I can’t recall if it was something we had to do or chose to do. Either way I learned how to use a thread and needle at an early age. It has come in very handy over the years.

The school was located in Maze Crescent in Darlington. We used to walk to school by cutting through a factory at the top of Nan’s street, I think it was a spring factory, then along Calder Road and through the University of Sydney and we were at school. It was just a stone’s throw away.

Sometimes we would pick up the neighbours along the way and all go to school together. The school had a big yard and was of a fair size. However the building wasn’t in the best shape. A little run down, just like our house. In 1975 the school was moved to a new location on the corner of Abercrombie Street and Golden Grove Street. It was a brand new school. It was a funky and stylish place, very modern with all the trimmings. I was sad though, I loved the old school building, I would miss it immensely, but it was handed over to the University. The University was taking over everything in the area. Today the Old School has been renovated and turned into a live music venue.
Nana M told me that my brother sang at the opening of the new school, she said he had a lovely voice. Thankfully I have no memory of it. LOL

I remember the new school more than the old one and when we moved to the new school I started to play with girls a lot more than boys. I just felt more comfortable around them. I loved playing the game elastics. It was a lot of fun. It’s when we played this game I realised I was quite flexible. I could stand straight up against a wall, grab my leg and place my left foot beside my head. Some of the girls I played with were furious that I was more flexible than them.

The school had a dance program and I was encouraged to join. We learnt lots of various styles of dancing which was interesting. We mostly learnt folk dancing at school and there was a dance we used to do with two long bamboo poles and they would be moved and clicked and we had to dance in between them while they’re moving. I’m sure it was of an Island descent. Dance classes were fabulous. I had found something I really liked to do.

There were two significant highlights during my dancing days at primary school; one was when I performed at the opening of the Seymour Centre. The Centre was opened in 1975. We performed a Spanish Style dance and I was the lead male dancer. The Centre had a huge auditorium and it was fabulous to dance on such a professional stage.

The other highlight was in 1979 and I was so excited when the school was asked to gather a number of students to perform for a television show. We were to perform at Channel Seven for the filming of “This Is Your Life”. It was the life of David Gulpilil the aboriginal dancer and actor. He was well known for his role in Storm Boy. As Darlington had a high population of Aboriginal people we were selected to perform on the show. We boarded a bus and were on our way to Channel Seven, we performed some aboriginal dancing that we had learnt in dance class at school. I found the TV studio fascinating and loved all the lights and cameras. It was a huge highlight for me.

Everything was great at school until one of the most humiliating days of my short life happened. Because I was born prematurely I had inherited some ear and hearing issues, they weren’t detected at the time of my birth. I was struggling with my school work. I couldn’t hear the teachers in the classroom. The problem was identified by a teacher that I had a hearing problem and I was moved to the front of the class so I could hear the teachers. Then that one humiliating day I went to school and I got so upset. I was sitting in the class and I had discharge running out my right ear. It stunk. It was absolutely foul. It wasn’t very nice. A few of the other children weren’t very nice about it and started to tease me. I started to get harassed a lot about my smelly ear. What didn’t help was the fact that my real surname is Moulds. They started calling me nasty names and called me stinky and all sorts of things. It wasn’t very nice and it made me unhappy. I even became very shy towards other children and a little introverted.

So the school informed my mum and she took me to the hospital to find out what was going on. I had a perforated ear drum and something similar to what they call Glue Ear these days. It affected my hearing and sometimes it would get really sore. I saw a few doctors and they decided to remove my tonsils and adenoids to try and help fix the problem, I even had a Doctor tell me to give up Coca Cola and you will get better. I remember he was Indian and very hard to understand but that always stuck in my mind.

In the meantime I still had to go to school and endure the teasing. It got a bit better as I started to spend a lot of time alone and wasn’t as bad once my ear was plugged with cotton wool to absorb the oozing I was experiencing a lot. But I still had to go to the hospital to see a number of doctors and specialists. Visit after visit. I remember vividly waiting at RPA hospital in the waiting rooms. There were long rows of chairs and nurses coming out of little rooms calling patients names. Little was I aware that this was going to be a lifetime disability; I also learnt it is hereditary in the family. Mum’s father, Pop L had some hearing issues and so did my mum.

Later on I went under the care of a Professor of ENT at RPA. He decided to perform a skin graph. It worked for a while and I didn’t have to put up with the discharge or the smell. But boy was it painful. I woke up from the surgery and it felt like someone had the top of your ear lobe pulling it so hard. Like an intense stinging pain. However it didn’t last long and I had to have another skin graph performed to repair the eardrum. In all, I had a total of 5 operations to help correct the problem. It finally it worked towards the end of my primary school days however I had to be careful with certain activities like swimming.

Even though I was going through my health issues I still continued to do ok at school. Sometimes I struggled and I was no academic but I got through it. I was more interested in the dance classes and things like school plays and the creative things we did.

The dance classes at school were my favourite thing. We actually got to travel a lot with the dance class, we would travel on a Saturday to Bankstown and perform in the shopping village. Nan would come along and look after me. I loved it. Our dance instructor Mrs. Walker was a wonderful teacher. She saw something in me and encouraged my parents to take me to dance lessons at her Studio. Nana M was the one picking us up from school most of the time, so she decided to take me to the dance school Mrs. Walker had at Broadway. I learnt Ballet, Character, and a little jazz. I loved character dancing. Character dance is a specific subdivision of classical dance. It is the stylized representation of a traditional folk or national dance, mostly from European countries, and uses movements and music which have been adapted for the theater. Character dance is integral to much of the classical ballet repertoire.

It was around this time I had discovered my mother’s wardrobe. I remember going home and I would play dress ups when no one was around. I was sneaky, I would go upstairs and close the door on mums room and go through her shoes and dresses. But my fascination with my mum’s shoes was intense. I loved popping them on and going for a gin (walk) in them. They were difficult in the beginning. But I soon mastered the art of wearing stilettos. It was the late 70’s and wedge style shoes were the rage. Mum had some fabulous clothing. Big skirts and nice dresses. I was really noticing a shift in what I was feeling on the inside. I was starting to have a lot of mixed feelings about who I really was.

Funnily a play was being held at the school and I got to play the role of a woman or girl for some reason. I remember so vividly the day I took mums shoes to school to practice. I walked like a pro in her shoes. They were a tall wedge with white straps. The other school children just looked at me in horror that I could walk so well in them. Off I minced up the hallway with my girly strut.

