One Day – by Sally Conning

I get up around 7 because I don’t have to get up for work; except for the weekend when I have to get up at 5:30. I just get up when I want to. I actually make a decision about what the day is going to be. Beside the bed there’s always clothes on the floor when I get up; it’s always Sally stuff; stuff that makes me feel comfortable, like leg-ins and a dress, or fluffy boots and a big cardigan if it’s cold … This morning I put on this long dress and a cardigan.

I go and make a coffee; I have a blue mug that sits on the side of my computer desk; it gets washed once in a while; there’s normally a spoon and a bit of coffee still in it …

I’ll then fire up the computer and get onto Facebook, mostly reading articles that are trans-related. If there’s anything I think is good I’ll re-post it …

To me social media is the number one connection for a rural person who has so many friends in the Big Smoke, as I like to call it. I can see what they’re doing, they can see what I’m doing, how I’m reacting to things … It gives us a little bit of chit chat that we wouldn’t otherwise have, and I’d be, ‘What the f*ck am I gonna do now?’ By geezus we definitely need social media, and Facebook seems to be it at the moment. Now that we’ve gotten over the debacle of real names (on Facebook) we’re resting easy again …

If I’m not going to work I’ll have a shower. Sometimes I put on make-up, sometimes not; sometimes I have my wig on, sometimes not. I get asked if it’s really my hair, and I say, ‘Yes, I paid for it.’

I then just sit around the house …

That can be typical of six mornings of the week. On Tuesdays and Fridays when I have to go to work, I can feel myself tense slightly, because after my shower I put on work clothes. I used to say I go to work as a guy, I now say I work in guy’s clothes, and that’s getting harder to do.

My neighbours at the housing commission flats where I live can note the difference in me, because they see both sides of me often …

Getting to work at the servo now is weird; the fact that I’m hiding, I’m hiding the real me… The boss has gotten over my nails; sometimes I’ll see him look at my [hairless] arms, his [hairy] arms, and back to my arms; but he doesn’t say anything …

My nails seem to be an interesting point at work. I challenged a girl at the servo recently. I gave her back her receipt, and she said, ‘Look at your nails, do you play guitar?’ I held them up and said, ‘Not with these’. She then said, ‘That’s disgusting!’ and walked off. I called after her, ‘Why is it disgusting?’ Her: ‘Because it is …’

Occasionally I’ll get asked by women who admit they are jealous and I’ll give ‘em tips. They ask why I have them and I reply, ‘Because I like them.’ It’s a truthful answer without really saying anything. I’d make a good politician.

Now I just say, ‘It’s the work clothes’; I go to work, do the hours, have a laugh with the boss, discuss work-related stuff.

My boss is a homophobic, transphobic little sh*t, but a good mate; if you can understand that? The best thing he’s said to me is that he’d changed his attitudes towards gay people just a little. It was after Thorpie’s coming out interview. He said, ‘Good on you Thorpie, I’ve changed the way I think.’ But he’s still a homophobic, transphobic little sh*t. [laughs] I know a few trans girls who’ll come in sometimes and my boss’ll say, ‘Get ‘em outta the place quick’.

I think about going to work as Sally occasionally, and I think about all the transphobia; it’s a suburban petrol station with tradies and older people; two groups that are more likely to be transphobic than others, and so I’ll tolerate that until I retire.

At around 4pm if I’m going next door to see my neighbours, I put on some make-up and my ‘hat’, which is what I sometimes call my wig … Usually I walk in and they’ll say, ‘Hi Sal’ and their little house dog goes nuts. I have free rein of their kitchen, so I’ll often make them cups of tea … We tend to like the TV shows, so we’ll watch them together. Our favourites change: Midsomer Murders, Frost, typically the English detective shows …

They were there when I moved in here. They’re aged pensioners; he’s in his 80s, she’s mid-70s … I never specifically hid Sally. It was over two years ago, I was going out on a Wednesday night to come up for a night with Seahorse [a Melbourne-based trans support group for almost 40 years]. It was 4:30pm, and both my neighbour and myself were outside. I got in my car. Instead of walking past my car, she walked up. I wound down the window.

