People don't think someone with an intellectual disability will say 'I'm trans': A coming out story

Michelle Mars

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Is a Human Rights Framework Enough to Promote Transformative Gender and Sexuality?”

Torrens University Australia
What do you see when you look in the mirror? For cis-gendered people gender may feel like a fact of nature for transgender and gender queer people it may not...

When I had long hair people would ask me if I was a boy or a girl…. I wouldn’t ask that [of someone] cause it’s disrespectful. I would look in the mirror and see boy even with my long hair.

This is the story of someone who is “young, disabled and queer”. It is a story about using the internet to search “girls feeling like they are boys” to find the word transgender. It is a story of changing gender and sexuality, advocating on one's own behalf, and challenging social norms in a family and a community with little experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or people who identify as queer (LGBTIQ+).

I was born in a females body. It didn't occur to me I could be transgender
because I never heard of it before. Having an intellectual disability doesn't define who I am. People don't think someone with an intellectual disability will say 'I'm trans'. What you have in life, it comes down to knowing who you are.

The aim of this paper is to build cultural competency in people and organisations enabling them to work more effectively with young, disabled and trans people. The mental health of (LGBTIQ+) populations is poor internationally with research suggesting high rates of suicide and major depressive episodes. Conversely help seeking in these communities is low. Lack of understanding of issues and past experiences of homophobia are often cited reasons for the reluctance to seek professional help.

This paper will analyse some of the key themes emerging in the narrative as examples of common issues young people experience as they question their biologically assigned gender and negotiate gender transition.

Keywords: Gender, Sexuality, Disability, Trans*, Gender Transition, Young People
Themes: Gender sexuality society, gender sexuality health, gender sexuality disability

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021


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