At a get-together with friends a few weeks ago we talked about transvestites, transgender people, and androgyny.

We discussed the subtle differences, and that it doesn't always mean that these people fancy the same, or the other, sex.

This might be a bit of a complicated topic to discuss over a few drinks and a meal for some, but it became quite an interesting conversation.

I brought up Richard O'Brien, creator of the Rocky Horror picture show and fellow Bay of Plenty resident, who is definitely not gay.


I know this because he's married to a woman. I had a chat with Richard about this and all sorts of other things at a function a while ago, and he describes himself as transgender, or possibly third sex.

Someone mentioned Tilda Swinton, one of my favourite actresses, who is by all means a woman but most definitely androgynous.

With her pale skin, unusual green eyes, and menswear-inspired chic, Tilda has become the personification of androgynous beauty over the years. I love her work, and her style, to bits.

When I was in university, there was a receptionist named Patrick.

He was one of the most handsome men I've ever seen, and all the girls were a little in love with him.

Then again, most students knew that on Saturday nights, Patrick became Patricia. He was a gorgeous transvestite and his/her legs were something to envy, but shoe size 12 maybe not so much.

Chaz Bono, the son of Sonny and Cher, has been a gay rights activist since the mid-nineties but in 2009, he became an even bigger activist because he revealed that he was a transgender man.

Born as Chastity, she "came out" in her mid-twenties. At 42, Chastity Bono had an sex-change operation and she became Chaz.


In an interview with Time magazine, which can be found on the website, Chaz Bono said: "Early teens. It was a mistake. I confused gender identity with sexual orientation. Your gender identity is about who you are, how you feel, the sex that you feel yourself to be. Sexual orientation is who you're attracted to. So when I was about 13 or 14, I realised I was attracted to women and then made the assumption that I was a lesbian, and didn't realise that that wasn't the case. It was the fact that I was a man and a heterosexual man. The issue wasn't my sexual orientation, but rather my gender identity."

Being who you are, and expressing yourself the way you feel is right, is extremely important. I have huge respect for people who choose to be different just so they can be themselves.

That takes courage, and insight. If a person, male or female, discovers within themselves who they really are at any stage of their lives, then express themselves that way, I'll be the first to salute it!

But on Sunday, I read a story on headlined "Transgender boy walks with pride". I found the intro a little disturbing. It read: The parents of a 7-year-old transgender boy are in discussions with an independent film maker to chart the next decade of their child's life as he undergoes medical changes.

Born into a girl's body, Ben Brockwell-Jones' story hit the headlines last year after his parents Wes and Rebecca Jones made a controversial decision to start a process which would culminate in medically stopping the onset of female puberty.

Little Ben will start psychological assessments as early as June in order to "kick-start" the process of receiving the drugs which will only be prescribed if he is found to be mentally stable and once doctors are able to determine when he will start puberty.


Treatment with drugs to control hormones for a 7-year-old child doesn't sit right with me, although I am very tolerant, and little Ben said: "Even though I'm a real little kid I can make up my own mind. I'm little but I can speak for myself if I want to. I want to help others. One reason I do it is because it is fun and I like it and another reason is to help other people."

My own kids are 8 and 10 years old now, and I encourage them to express themselves the best way they can at all times.

If either one of them would choose to be or become something that is not the norm, I would support it.

If you'd ask me if I would encourage any of them to make a life-altering decision like taking drugs to change their natural selves when they are as little as they are now?

Short answer: No way! I think that for little Ben's parents, all this has more to do with the 15 minutes of fame the media and those movie makers would bring.

Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist -