TABATHA’S STORY: FINDING MY FAMILY
I want to tell you my story because I want to explain why being part of the NUAA family means so much to me. Why the acceptance and care I get at NUAA is so important. Why every time I come out of jail, the first place I go is NUAA.
When I was born, my mum abandoned me. I was told I had been conceived in violence and my mother believed that, as a male, I would turn out violently abusive like my father. My grandmother eventually agreed to take me in. Sadly, she died not long after.
My dad’s brother and his wife had recently lost a child and they took me to live with them. However, my new “mother” was very depressed and abused me, chaining me up with the dog under the house most of the day. When I was 4, my uncle discovered the extent of the abuse and took me to stay
with my great aunt. She got me speech therapy as I was unable to talk and was generally unresponsive.
At 5, I started primary school. I was sexually abused, 3 times a day, by the groundsman. When I was 11, I noticed him taking other young children into his shed and I spoke up. I was expelled for my trouble.
On weekends, my cousins molested me. There were about half a dozen of them involved, the oldest 32 and the youngest 15. I was 7 when one of them was found trying to anally penetrate me.
At 13, I came home from school to find my great aunt in tears, saying I was about to meet my mother, father and sister. These were total strangers to me, but I went to live with them.
My mother made a show of caring for me, the prodigal son, but it wasn’t long before she began bashing me. I ran away and was put in a foster home. I was sexually abused by the foster “father”. He imprisoned and raped me. I eventually managed to escape by smashing the window and cutting the zip ties he'd used on my wrists.
When I was 14, I started sleeping with adults by choice. I wanted to use condoms but found that many men will do anything to bareback, like putting a condom on then slipping it off when I wasn’t looking. By 15, I was HIV positive.
All this abuse really fucked me up. From 15, I drank on a daily basis. At 24, I began using amphetamines and at 30 I tried heroin.
When I found opiates, I finally got some peace in my brain. I find heroin helps me forget for a while. For me, using alcohol and drugs is not about fun, but trying to cover up pain, anxiety and depression. I’ve tried anti-depressants, but they don’t work. My depression is not about chemical imbalance, but lived trauma.
I have deliberately tried to take my life 11 times with benzos and heroin. The last time I overdosed, I took about 200 Valium and a gram of gear in a park in the middle of nowhere. I was found by a dog. The dog’s owner found me slumped behind the tree with the needle in my arm. He rushed me to the hospital and saved my life. I gave up after that. It seems like I'm just not allowed to go.
I've been to heaps of psychiatrists and councillors, and most feel too unqualified to help. One psychologist went too far, too quickly and I just crumbled and attempted suicide twice in 3 days. They put me in a psych hospital for 2 months.
I changed over to living as a girl at 14. I was living in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley with an amazing peer group of transgender women. I was too young to be prescribed hormones, so with the help of my peer group, I got them on the black market.
I have felt female since my earliest memory. Back then, transgenderism was swept under the carpet, it wasn't spoken of. It was considered a lifestyle choice and a crime against God. These days, we have the benefit of research which has shown that it is biological. Being transgender is a hard life but compared to what I went through as a child, the change over was a piece of cake.
I have worked as a sex worker for many years. Apart from the fact that it’s well paid work I’m good at, I’ve found it impossible to get other work with my limited education and the anxiety and depression I suffer. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been in and out of jail, mostly for drug-related offences. When I joined NUAA as a PPP, it was the first “straight” job I’d ever done.
I made a decision not to let my anger and hate out. I try to be strong, loving and supportive – a happy and caring person – and that’s how my friends at NUAA see me. It’s wonderful to have a community that cares about me. They know I’ve had some bad experiences, but they treat me with kindness and love and don’t judge. Every now and then I lose it, but we always get past it together. They tell me I am beautiful and that I deserve good things.
My self-esteem has really grown since I have been a PPP. It’s an amazing feeling to be valued for my experiences and what I know, and accepted for who I am. It has always been my peers who have helped me, taught me how to be safer and healthier and supported me through transition, jail and other experiences. Now I want to give something back.