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World’s most senior trans military officer: ‘Grammar fails to express what gender dysphoria feels like’

World’s most senior trans military officer: ‘Grammar fails to express what gender dysphoria feels like’

Catherine McGregor, the world’s highest ranked transgender military officer, has said words cannots describe how ‘excrutiatingly painful’ the effects of gender dysphoria are.

The Australian Defence Force lieutenant-colonel said those effects nearly drove her to suicide at an inspiring speech on Wednesday (8 April) in Canberra.

‘I functioned as a male until a few weeks after my 56th birthday. I choose the term “functioned” advisedly, because my relationship to my birth gender was fraught from a very young age,’ she said.

‘Indeed, it has only been since I gave myself permission to function in the world as I felt inside, that I appreciated the full depth of the anxiety and conflict which I had carried through a lifetime of trying to live up to the expectations of others.’

McGregor said she had spent her entire life until that point repressing and compensating for her gender variance.

‘An eminent psychiatrist once wrote "What is not brought to consciousness will be experienced as fate,"’ she said.

‘My fate was to experience alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, while I pursued external success to quell an inner yearning.’

McGregor said she contemplated suicide before she came out in 2012, a year beset by sleeplessness, panic attacks and emotional pain.

‘Grammar fails to express what gender dysphoria feels like,’ she said. ‘Eventually, on my 56th birthday, I simply gave up the struggle. I made a decision that if I was alive on my 57th birthday, it would be as me.’

‘It never occurred to me that my life would be as rich and fulfilling as it is today,’ she said.

McGregor also defended Prime Minister Tony Abbott, her friend of more than 30 years, who she said ’embraced risk’ by publicly supporting her.

‘I find the reluctance of some in the human rights and gender lobbies to acknowledge exactly what Tony Abbott did quite puzzling,’ she said.

Abbott is a vocal opponent of gay marriage and has so far failed to keep his election promise of giving his party a free vote on the issue.

‘It’s really easy to generate hostility about someone. And there’s no denying he’s been vilified and become a hate figure to some extent,’ McGregor said.

‘I don’t recognise the person I know in that, but I do accept his quite visible face as an observant Catholic is quite provocative in terms of the LGTBI community.’

But she added, ‘He’s not a supporter of gay marriage, I’m sad about that.’