Nana M was working in the sandwich shop on the corner of Shepherd Street and Calder Road. She was a sandwich hand in the shop. They got very busy. It was just across the road from the University. We would often stay at friends places when Mum or Nana M couldn’t mind us. We would stay with them until someone came to collect us. I remember getting collected by Nana M sometimes and we would wait at her house till Mum finished work. Mum was working late hours at the pub I think, or late nights and longer hours at Parker Pens. Dad was often away driving the big truck. If that was the case Nana M would make us dinner and we would sit down in front of the television with our pajamas on and our dinner on the TV trays. They were children’s trays with vegetable figures on them. Ironically Nana M and I still use them today to sit down and eat our dinner off in front of the television. I told you she threw nothing away.

One year I was given a pair of roller skates for Xmas. I loved skating up and down Nana M’s street. Until one day early in the evening we were roller skating and I was approached by some Aboriginal children and they took my roller skates from me. I ran into Nana M’s house and told her. She said right. Off she went up to the service station on Abercrombie Street and found the culprits and brought the skates back. She was one tough cookie my Nana M.

After things finally settled down with my ears I was enjoying school and the dancing lessons. Nana M decided we should join the Boy Scouts. 
This had a huge impact on my sexuality. While I enjoyed going to the weekly meetings and earning badges for doing things like tying ropes and learning skills, there was a lot of homosexual behaviour going on. It wasn’t so much at the weekly meetings at the hall, but at the camps and Jamboree’s we went on. The thing I enjoyed most about the Boy Scouts was the Gang Shows; another opportunity for me to be the center of attention. I remember we performed a play of Peter Pan. It was at a school at Maroubra, they had a huge concert hall and auditorium. I can’t remember the role I actually played but a blue Onsie is something I remember that I had to wear.

One year we went on a Jamboree and some of the boys were playing with each other and the older scout masters were also involved. It was my first experience of two boys doing things to each other. I didn’t say anything. I just kept to myself. I was intrigued though. It was a little later at another Jamboree that I met a scout leader that was besotted with me. He would try and do things to me and I would try and pretend I was sleeping. He was persistent. I was around nine or ten I think when this happened. In the end I ended up playing with his penis just so he would leave me alone.

Looking back the Boy Scouts in the 70’s was a haven of homosexuals behaviour in my eyes. It was also the same time I realised my brother was different too. He too turned out to be gay. My poor parents; they copped a double banger. We were both fairly promiscuous at a young age. I never experienced any intercourse activity during that time; it was all oral and foreplay. I had to admit though I found it more interesting than girls.

Looking back I don’t really see them as homosexual experiences. I was a young boy who had a lot of mixed feelings going on inside me. I attempted to have a girlfriend. For a minute. Her name was Diane just like my mums. I remember we went on a date and I kissed her once. It wasn’t for me though. My one and only ever girlfriend. Ha ha. I think I just had the realisation I wasn’t attracted to girls that way.

I don’t blame anyone for what happened during those times and I don’t think of what I would have been like if I didn’t experience any of those things. To be honest I think I still would have turned out the same. I have realised today that those feelings were inside me for a reason. I didn’t talk to anyone about those experiences either; I think they would have gotten angry with me or dismissed them seeing I was so young. I was becoming more introverted though. My feelings were all over the place and found that I couldn’t discuss anything with anybody. I was lonely and confused on the inside, yet tried to be happy and normal on the outside.

In 1979 Mum and Dad decided it was time for a change. We were moving. I was losing the place I had grown up in, the friends we left behind and no more was I able to run to Nana M’s place to feel safe. At the time a lot of people were moving more towards the west and we moved to a house in Lewisham. There was no more dance class, no more Nana M. It was scary.

Life was about to get tough and I was growing up.

All content is copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be copied or reproduced without my consent.

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Primary School – Darlington – Pictorial

I am sharing a series of photo’s that show my time going to primary school and our family at the time. I have even included some old school reports.

As this is also an interactive E story, please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.

All content copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be reproduced without my consent.

#SSJMYSTORY

 

Suzie St James – High School Years

After we moved from Darlington to Lewisham life became a little crazy. Settling in to a new home and leaving behind a place I loved was hard. There was no more security of Nana M’s house and I was sad as I missed the dancing classes so much. It was hard when you start a new school and end up in the playground with a whole bunch of children you don’t know.
I was extremely nervous when High School began. I didn’t know how to react at first but I soon settled in. However the teasing and bullying was worse than primary school. I was growing and my features were becoming more and more feminine. My hair was getting lighter and blonder and I was slowly losing the freckles and my features were getting girly.

Our hose in Lewisham became an even bigger menagerie of animals. Mum decided to get some cats. Dad added ducks and budgies and I also think it was the beginning of his greyhound phase.I once played nurse nightingale to a poor little duck that had a bubble in his throat. The poor thing didn’t survive, but I tried my best to care for the little duck. Animals still remained a huge part of our growing up.

Dad used to sell hotdogs as job for a while. I remember I used to go with him sometimes to the club and we would stand outside waiting for the drunk patrons who usually needed something to eat in their messy state. We would arrive in the back of Dads old valiant station wagon and it was full to the brim with hotdog buns. You would set up the stand which had a side where u filled it with water and placed the Frankfurt’s in and heat them up from a can with fuel in it underneath the compartment. It was kind of fun in a way. You would start your night by saying “get your hot doggies” over and over. My dad would often get a bit drunk and I would have to sell the doggies. Some guys used to think I was a young girl and they would say give us a dog with sauce and mustard darlin. I never used to try and correct them. I just wanted to sell the hotdogs so when Dad woke up I had sold them all. I used to get lots of tips. It was easy when they were so drunk they couldn’t remember how much they gave you.

Then I would pack up the station wagon and wake Dad up who passed out on the front seat from getting drunk and we would drive home. That drive home was always a scary one.

At school I became more of a loner. I can’t remember too much of Ashfield Boys High, I think l blocked a lot of it out. I enjoyed learning. Not all the harassment that came with it.

A distinct memory I have was one day I was in one of the school buildings and I was in the middle court yard minding my own business. When all of a sudden I copped a garbage bin full of water tossed over me from the level above. Then they would say, cop that poofter. Then they threw the bin at me. I didn’t say much to the teachers or to Mum and Dad what was going on. I was too ashamed. I also thought if I dobbed them in I would endure it even more.

