Marion was a care worker, looking after elderly people in their homes. She had a close rapport with her clients, even the ones she only worked with for a couple of weeks.
The organisation she worked for held a class discussion about how to care for transgender patients. While she wasn’t taught about which pronouns to use, Marion said that asking someone how they want to be referred to is standard practice.
“If it's Mr or Mrs or Joan or Paul or whatever, you always ask the person when you go there first,” says Marion. “You introduce yourself and ask them, what would you like me to call you?”
One of her clients was Marissa, a 68-year- old transgender woman. “She knew I was informed, because my boss rang her and said, I'm going to get you a very nice, mature carer—you will be happy and she's very open-minded’.”
“She looked gorgeous in her 20s and 30s,” says Marion. “She was a beautiful young woman. She said that even when she was a little boy she wanted to be a girl. Her mum was very open. It took a while for the father to accept; he always said, 'it's in your head', but he accepted her later on.”
Marion was surprised when Marissa first greeted her. “She still had a male voice; a really deep voice,” she recalls. “Apparently she had one of the first transgender operations done in Australia. I said to her that it must have cost a lot of money and she said that she did modelling to earn the money. She had lots of framed photographs in her living room; professional head shots.”
“She had a whole room filled with beautiful clothes,” says Marion. “Not home clothes, they were going out clothes. Things like leather pants and leather skirts. She had a bright red jacket with sequins on it. I don’t even know where you can get clothes like that. They must have cost a lot. I said to her, 'you’re lucky that I'm not your size!' and she just smiled.”
“In her late 60s, she had a beautiful figure. I said to her, ‘I wish my boobs would be like that’. When I said that she laughed. Marissa said, ‘do you want to touch them?’ I said ‘yes!’ I said, ‘oh my god, they are hard’ and she said, ‘yeah, they are fake!’ They were like two little balloons. I was shocked, they were so hard. You know what they felt like? Like a squishy ball.”
While care worker manuals won’t generally recommend getting that close to a client, Marion says that they had a bond. “She was only a few years older than me but she said that I reminded her of her mother, because of my accent.”
Marion says that not all of her colleagues shared her willingness to care for a transgender client. “We had carers with very strong opinions,” she says. “They weren't allowed to refuse to look after someone who is transgender, but my boss wouldn't have put them forward. That's what a good company does, they choose the right carer for the right person.”
Marissa had a support network of friends, many of whom were also in the LGBTIQ community, however a bad back injury kept her housebound. It was this injury which soon meant she was unable to stay at home.
“She was in our care for only two weeks and then she had to go into a nursing home, because she couldn’t stay at home anymore,” Marion says. “She hardly could move. I was just so sad that I only had her for two weeks.”
- Marion's story as told to Samantha Allemann
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