MAGAZINE Anne Obrien {module_referreraddress,,Go Back}

MAGAZINE Anne Obrien

By Equally Wed - Posted on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I HAD TO COME OUT, TOO At the age of forty years I had to make a decision, which forced me to reverse the whole direction of my life. When I was eighteen years old I entered an Australian religious teaching Order. This was my own freely chosen decision with no encouragement from parents or other significant people. I was fulfilling my dream and I intended to live this life until my death. I held several senior positions in the Order and other members who were seeking change held me in high regard as I was viewed as a potential change agent. I forfeited life in a community where I enjoyed companionship, security of lifelong employment and all health and welfare needs met… But I simply closed the door and left. My decision to return to the lay state was made rather quickly, but not without serious consideration and advice. My decision meant that I had much to lose. I now believe that had I not taken this step I would probably have ended up in a psychiatric ward by now. I received only $500.00 as severance pay. We didn’t use the phrase ‘burnt out’ at this time but that’s exactly what I was: ‘burnt out’. Having left the security of the Order I now felt like an outsider with no future. All I could do was teach, but I had no energy to undertake this demanding work. I was in deep depression (manifested especially in tears). I could not face most members of my family, some of whom were convinced I had had a breakdown and would return to religious life. I knew otherwise. From living a very structured life I now had no purpose, nothing that would offer me a meaningful existence. I had no friends as I had forfeited them when I was eighteen years old. I had no shared interests with other people, no avenues of communication. I was desperately lonely. I studied and became a registered psychologist partly because I thought that I could work at least part time if health and age brought me to another fork in the road. For a major essay I chose the topic of sexual differences, with special interest in transgender people. This proved to be a marvellous eye-opener and education for me. To get first-hand experience I searched for a Melbourne group where I could make personal contact. Communication with a gay group led me to a connection with Elaine Barrie, a cis gender male who identified as a female person. She was the coordinator of a trans group that met regularly in Elwood. I visited this group on several occasions and enjoyed entering their world and they appeared to be comfortable chatting with me. I listened to their stories and what it meant for them to be trans. My essay was printed in their newsletter and I was presented with a small trophy as a reminder of my contribution to the Elaine Barrie group. My interest in sexual and gender identity has continued. I shed tears at the movie The Crying Game in 1992 and saw it again with a group of seniors for the purpose of their education. I watched The Danish Girl, which depicted the person who had the first surgical change which resulted in their death. I marvelled to hear her say to her partner: “What have I done to deserve such love?”. As a Catholic I abhor the treatment meted out to members of the LGBTIQ community. I worked again in a Catholic parish now wearing my psychologist hat as well as several other hats. The priest and I were adamant in our love and respect for anyone whom the church considered an outsider. Our motto was ‘Come as You are’ and parishioners followed our lead. Eventually I found equilibrium and have now found contentment in my journey. I can lift my head up high. Contributor Anne O’Brien

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