Again my sexuality was starting to become more prominent, I made a friend in our neighbour whom I got along well with. He had an older brother and I started to gain feelings for him. We used to have sleep over’s and we would touch each other during the night and we would play with one another intimately. How I longed for stop over’s. I think I had an attachment to him. He was extremely tall and handsome, and had a great toned body from being a football player.

It went on for most of the time we lived at Lewisham and then Mum and Dad decided to move again. I was angry when they told me because I was just starting to like Lewisham. Mostly because of the boy next door. This time we were off way out west. Granville. It was so far out. It took me a while to adjust to this move.

The house was nice and big and had a huge yard. More room for Dad to get more animals. I used to help him with the greyhounds to get pocket money. If I thought Ashfield Boys High was bad. Granville Boys High was ten times worse. We had to catch the bus now to school as we were a small distance away. Sometimes I would miss the bus and walk. It took forever. It was a very long street.

I remember the day I missed the bus and I was walking along the street and I was approached by a man in a van. He offered to take me to school. I jumped in the van and he drove towards the school. However he didn’t take me to the school. He took me to the TAFE car park. I thought something is not right here. When he parked the van I asked what is going on. He grabbed me by the back of the head and tried to force me to go down on his crotch. I thought to myself how am I going to get out of this one. So I bit him on the crotch and he screamed. I made a quick getaway out of the van and ran to school. I was so scared. It was the last time I ever took a lift from a stranger.

After a few weeks at Granville Boys High the teasing was increasing. I would get called an array of names and quite often I would get pushed around and sometimes bashed. The school had a high number of Lebanese students and they were rather cruel to me. There were a few effeminate boys at the school and we got harassed all the time by them.

I did the usual classes, I also did wood work and I even gave football a try. That didn’t last long. We were practicing one day and they threw the ball at me and I screamed and threw the ball away. I was very quickly relieved from being on the team.

I found myself a couple of friends that I got on with. The one I befriended the most ended in us being sexually involved. We didn’t say much to each other about it, when we had stopovers we would do intimate things. I was realising by this stage that I was more interested in boys sexually. We were good friends though for the four years I lived in Granville.

I can’t remember how but somehow the guy that was besotted with me in the Boy Scouts found out where we had moved to. He used to come and knock on the door after school wanting me to perform sexual things with him. I used to hide from him so he didn’t think I was home. I’d lie between the wall and the back of the lounge under the window where he would be peering inside trying to see if I was home. I would just lay there quiet until he went away. He sometimes would be waiting for me as I got off the bus and I couldn’t avoid him. I got smarter in the end and would come home a different way to avoid him.

At school the Lebanese boys were very cruel to me. They’d chase me after school and push me around and rough me up. The only way I could get them off my back was to perform oral sex on them to stop them from harassing me. I didn’t understand how they could be so harmful to me yet they would be ok with me when I performed the oral sex. I felt at times like going to the teachers and telling them what the boys were doing to me. I was confused and very confused in the end after all the torture they put me through.

I did some school work experience at the Commonwealth Bank. That was fun. My passion for being organised was a key feature they pointed out. However I got a job at McDonalds. It too was a place I could organise things and you had to work fast. So it was a good starting place for me and it was a foundation for learning good working skills.

When year ten finally finished I was blossoming in a different way to other boys. I was tallish and had shoulder length strawberry blonde hair and was becoming more and more feminine. It was getting harder to suppress the desire to dress in women’s clothing, but I had to. The struggle inside was hard to deal with I just didn’t know what would become of it at the time.

The relationship between me and my brother was somewhat estranged as we used to fight a lot. I think it was because although we were a couple of years apart we were actually very much alike.

Granville wasn’t the nicest experience for me when I look back on it but I had no choice but to make the best of it. My high school years are ones that I have kind of blocked out the most. I passed my high school certificate and finally I was away from the harassment. I was so glad to finish high school. They say most things in life make you tougher. The bullying and the teasing made me a stronger person in the sense that if I could handle the harassment I could handle anything. We didn’t have the support we have today to deal with the bullying, I honestly don’t think it would have made much difference.

What I was experiencing at that age was something I was soon to find out what they call Gender Dysphoria.

Let the transitioning begin.

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Suzie St James Transitioning Begins

It was the beginning of 1984. I had just turned 16. School was over thank god. My mum tried to encourage me to complete year 11 and 12. No way that was going to happen. Not in a million years. I was still working at McDonald’s Auburn and earning a little money.

One day someone in the group suggested we go into the city. So we would all meet at the usual friends place and get ready to venture off. We would get a lift into the station and off we would go. Passion pop in toe. It was and still is a terrible drink. However it got you pissed.

We arrived in the city and I don’t know how but we ended up on Oxford Street. It was a whole new world. We discovered the Exchange Hotel. Me dressed in my weird attire of pink overalls and the pink corded handles of a Dotti Bag tied through my hair. Gosh looking back how special I must have looked. The Exchange was always packed and sometimes I found it hard to get in because I looked so young. However when I did get in I would venture around the place looking at all the different people. It was fascinating.

It was here that I came across my first transsexual. They weren’t called that much in those days. They were more commonly known as Drag Queens. I was besotted by what I saw and I had to know more. She was so beautiful. When I found out what it was all about; the penny finally dropped and I had found my life path. It was my dream to transition and become a happy person.

For weeks after weeks we kept going back to the Exchange and then maybe over to Club 45’s or Patches across the road. It was a totally different atmosphere back then. It was much more relaxed and there were so many venues on Oxford Street to choose from. It was here that I discovered I was not the most conventional person, a little weird perhaps. I had my own unique kind of style. We enjoyed the upstairs bar of the Exchange Hotel. I remember I was a little awkward in socializing, I don’t know if it stemmed from my hearing loss or just my personality. Who goes to a hotel and knits a cardigan in the process. Yes I used to knit while drinking cheap wine.

Soon after a couple of months my parents were getting very concerned as to where I was going and why I was coming home at all hours of the morning. If we missed the train we would share a taxi and one of us had the job of offering the driver a sexual favour for the job of paying for the long ride home. One morning when I got in at about 2-3am my mum was waiting. I copped the interrogation about where it was that I had been. So it was time to spill the beans. They didn’t take it very well and were very angry. So we came to the agreement that they would come to the Exchange Hotel with me one night. Oh dear I thought this is going to be tricky.

