Nicola’s journey with her gender and identity began in earnest eleven years ago, when she began to feel a profound sense of disconnection from her body.
“When I was fifty-three I was on a retreat, I had this profound sense of clarity that at some point in my childhood I had left my body and moved house into my head and been there ever since. I felt this sense of call to find this lost self.”
However, this was just the beginning of her journey.
“I felt that there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what was wrong. There was this shame going on within as I was performing this role as a male priest. I lived with huge anxiety of performing this role, of being found out for who I am.”
“I tried all sorts of mental tricks to try and connect with that lost self and nothing worked. It was as if my body was a prosthetic, as if I could feel things in my body but they were happening to someone else.”
“I fought it for a few years. I tried to accept that this was the man I was. But it didn’t work, it brought me no closer to being in my body.”
A moment of clarity occurred in a bookshop, upon discovering Change for the Better, an account of the life and journey of NZ politician and transgender woman Georgina Beyer. This changed things in a major way.
“As I was reading Georgina’s story of her childhood as George, I realised she was telling my story. That was the first inkling I had that I might be transgender.”
“I didn’t want to be trans. But I felt that God had led me to stumble on this book. I prayed to God and said “God, if this is what I am meant to be, then I open myself up to that possibility.”
Beyer’s book was a turning-point for Nicola, who over time came to feel comfortable identifying as non-binary or genderfluid, asking to be called Nicky instead of Nick at work and coming out to her family.
“For the last five years, I’ve insisted on being called Nicky, because of its gender ambiguity, but I only told one or two people that was the reason at that point. I was in a process.”
“I told my wife first and she said: “I’ve always known something like this about you, this gives me hope that you’ll become the person you were always meant to be.” That was pretty awesome. She’s just been steadfastly supportive of my journey all the way - she’s just been wonderful.”
However, even with the support of her family, Nicola started to feel in recent years that she still wasn’t quite living in an identity that truly belonged to her.
“I came to a point where I didn’t want to be in-between any longer. So I’m claiming Nicola - because I’m claiming being a trans woman.”
For many people across the gender spectrum, being able to wear clothes that fully express who they are has an impact on wellbeing that cannot be overstated. Up until very recently, Nicola was still wearing more traditionally ‘masculine’ clothing to work - something that took a huge toll on her mentally and emotionally.
“Wearing men’s clothes at work has been really tough this past period. It wasn’t so tough when I was non-binary, but the more I’ve transitioned into being a trans woman, the more tiring it’s become. Wearing men’s clothes is like climbing up a steep hill all day. It’s hard work. I got through half a day and I just wanted to go home.”
Now having left her employment, Nicola has made the transition to wearing dresses and other more traditionally ‘feminine’ clothes full-time - a move which has provided a huge sense of comfort and relief in her journey.
Nicola’s story is one of courage and hope for a world where everyone feels comfortable being themselves. While she is careful to note that her journey is different than many of those in the transgender community, it is a journey that is all her own.
“It’s been very different than for many of my trans friends, because I didn’t have any inkling that I was transgender until I was fifty-four. It’s been very different from the dysphoria that a lot of my friends have experienced, this really clear sense of being other - it’s not been like that at all.”
“I’ve also heard from a lot of my friends about bad coming-out experiences - but it’s been surprising. I haven’t had a bad coming out experience.”
“It’s been a journey all the way. It’s been a journey towards something, and each step along the way has changed how I felt about myself and who I am.”
By sharing as many diverse stories as possible, we can help pave the way to a more inclusive, more accepting Aotearoa - a place free from bullying and discrimination, where no matter what people are going through, they know they are not alone.