Elijah Michel connects with inspiring transgender coach, photographer, and author Geneva Davies.
At what age did you realise you were different to your assigned gender at birth? What were the signs for you?
Somewhere around four or five is my best guess…it feels like I’ve known forever. The signs were abundant – I liked dolls and making clothes for dolls; I love fabric. I didn’t like playing with diggers. Unfortunately, I had to because my parents did not think [I] should play with dolls so I conformed to the gender binary.
If you had revealed your true identity at that age what might the response have been from family and others in your life?
I tried, but one needs to remember I had parents of the sixties so the values were totally different. They couldn’t, maybe didn’t want to, accept anything outside the ideal portrayal of sixties family life. I asked for a dress when I was 10 and the answer was a brutal, ‘No!’ Boys didn’t wear dresses, and no further discussion would be entered on the matter. I was crushed as it took me years to build up the courage to ask. This day was the start of my feeling that my future was hopeless.
What has been the most challenging aspect of finding authenticity? And what has been the most rewarding?
The first stop on the path for me was acceptance, the most difficult part of a transition but it is the start. Then came the question – who the hell is Geneva? The most rewarding thing is interfacing with the world as authentic Geneva. When one lives authentically everything around you changes for the better, people change and are more accepting and genuine. I connect with people deeply and genuinely – these connections are as important as the air I breathe.
What professions have you been involved with over the years, and how have they affected your gender identity and/or coming out process?
I’m a marine surveyor, photographer, and writer. These professions were linked by water and boats – I survey boats, I photograph boats and write about them too. For the most part, everyone has been totally supportive and helpful, and interested in what I was going through. I thought the marine industry would be awful. I felt terrible working in my old job so I pulled back from it, but this was simply fear manifesting in me and the fear was unjustified. I can’t thank the people I work with enough for the help and support given. My [fear] slowed up my transition by a year [but] now I’m back into surveying and loving it.
We know that gender identity is predominantly the initial realisation for trans* people, prior to their sexual orientation around puberty. What is your sexual orientation and how has that influenced – or been influenced by – your coming out process?
Great question. I always thought I was bi, but during transition with the addition of hormones things swung about wildly – one moment I was totally attracted to men, then weeks later exclusively women, then suddenly everyone in between. It turns out I’m actually Pansexual which includes everyone which is the perfect place for my sexuality to settle.
Was there a key moment you decided it was time to come out?
I was at a party one evening in 2020 – a friend’s birthday and I was in drag, a Pirate Queen. There was a moment I realised I had to come out and quickly… the exact moment was captured on film. The moment is etched on my mind and was probably the happiest moment of my life.
If you had received all the support you needed – family-wise, professionally and medically – at what age might you have revealed yourself, and how may that have affected your life?
In an ideal world, before puberty. I didn’t have the words to express how I felt other than I wanted to be my sister or live like her. At about the age of 10, I realised in clear terms I was a girl and should have been born as one. It would have changed my life (apart from the obvious) because I would have gone into the fashion industry, maybe as a fashion photographer.
How might the healthcare system better support trans* people, in your opinion?
The health care system gatekeeps us, in fact in many cases, people in the system are transphobic. I got lucky and have two GPs who support me, and they are amazing. The [local pathway] gives us a mediocre level of support and keeps most transwomen at sub-optimal levels of hormones; the wider medical community are varied in their support or acceptance; a major problem. There is no real funding for our care, and while I realise there is little funding for anything in health, funding for trans healthcare is lifesaving but is left woefully underfunded.
And what about society at large?
Most of society is great to me, except for some far right political and religious people who hate all trans people. This makes no sense to me as their arguments are delusional. I have one of these in my family and it sucks – as you can imagine, they are excluded from my life.
I love that you have a desire to support other trans* people along their journey – what advice would you give to people (of all ages) in regards to attaining authenticity?
Come out early, transition early, and don’t wait for decades like I did. Get a good therapist and seek medical support. If you think you want to change your body, talk it through thoroughly before you opt for this – just go through the process [as] it will clarify your thoughts and will be helpful. You need lots of support, both mental health and family/friends because transitioning is way harder than anyone will tell you. Transitioning is not about presentation (though presentation helps ease dysphoria) it’s about how you feel inside. Authenticity and congruence are the goals.
Geneva’s autobiography As Long As I’m The Princess can be found at various outlets online, and her non-profit practical support webpage is www.transangels.org.nz