So Mum, Dad and I went to the Exchange. The look on my fathers face was priceless. I don’t I’ve ever seen the man speechless. My mum wasn’t too bad. They got a taste of where I was going and what I was up to. We kept going for a few months and then I got the courage and decided to move out of home. Neither of my parents were impressed especially because I was so young. But I had to do it. I don’t remember where the connection came from but I end up landing in a house filled with Drag Queens.

We lived in a house, really it was a house split into 2 apartments. There were a few Drag Queens (I’ll keep using the term as it represents the time) who lived upstairs and a few of us downstairs. It was so nice to be free and amongst people I could relate to. It was all very daunting at the time but I just seemed to finally blend in somewhere. It’s here that I met my best friend Ali. She was sort of a guidance and mentor to me. She showed me around the venues and even got me started on hormones. Cause I was a little too young I couldn’t get them from the Dr. So Ali would get them for me. Oh they were terrible things. They made you feel squirmish and sick all the time for the first couple of months. However it soon settled down. The price we pay to alter our gender.

I wasn’t very fortunate though with the results from the hormones in the early stages, especially in the breast region. They started to grow; but one was way bigger than the other. However the hormones softened my features a little more and I was pleased with the ongoing results.

To survive the expensive life of transitioning there weren’t too many options a young queen had at hand. Normal work was very scarce and limited with what little skill sets I had and most of the show work around the traps was taken by the older and more experienced Drag Queens. The last option and the most common in those times was prostitution. I hummed and arghed for a little while but Ali soon convinced me that it was the most viable option and the one to get the things I needed in my young transitioning stage. I remember the first night I did it. It was the most scariest night of my life. I decided to tail Ali down to a place not far from the house we lived in to try and get a feel for what was to become a so called career option. The place was called “Premier Lane”. Fuck it was a scary place. A one way lane way wedged between a giant sandstone wall and the rear of buildings on the other that faced onto busy William Street. It was dark and just situated on the outskirt of Kings Cross.

There were cars parked on one side of the lane and the other was clear for cars to drive along. The girls were either standing between the parked cars dressed all sexy to impress. Or if there were no cars they would line up somewhat like a row of pins in a bowling alley. The clients or “Mugs” as they were called would drive up the lane. If they saw something they liked they would stop, wind the window down and chat to the girls about their rates and services they provided. I was so overwhelmed by it all Ali gave me a pill, little did I know it was Rohyptonol. I ended up passing out on the back seat of one of the girls car. Ali and the others came and got me at six in the morning and took me home. I had fears about working, It all came with risks. The possibility of sexual disease transmission and violence and abuse. The lane was quite a dangerous place. As it was one way in and one way out for vehicles, yet if there was an attack by guys on foot from both ends; there really was no way out, except fight.

A day or so later I went back down with Ali and a few girls from the house and decided I had to do something to survive. I lined up like a ten pin skittle and waited. I was dressed in a swimsuit that Ali lent me and it wasn’t long before I was approached. Ali filled me in earlier of the going rates. I upped each by about five to ten dollars for the services I was offering. Oral sex was the most common service as you could do it in the car with the client somewhere discreet. However you had to do a lot more of them to make descent money.

My offer was accepted and away we went. I performed oral sex in his car for forty five dollars. He was what’s known as a regular mug or client and Ali yelled and told him to look after me. He took me to some place in the back streets of Paddington and I performed the deed. He wanted a raw act. No condom. I didn’t oblige even though he offered and extra bonus. I did a little research into the outcomes of bad sexual practices. I wanted to live a full life, not a quick one.

We returned to the lane and Ali asked how it all went, I said ok and we then lined up to await the next line up of cars that would come through. It was like a Macas drive through system. But it was how we survived.

Being around drag queens was a little intense for me at first. They can be aggressive and very bitchy. There were certain circles as I called them that would define where you were on the Drag Queen ladder. I learnt so much in these early years with the environment I chose to live in. Prostitution was illegal and staying a step ahead of the police was a constant challenge. They would define the rules that all of us broke in order to survive in what was a very competitive way of earning a living.

The one thing that I remember very well from this time was that you grew up fast. Learning to try and fit in amongst other Drag Queens and becoming street wise was daunting but exciting at the same time. I did however relish in the thought I was finally on my way to being the person I was happy with. I am now Trans.

Transitioning Part 2 – The quest to be the showgirl.

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Transitioning Part 2 – The Quest to be a Showgirl.

Transitioning in the mid to late 80’s was a fruitful time. I had made new friends, done things I never thought I would and started enjoying life as my new self. It took me a short while to adjust to the new way in which I presented to the world. Being so young things were exciting yet very intimidating at the same time. It was time for a name change. I chose my name from a show that I watched on television as a child. Susan St James was an actress in America and she starred in a detective show called McMillian and Wife. My mum used to watch the show and the name just stuck in my head. In the 80’s we changed our name via deed poll. So off I went to the Land Titles Office and I registered my name and I was now Miss St James. I preferred Suzie as a shorter version to my name. So Susan was my legal name and Suzie was her alter ego.

Since there was no internet in those days, we relied a lot on each other for guidance and information. Some would even adopt a Drag mother. My hormone regime was going well, my features were softening yet still a little harsh in my eyes, however I was blessed with the one boob syndrome. My right one grew and left one was going nowhere. So in came the padded bra and numerous other ways of creating a bust line. Some used bird seed stuffed into stockings with odd choices of items used as nipples and others just used socks. I opted for 2 padded bras which were very sufficient and easier than stuffing stockings.

Working the streets was tough work and it was taking its toll on me already. Late nights, multiple sex partners day in day out was the norm, so I learnt to reward myself for working a bit longer some nights so I could have the next day all to myself. Having time out was just as important as working such a taxing profession. Living with other Trans and drag queens was great experience because I got to learn so many things from so many different people. I’ve always listened to various people on things and then take all that information and make it my own.

Inside me though, I had this quest. A quest to become a showgirl. Ali used to take me to places like Pete’s Beat, Club 45’s and numerous other venues along the strip (Oxford Street). There were so many places to choose from back then. Patches and the Exchange Hotel down the bottom of the strip to the Taxi Club up on Flinders Street. The Taxi Club was a drag queens haven. Late night or early morning drinks was always on the cards after a big night on the Meryl. Yes we called the street the Meryl. Drag code names and pillarie was all the rage back then. We had a dialogue that we could use without others (straight guys mainly) knowing what we were saying so we could communicate. The Taxi Club was infamous for trans or drag queen trade (otherwise known as a guy who likes to sleep with trans women). Many a nights I would lure men home from the establishment.

