Rachel - Stories from the image library
Rachel, 63, talks about her experience of being photographed for our Age-positive image library, as well as the importance of positive representation for older trans people.
I'm a 63 years young Anglo-Australian dual national Trans woman, or a woman with a gender history as I prefer to say. I'm also a Lesbian so I have two footholds in the LGBTQ+ community.
I'm multifaceted and have packed a lot into 63 years. I trained in the UK in the mid to late 70s as a registered Nurse specialising in Orthopaedic Theatres and practised overseas in the Middle East in the 1980s before immigrating to Perth in Western Australia, which became my home until 2017 when I came here after my divorce, and to look after my Mum. I'm proudly Australian and like many expatriate Aussies I still consider it home. I currently work in Broadcast Radio as a Radio Presenter, writing and presenting my own Transgender and Allies show called The Rachel Oliver Show. I'm active in the Transgender community and volunteer in a trans healthcare support capacity for a major LGBTQ+ charity among other activities.
The experience of being in the Age-positive image library was awesome, as is any opportunity to represent my LGBTQ+ community in promotional photo work.
I had completed a filmed training video interview that morning, so I was dressed in business attire rather than the 1950s Pin-Up style make-up and dress which I usually prefer to wear for TV or modelling, so was a little different than usual. But change is often beneficial, and it was great to try out something different. The casually posed images taken of me enjoying a coffee and cake captured my bubbly personality and humour perfectly.
I certainly don't feel old and there's plenty of activity around me. I’m never lost for something to occupy myself with and being mature certainly doesn't mean slowing down or inactivity.
I'm busier now with Radio and other projects and interests than I was in my 30s. It's important to change societal attitudes towards ageing by showing how positive and life affirming ageing can be and the contributions we can make to society as elders and critical thinkers.
In regard to the LGBTQ+ community and in particular trans people, that's an added complexity to ageing and one which carries its own issues. We're no different to anyone else and are just ordinary people with extraordinary life stories which have brought us to this place, often later in life, as in my story where I came out at 50.
That was because societal restrictions towards LGBTQ+ people in the last century and especially trans people which have only really started to lift in the last couple of decades with the Gender Recognition Act. Societal restrictions against trans people are still continuing now, as our trans rights continue to be under attack. Consequently, it's vital to see positive depictions of us in photos and the media to inspire and consolidate our position in society.
The transgender community is a small one, at less than 262,000 in the UK, based on the last Census figures. But that's actually a population which in fact is bigger than many small countries. And yet there's a distinct lack of positive imagery of people in the trans community and especially of mature over 50 trans people going about our daily business and contributing to society as members of the wider community.
I don't feel old until my arthritic joints rudely remind me that I can't do certain physical things I could do with ease in my 20s. My mind hasn't aged, except to gain more maturity, become awakened to injustice and discriminatory attitudes, involve itself in applying critical thinking and to absorb information from lived experience.