Her: ‘How’s [Sally’s boy name]? I haven’t seen him in a while, is he OK?’

Sally: ‘That’s me. I’m [Sally’s boy name].’

Her: ‘My God you’re gorgeous!’

Sally: ‘I’ll come and have a talk with you about it one day.’

I smiled halfway to Melbourne that night.

Two and a half weeks later I came home from work to check on their dog – they’re very particular about their dog – and they invited me in and had a good yak. Ann actually brought up with me about that night and we ended up talking for a good hour and a half. They said, ‘It doesn’t matter to us’. I said, ‘I’ll come back one night and you can get to meet Sally properly.’

They were surprised they hadn’t seen me previously. When I first started going out, I used to get to the verandah and scamper quickly to the car. Now I walk out, get to the car and think, ‘Damn, there’s no-one to see me…’

More often than not I’ll be invited to stay for dinner; it’s a light dinner, which suits me.

I suppose I started really becoming good friends and watching telly with them when my power got cut off. It was during a dispute with the power company. I stopped paying them and decided to bite the bullet; I wanted to see if I could live without power, and found I could which surprised me really …

I was out of the house 6 days of the week and I had gas; a BBQ gas bottle was connected to the house so I could boil my pot of water for my morning coffee. I also found if I put in 2 inches of water in the bathtub and one pot of boiling water I could have a decent wash; I was doing that by candlelight. If I did cook, it was a stewy thing I could heat up in the pot, and I found my old toaster I used when I drove around in my truck. I wasn’t watching much television, so I didn’t miss much. I guess something I really missed was music.

I like the Rolling Stones, Muse, CCR, AC/DC, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, I guess anything from the 60s through to current rock, sometimes in the background and sometimes that loud I’m sure the neighbours can hear it …

Every day I would take my laptop next door and charge it up, and that would give me about 4 hours of social media. That was for 58 days and my friendship with my neighbours just grew from there.

I actually rocked up one night recently and knocked on the door, and Ann answered and said, ‘Hey Sal,’ and leant back and called out to her hubby, ‘Hey Roy, it’s Sal.’ He yelled back, ‘Tell her to p*ss off, I want to see him for a change.’

There’s occasionally a slip-up, but God, everyone slips up occasionally. After seeing him for 5 years and suddenly there being a she, there’s going to be a slip-up with pronouns occasionally; and because they’re such supportive friends, I don’t care …

Sometimes I’ll go to Mum’s, and I’ll say on Facebook, ‘My mother’s son is going to visit’. Mum’s 95, living in a nursing home and being well looked after. When I see her I put on the same pair of slacks and the same shirt; I can remember buying them in the 90s. She loves seeing her son; she’s proud of me, in her own way. Over the last few years she’s actually started talking to me about Sally in the third person, ‘How’s Sally doing?’ I put that down to a 95 year old’s respect, although she has said to my sister that she does not want to meet me.

I’ve said to my sister I’ll wear those slacks and shirt to my mother’s funeral for one last time. That’s out of my respect.

Some nights I leave earlier, but tonight’s it’s 8 o’clock. I’m always told that they love my company, whether it’s me, Sally, or it’s him. They say they like it that they don’t have to put on airs and graces for company …

Tomorrow I’m going to work. At the moment work is a means to an end to get to my retirement. When I get there, I’ll retire him completely; I decided that at a Christmas Eve party last year. I’ll tolerate the transphobia at work until I retire: 1 year, 8 months and 21 days. I’ve got my brain so fine-tuned that I can look at the date and know exactly how long it is until I retire. I’ve never been good at maths, but I know how many days until I retire. It’s also a Sunday because I’ve looked it up.

What am I gonna do on that day? I have no idea … A few girls have a bonfire and burn their boy clothes, but me, it’d only be a small fire … There are already a few people who are lining up to go to my retirement party …

 

Previously published in Bent Street 1

From a collection of interviews and conversations with LGBTIQA+ people across Australia, currently being developed for publication by Daniel Witthaus.

Sally T Conning is a trans elder and sought-after presenter from rural Victoria. She regularly helps train Victoria Police recruits and aged care service providers. Sally is currently writing her own memoir when she’s not out and about promoting her #visible365 campaign.