Then in late 1985 I got a chance to be in a drag show. It was with another drag queen and two male dancers. It was a big change for me as I also moved away from Darlinghurst to an outer suburb where there was no established gay community where you felt safe. It was the real world. It was a bit more travel to get to work on the Meryl. We lived in a super new townhouse where I shared with a drag queen and her partner. They had a pretty aggressive relationship and it reminded me much of living at home. I missed home, helping dad with the animals and going to work. Most of all mums cooking.

So my first show was on the horizon. I remember saving some money and buying my first costume. It was a lovely pink bodice gown that had a black lace overlay and a puffed sleeve jacket with peplum that tied at the waist. I bought it from a shop on Oxford Street run by a fabulous drag queen. She was a showgirl and we’ll known character of Oxford Street. Her name was Loraine and when I went to the shop to purchase my outfit she asked me to go downstairs into her boudoir and parade my purchase in front of her. It was dark yet lit with lamps that illuminated a soft glowing light. She had a lounge or day bed which she laid on. It was like she was the queen. She ushered me to get changed and show her my young self in the newly purchased gown. I whirled out into the area where the day bed was situated, scared and unknown to what she would say. I walked out in the gown, she sat up in a slow moving way and looked at me. She said in that husky voice, you’re gonna make one hell of a good looking chick. I was over the moon. My quest to be a showgirl was in motion. It was also the first time I had received a compliment from a well known peer.

Soon after I was performing at the Unicorn Hotel and other venues with the troop. I honestly can’t remember the first drag number I did. It was probably something tragic that didn’t suit me. It was good experience for me as I learnt being a showgirl was hard but rewarding work. It’s a glamorous life but one that requires lots of discipline. My previous dance experience had helped, but it was all so foreign because I was doing it as a girl instead of a male. I soon adjusted and the reward of all that hard work comes from the audience appreciation of your performance. We would travel a lot and do heaps of various venues like pubs and discos. But I had this urge to join a bigger show. Les Girls was still operating in the Cross but I never had the opportunity to work there. Another show Simone and Monique’s Playgirl Revue was a multi award winning drag show that toured the big RSL clubs all over Australia. They were having auditions and I put my hand up to try out. I was so nervous at the audition. I was trying out for one of the best drag shows Australia has ever seen. Unfortunately I was later to learn that I didn’t make the cut, it was more about who you knew than what you know.

I took it in my stride as one does but I never gave up hope. I continued to do the smaller shows around the traps. While the showgirl path wasn’t going true to plan I made a small mark in the Sydney Party scene. It’s here that I earned the nick name High Kick Sue.

High Kick Sue came about from my wild days on the dance floor. I was infamous for having a boogie on the dance floor and without a blink of an eye I would do the most en point high kicks. They were high and always performed with precision skill. All while wearing nothing more than a hanky and a dash of lipstick. Hence High Kick Sue was born. I finally started to feel a sense of being a known character amongst the scene. I was making my mark so to speak. The fabulous Hedda Harper had a field day with me in her columns, in one she called me the flying prey mantis of the dance floor. I’ve never laughed as much as when I read that. What a giggle. There was a big party just about every weekend. Looking back I wonder how we survived the abundance of parties we had. We would create amazing costumes and outfits, consume copious amounts of drugs and have so much fun it would be considered illegal today. OOOppps. It is. In those days it was the thing to go to Mardi Gras in big costumes and outfits. Ali was a huge inspiration for me here as her love for all things feathered and glamorous had rubbed off on me. One favourite memory I have is going to a party and you would look over the crowd in the big halls with thousands of people and see large feathered head dresses dancing amongst the crowd. They really were amazing times. We got up to so much fun night after night. Then it was off to recovery. We didn’t stop we would party on for days. I remember after one party Ali and a friend were returning home and found a wheel barrow. Well Ali decided to wheel our friend home all the way from the showground to our flat in Darlinghurst and made the news the next day. Hilarious times.

However it was not all coloured rainbows. The onslaught of the Aids epdemic was rife. I cannot count how many friends I have lost to HIV. It was an ugly disease back then, one which usually ended in a death sentence. Alas as a community we fought back. Raising awareness campaigns and educating ourselves with safe sex practices. Little did I know that soon it would take my best friend away from me.

Drag during this time was also encountering a shift. No longer was a drag queen one that lived life as a female and performed. There were alternative performers and guys dressing in drag during the night and living as men during the day. I think it where today’s perception of drag has evolved from and the drags that lived as females during the day became more recognised as Transsexual Women.

Another opportunity was on the horizon to join Simone and Monique’s Playgirls Revue. This time I had to audition with the Amazing JJ. JJ and Stefanie had acquired the show from Simone and Monique and continued the tradition. She was an amazing performer. I was put through a routine from the show which took me a few goes to sink in. My dream had finally come true. I was finally a part of a large Cabaret Show. I learnt so much during my time with the show. The amazing JJ was a deep inspiration for me and she had taught me so many things that I felt like I was on my way to become a polished performer in the drag industry.

My first tour was outback Queensland. A real eye opener for me and one of the most exciting times I’ve had as a performer. The one thing I found with doing these types of bookings is that you got to meet average everyday people. Real Australians. They were different from the gay crowds that I was used to performing to. I found them more humble and more appreciative. A little bit more down to earth. Less bitchy and crtitical.

I worked with the show for about a year before it dissolved. The final booking I did was in Newcastle. After the show we decided to go get food from a takeaway shop in Darby Street and next thing I remember I was waking up in hospital. I had been involved in a car accident and had my Achilles’ tendon severed in the incident. The injury had put me out of action for quite some time. I honestly thought my show days were over. It took a long time to recover from that accident. Painful physiotherapy sessions and a second operation was performed to get my tendon right. If it wasn’t for the support of Nan & Pop M during this time I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. Nan would come over with food hampers and ensure I was ok. I couldn’t work or perform and relied a lot on friends and flatmates.

My relationship with my family was estranged. I constantly thought I couldn’t discuss things with my Mum and Dad for fear of being alienated, judged and told I wasn’t doing the right thing with my new life path choices. Time was needed for them to understand my adjustment so I felt it was easier to keep my distance and only return for the annual Xmas lunch. I used to dress down as a boy, if you could call it that for the sake of not upsetting my family. To regress during transition is like 4 steps forward and 5 back. But it’s how I coped.

It was during my recovery from the accident one of the most magical things happened to me, something I felt would never happen. I fell in love.

Part 5 Surgery and The Relationship.

