Youth Spotlight: Teddy

Teddy, a young person with a black shirt and gold necklace, stands looking at the camera among trees and leaves.

‘Pride is about reigniting the conversation and the fire’.

I’d say Teddy is a recent development, though has been undergoing a process throughout the years. I only just really came out to myself mid last year, realising I was non-binary and that I was on the transmasculine side of that. It took a lot to actually confront who I am and that I’d actually felt that way for a very long time. I just didn’t really have the words for it. But Teddy is very happy, very comfortable. It’s a safe identity to be within, even though it’s definitely a different way of navigating life than what I was ever used to. But it’s also authentic and feels good.

Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s been a huge part of my friendships and how I connect to other people. Over the years it evolved into expressing my sexuality and my gender feelings before I really knew about them. It’s a way to communicate that isn’t words or doesn't have to be totally direct. I still felt I had to hold back a lot of the messages inside me because I felt I had to make my art consumable or likeable. Finding other artists like myself and other voices I felt reflected things I wanted to see made me feel confident to start sharing my own personal stories and delving into self-portraiture in the recent year. It’s been so freeing and empowering to do that, especially when I often find difficulty in seeing myself reflected in the queer or LGBT community as a butch transmasculine person. It’s this little pocket I feel doesn’t really get seen much in the main media populous unless it’s a negative stereotype. I like being able to reclaim that space and share that story, especially with a modern perspective. I feel like a lot of media around this area of identity is based in history, and I’d like to bring to the forefront that these ideas are still happening and people like me still exist and will continue to.

Most of my work is digital media. I reference a lot of photos I’ve found online that inspire me in terms of dynamics, shapes, and poses. But when I really want to get my self-portraiture right I’ll spend like an hour posing, very funny-looking in the mirror, just trying to get the right angle or expression. It’s also a very good way to look at yourself and confront that everything you’re doing doesn’t have to look pretty all the time, it can just be about getting to the point.

I’ve been really moved by just how many people like myself I’ve found through my online community. It’s really heartwarming and makes me feel happy and safe to see how many other butches emerged from my audience and said ‘I’ve experienced this’ or ‘I’ve felt this way’. It speaks to things I have gone through on my own journey with transmasculinity or identifying as a butch or a lesbian. It’s been really reassuring because I was very nervous to dip my toes into this water, and now I’ve dived in head first I don’t want to come back!

My advice to young people at the beginning of their identity journey would be to take it really slow. It feels like there’s this race and rush to figure things out as soon as possible, the moment you have an epiphany that you might have a different sexuality or gender. You want it set in stone, you want to feel confident and secure. But it’s taken me years and years of unpacking the layers of what I’m experiencing in my attractions and feelings around my gender to come to a realisation about who I am. I wish I could go back to my younger self and say ‘You don’t have to have it sorted out yet, it’s ok for it to grow and take time. Trying to cling to identities and words that don’t represent you fully doesn’t give you the chance to grow and learn more about yourself. It can make you stagnate and hold you back’. I just wish there was more peace around realising and coming out, and acknowledgement that it can be a really slow and gradual journey.

I think I’m most grateful to my family for being patient with the fact that I’ve come out probably five different times to them now. I think to myself ‘I wish I hadn’t put them through it five different times’. I wish I hadn’t put myself through it five different times. The greatest thing parents can do is be patient and keep actively learning along the road. Look for resources outside of your child instead of leaving it to them to educate you. Find other support systems to help you. That’s what’s been most valuable in my experience. My mum found friends to talk to and other people to have conversations with. My dad went and found books and read about the lived experiences of other young Australian trans people. Little things like that make all the difference because suddenly, when you’re coming out, the other half of the equation knows things and you don’t have to explain it during the process of explaining who you are. To me, the most intimidating part about coming out is having the adult be confused and then having to justify your experience.

I have a lot of complex feelings about Pride. I grew up wanting it, chasing after it, and thinking it was the be all and end all in the way it was presented to me. I remember thinking it was a goal, but growing up Pride has become something very different. It has become about acknowledging the people who came before me. It’s not just a celebration but a look at the landscape around me, the fights that I have to continue to have. Things are still ongoing. The things that people set in motion ages ago are still being thought about and fought today. I have to play an active role in that. So Pride is about reigniting the conversation and the fire. We’re very lucky in Australia to have a ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage, but I think about how much more there’s left to do when it comes to policy and politics around LGBT identities and the intersection of race and LGBT identities. I also think about how important it is to uplift voices other than my own. Pride has become more than just the single facet that was presented to me when I was younger, and it’s a lot more enjoyable that way.