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In 1989 just before I did my final big show with the Playgirls Review I was working William Street (the Meryl). We had been moved by the police from Premier Lane down to William Street by this time, laws were changing in respect to workers and it was a much more exposed place than the lane. More traffic both in cars and on foot. More exposure. Good in some ways and bad in others. People where constantly walking along William Street to go to and from Kings Cross. One night I was doing my usual thing, parading my ass around in the hope to lure customers when I was approached by a rather handsome man. He was just slightly older than me. I had a thing for European men; olive skin with dark hair was my preference. The man that approached me was of this caliber and I found him extremely attractive. We got to talking and I found him very charming and sexy, he had a lovely toned muscular physique, jet black hair and beautiful brown eyes. We struck up a great conversation even to the point of me offering to take him to the local rooms where we took our clients and I would pay for the room and provide him with sexual favours. However he declined my offer and went on his way. I didn’t really think much of the incident after that.

Shortly after I performed my last gig (show) with the Playgirls and had my accident I was convalescing at home with a cast on my leg. I couldn’t really do much except hobble around and slowly go mad with boredom. Luckily my flat mates were very understanding. I had some savings put aside but it was for my breast surgery and the main way I survived was being on social security and Nan & Pop M providing me with food hampers and support to get me through. Then one day I received a phone call. Out of the blue it was the sexy guy I spoke to on the Meryl (William Street). I thought what’s going on here. We chatted and he told me that he had been back down the Meryl (William Street) looking for me and one of the girls had told him that I had been in a car accident. I asked him why he was looking for me and he said that he liked me. I felt this warm buzz inside me I hadn’t felt before. So the Trans he spoke to had given him my number. If it wasn’t for her passing my info on nothing probably would ever have happened. So we got to chatting and I found myself liking him a lot. He lived far away though, up on the central coast with his parents. I thought this probably won’t work due to the distance and the fact that I was still in my cast from the accident. I took a chance, I invited him to come down and see me at home as I was still pretty house bound. I was excited as this was a whole new set of emotions I hadn’t experienced before. I felt a tingle in my heart.

So the date had been arranged and he was coming down to see me. I asked my flat mates for some space and privacy for the meet and they willingly obliged. I was so nervous and frightened I was almost a wreck. However the day had come and I was rife with anxiety. What to wear and how to act and all that goes with a new meet with someone you like. I always found it hard to let people into my world, especially intimately. This was a whole new ball game. I did have these feelings for men before but they never eventuated into anything that felt like this. It had always just been a pure sexual thing. This felt different. I think it stemmed from being a sex worker so young that I just didn’t understand relationships very well.

So I prepared myself as best as I possibly could, when you’re wearing a cast on your leg the options of wearing something seductive can be awkward without being tacky. He arrived and I let him into the unit and we started chatting. He was interesting, intelligent, sexy and all I could ever ask for. He was really caring and helped me with prepping lunch as we got to know one another a little more. Then he kissed me. I went haywire on the inside. My emotions were running wild. He was an amazing kisser and had a scent about him I just found so arousing. It soon eventuated into a romantic interlude wilder than 50 shades of grey.

Things were going well. He would come down and visit me often and my cast was soon removed and I was mending well. We got on really well, he was spending his weekends with me, and we would go on dates and really enjoying each other’s company. When I spoke to Ali about it all she was really happy for me and encouraging me to go with my feelings and enjoy what was happening. Letting someone into my world was hard, especially on this level. I wondered though how he was coping with me being Trans and also being a sex worker, when we discussed it he said I like you as a person your sexuality comes as part and parcel of you and the sex work was the tricky bit we had to work out. It was a bit challenging at first for me as there was never really a big amount of talk about love and feelings in our household when I was growing up. All I remember is the constant tension and aggression. I knew my family loved me; it just wasn’t spoken about a lot. Constantly I would think the sex work was going to be the issue to kill this magic that was happening in my life.

So I decided to just take it all day by day. It was just as hard for him to accept my world as it was for me to accept his. He was a very introverted person. Somewhat shy to a degree and he came into my world which was a lot for him to take on. My wild party ways and drug taking behavior was a lot in my eyes for someone to tolerate. I took him to a dance party to show him how I lived my life, just as much as I started to travel to the coast to see his way of life. He loved martial arts and was quite philosophical in a way. He was a modern thinker; unlike me who could dwell on things and let them get to me he was more about dealing with things and getting over them much quicker. Our love blossomed and a few of my friends found him weird but as life is not everyone is meant to get along. So we both had things about one another we had to tolerate.
So I had had the cast removed and was recovering well and I decided it was time to have my breast surgery. I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t even mention the thought to anyone. So off to the Dr’s I went. I had heard other Trans girls speak of certain surgeons and I soon made my decision. I went for my consult and discussed the options with the surgeons and made my decision. I was to have a Breast Augmentation Mammoplasty. Boog job. I decided to have more natural size, not so huge I couldn’t see my toes. Something nice. Then the date for surgery was made.

Soon I was telling people about what was to come and everyone couldn’t have been happier for me. So the day came and off we went to hospital. I was admitted and operated on and allowed to go home 2 days later. If I can say it in anyway, the pain was like a car running over your chest. It soon healed well and I had to take it easy for 6 weeks and wore a elastic vest as much as I could tolerate. Well they were amazing. A real game changer for me in the way of confidence and self esteem. Oh boy and weren’t they a huge success with the new man.

As our relationship grew I was becoming less and less interested in sex work I soon had to make a decision. I loved him that much that it was time to give it away. What was I to do, how would I make money, how would I survive. So many challenges to deal with so I could make our relationship work.

While this was developing Ali was getting sicker. The virus was taking control of her body and there wasn’t much she could do. The drugs were not helping her condition very much, she was strong but the disease was getting the better of her. I watched a slow deteriation within her. With my new relationship growing i wasn’t spending as much time with her. It saddened me a lot. She became agitated. I could sense a kind of giving up inside her and it tore me apart to think we were drifting apart.

After a few months my new relationship was blossoming and I felt myself falling deeper and deeper in love. I was enjoying the new emotions I hadn’t felt before. Allowing someone to love me and me opening up and loving someone in a whole new way. I always thought love was love. So after an in depth discussion and a lot of soul searching we had made the decision that I was leaving Sydney and moving to the central coast to live with him. A huge change for me but one I was looking forward to. I discussed it with Ali and although she was happy and very encouraging I could feel a sense that she felt I was leaving her. In a sense I was but I was also there for her as a sister and she could always reach out at anytime. She had a lot to deal with as the disease progressed. I just wasn’t going to be around in a physical sense, there were times when we were pretty inseparable but my new intimate relationship changed everything.

So I packed all my worldly possessions into a small van and ventured north. I was leaving the security of the big smoke behind. My friends, my family and the world I knew. I arrived at the central coast. We had made a decision to move into a small cabin behind his friend’s house. Going from a Sydney apartment to a small shack was a drastic change for me. What you do when you are in love. The cabin consisted of 3 very small rooms, a bedroom, a lounge and a very very small bathroom. It was winter time when we moved in and it was so cold, freezing to be honest. It wasn’t well insulated. The best way to stay warm was to stay in bed. He would go to work and I became the housewife.

I had a passion for gardening and I created a humble yet efficient environment for us to live in. I would constantly ring Nana M for advice, it was hard though because she didn’t call me by my girls name and when we took turns in ringing each other she would ask for me by my boys name. We then made the agreement she called me Sade so he didn’t have to hear that name. He was very understanding. It’s why I fell in love with him. Turning into a housewife it took me time to adjust. So the best therapy for me was getting into the garden. I loved growing things we could eat and lots of colour to make it look nice. I converted a quarter acre block into a sanctuary. I grew an array of vegetables and plants and Nan was always a wealth of advice. She has an amazing green thumb.

The central coast was full of lovely beaches and it was actually very lovely place to live. I just felt isolated in the beginning. I was quite fortunate though as I didn’t feel too alone with the move as I had family that lived in the area and I formed a close bond with my cousin. She had a younger daughter and a husband and I would spend a lot of time with her when my man was at work or doing his martial arts training. They didn’t really get along unfortunately. However she was a great support to me during that time. Hard when you used to live in the big smoke and have to adapt to hill billy life as I called it.

Adapting to the life change was good and we were enjoying living together. We lived in that small cabin for a few months until his friends moved from the bigger house so we decide to take it over. I also felt a shift and found my spiritual side opening up a lot so I decided to do a correspondence course in Astrology to keep me occupied. I was only surviving on sickness benefits. It helped me grow my spiritual side and I started delving more and more into spiritual subjects. I loved the moon and its ability to help with the growing of food and plants was inspiring. I even used it to cut my hair by.

I soon learnt that Ali was very sick and our friend wasn’t coping well who was caring for her. I spoke to my man and we discussed that I would bring her to our house and I would care for her. She came to our place and I was shocked at the dramatic change. I knew in my heart that my dear friend would not have much longer. She was very debilitated, couldn’t do a lot for herself and was very agitated and angry inside. She wouldn’t constantly verbally abuse me for stuff she wanted. We had a benefit night to raise money for Ali’s funeral. She would constantly tell me to use it to by a smoke, it was the only thing she was using to cope with the pain both physically and mentally. Not much else was working for her.

It placed a huge strain on my relationship after a while and Ali was getting very sick. This was my first time caring for someone in a one on one situation. However some friends offered their place for Ali to pass away, it was very imminent and my heart was breaking and needed help. They had a beautiful peaceful setting and they had helped a few other people in the same situation pass over. So we shifted Ali up north and it wasn’t too soon after that she had passed away. I was a wreck. It was the first time I saw someone I truly cared for pass away. I cried for hours, then I dressed her in her favourite outfit which she asked me to. It was a Rochford Design which was her favourite dress maker. I can still hear her now, “SPEQTRA is that dress ready yet”.

There’s always been some miss understanding between myself and Ali’s mum over her passing. It’s not something I am going to air here, I just want her to know that I loved Ali and I love her. Ali’s family were like a second family to me during my time with Ali early in our Bourke Street home in the early years. Her brothers and sister would visit, boy wasn’t that mischief time. I still speak with them and they always spark special memories of the times I spent with her and them. As I said to Ali the day she passed away, keep my space on the dance floor because we will have the last dance, just as we did in The Horden one morning at a dance party. Ali and I had matching outfits with polka dot full circle skirts and huge brim hats. We didn’t see each other for most of the night, then bang, last song in the Horden was Donna Summers Last Dance and we both whirled out from nowhere and danced the last dance together.

It wasn’t very much longer after her passing that my relationship began to break down. We were growing apart. He was becoming very distant and withdrawn. I was getting the feeling he was over me. As a Trans I had constant things going through the back of my mind all of the time. I constantly feared him leaving me for a genetic female, am I not good enough or is the Trans novelty over. It was soon that he declared he loved me, but he just wasn’t in love with me anymore at the time. I had finally learn’t the different types of love that exist. I was shattered with the loss of my friend and now the end of my relationship. It took me some time to get over the break up. I honestly thought I couldn’t make it. It was around the time Whitney had released I Will Always Love You from the Bodyguard. Didn’t that song get thrashed as I grieved my losses. It was an emotional time for me, he was my first love and she was best friend.

If you are wondering why I have left his name out of this it is because we made contact on social media once and then I got asked not to contact him again got blocked. So in respect he can have his anonymity. I just won’t remove his face.

So I then made some important decisions and moved up to Newcastle with my friends for a while and then I decided to make plans for the future and decided to stay in Newcastle for the next chapter.

Part 6 : Becoming a Nurse and The Nursing Home.

All content is copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be copied or reproduced without my consent.

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It was late 1993 and my whole world had fallen apart. Yes I was a complete mess. I packed all my belongings from the house on the central coast and managed to fit it all in a Hiace van I hired. I didn’t really have a plan as such because I wasn’t really prepared for what had happened, however I had somewhere to go for the interim until I made a few decisions.

Leaving the coast was hard, I was saying goodbye to what had been home for a good three years. The hardest part was leaving behind the beautiful garden I had invested so much time in, oh and the man I thought was the one. Hey that’s life, nothing lasts forever. As much as we would like it to I was fast learning it was one thing I had to work on accepting. I cried for weeks, but in true Suzie style I eventually got my shit together and made a few decisions.

I stayed with my friends where Ali had passed away. I could feel her around me, sending me strength and guidance to get my shit together. It was at this time I decided rather than going back to Sydney it was time to make Newcastle my home for a while. I stayed with my friends for about two months before I ending up flatting with a friend right near the beach, beautiful spot, very handy location, and the men…………….. I say no more.

It wasn’t all sex, sun and sand. I wish loll. I had to find a job. My friend suggested I try the nursing home where he worked. I thought why not. Let’s give this a bang. Helping Ali pass gave me some confidence in finding a new direction. The scary part was it was my first job in main stream real world. A daunting thought.

My friend had arranged an interview for me and we were off to meet the Matron. Mrs. E was a wonderful woman. We had a 20 minute conversation and it was all systems go. The home itself was a grand old terrace that had been converted into a small nursing home with about fifty or so residents and faced the bowling green across the road. I started with some small shifts, two to three hours at a time while we would learn all about anatomy and the procedures within the home. I still today believe the best way to teach a nurse is with practical teaching. You can do all the theory in the world but it’s when you learn in a real practical environment that makes the difference. People experience is a powerful thing.

After 2 months working at the home and getting settled I started to question a lot of things, I was twenty-five and thinking where is my Trans journey going. I had been Trans now for the best part of eleven years. I honestly sat down one day at the beach and decided it’s time. Time for me to have SRS surgery. After all I had been through I thought, it’s time I did something for me. It was time to complete my physical Trans journey. I think I felt this way too because I was on my guard all the time at the nursing home, there was some chatter and gossip spreading around about my sexuality. To be expected I suppose. I could have let it get to me but I didn’t.

After a few weeks I went to see Mrs. E and talked about it. She was ahead of her time this lady; she said to me that I had something to teach them just as much as I was going to learn from them. Gossip will pass she said. She was right. It took time but in the end I made some wonderful friends at the home and we are still friends till today.

The residents were the ones that made me happy and I loved making them happy. I remember dear old Mary very well. She was in a room upstairs and when I would arrive at the nursing home in the morning I would let out a loud chicken call, just like a rooster in the morning, she’d hear me and say “with a big smile on her face”, the Chicken woman’s here. Getting used to a rotating roster was hard. Mornings, Afternoons, Nights all mixed into a fortnightly roster. I got used to it in the end a really enjoyed working in what I called the normal world.

Residents came and went. They either stayed for a short while waiting for another placement or passed on. I delved deep in learning a lot about the process of death and dying. If one of my favorite residents was about to pass I would do special things for them just to make that final part of their journey special. We all deserve a peaceful death.

Working in the home helped my spiritual side a lot. I knew I had a sixth sense. Nana M has it too. We always called her the witch. I could sense things. A funny thing happened in the home one day. I was working with a lovely nurse named Lyn. She scared me a little when I first met her. I soon learn’t she just had a very strong personality. It was later on that I ended up performing at her wedding for her. People do accept you just need to give them time.

We were doing rounds upstairs in the home and went to attend a man that was quite ill and would soon pass. We were about to reposition him in the bed when all of a sudden he started to sit up and looked me straight in the eye and called me Steven. I looked at Lyn and said “how did he know”. She quickly put her hand over her mouth and gave me a quizzical look. The universe works in strange ways.

After making the decision to proceed with SRS surgery there was a lot to prepare for. First port of call was getting my approval from the psychiatrist. What an enduring procedure. I was told I had to live with shaving my face and legs on a daily basis. Scare tactics. I have never shaved my face in my life. I thought come on. Throw everything you have at me. I’m ready to take on the challenge. It took me 10 months to get approved. I had a few things going in my favour. I had been living as a female for over ten years and I held down a full time job as a female. It took about 8 visits and one I had to take my mum with me. Now our relationship at this time wasn’t the best. Mum was still coming to terms with it but god love her she had an answer for everything he threw at her. When her consultation finished with him he called me in and said you have your approval. I just gave mum a big hug and we went to lunch.

Step two now, I decided to have the surgery here in Sydney. I did a little research and a few consults and I had made the choice of surgeon. After two consults with him the date was made. September 26 1994. The hard work still wasn’t over though; I had to work hard for another five months to save the final amount for the surgery. It’s not cheap being Trans. I got to work one day and asked Matron for a chat, I had to get the time off work because I needed six weeks to recover from the surgery. She lowered her glasses down and looked over the top of them and said see you when you get back. It was all becoming a reality. I was overwhelmed, sad, happy, all at the same time. Amazing how making such a decision can affect you so much.

Time flew, I moved away from the beach and moved in with 2 gay guys in a house at Maryville and it was time to head to Sydney. I went to Sydney on the Sunday before the operation on Monday. I was really nervous and anxious but I got myself to the hospital for check in. I was scheduled for surgery at ten am September the 26th and alas, Princess was born. I woke up after the surgery and thought wow; I’ve been hit by a bus. For the best part of Monday night I slept and only woke for more pain relief from the self administering gadget next to the bed. I’d pump that thing within in an inch of its life. Day two and three things got better. My appetite improved and I was finally starting to get a grip on all that happened. It’s huge surgery. The surgery itself isn’t too bad looking back on it; it’s the recovery that can be hell. I learn’t here that physical pain is only momentary, it’s the emotional pain that you have for life. I spent five days in hospital and everything went with flying colors.

If I remember correctly I was going to go and stay with someone after the surgery but it wasn’t to be and I ended up staying at a good friend’s house re-cooperating. Just because you’ve undergone the surgery it’s not over that quick. Still a lot to go through ahead. I am so grateful to my friend for allowing me to stay with him. It’s a lot to burden someone with.

Adjusting was the hard part. I was experiencing phantom pains but the most painful part is dilating. It’s extremely important, if you don’t do it you lose it. And I wasn’t prepared for that. Smoking pot was a huge help, I would take half a Valerie (valium) and a smoke, pop my headphones on and then dilate. My new best friend was the bath. That’s where I got my most comfort. As time rolled on day by day I was getting stronger.

I soon returned to Newcastle and re-cooperated at home for the rest of the six weeks before having a final check up and all was well, inside me I could feel myself coming to terms with what I had decided to do and finally felt happy. I wasn’t allowed t have sex for 9 weeks, I must admit I had that anxiety before the surgery that I wanted to use it as quick as possible, like a child with a new toy, but after the surgery, it’s the last thing you want. You have to heal.

Having SRS surgery for me helped me complete a physical Trans journey to become the person I was finally happy with. I say one thing when making this decision. Do it for yourself. Not for any other reason than to make yourself happy. It’s a tough journey but one I would do all over again tomorrow if I had to. Live your journey; follow your dreams because anything is possible.

Some of the images below are from my dear friend Lyn’s wedding. Not long after my surgery and the others are from the next chapter co producing Les Girls Newcastle and the correction.

All content is copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be copied or reproduced without my consent.

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