For Bendigo resident CJ Jones, a massive weight was lifted when she came to the realisation she was a transgender woman.
CJ had lived most of her life as male, the gender she was assigned at birth, but always felt something was missing.
"In hindsight I can look back and it makes sense... but my exposure to gender diversity was not there, so I didn't have something to say, 'That's me' and then start to develop that," CJ said.
"So that was quite challenging, because it left me with a sense of... being lost, and you do all the things that you think should satisfy you in your life, with work and with friends and all those things, but it's not quite right.
"And that's not that my friends weren't supportive, and I've had a fantastic life, but it's been missing something.
"So part of my advocacy and being visible is about allowing other people who might be in that same situation to see me and think, 'That might be me'."
CJ has shared her experience during Transgender Awareness Week, an opportunity to learn about and celebrate gender diversity, and break down stigma.
CJ's understanding that she was transgender came relatively recently in her life.
The journey has had its highs and lows, but she describes her discovery as having opened her world up.
"Now that I am finally at peace with who I am, my life, my health and my relationships have improved," CJ said.
However, members of the transgender community still experience mental health issues at far greater rates than the general population.
Data from the National LGBTI Health Alliance shows transgender adults are almost 11 times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide, with 35 per cent having made an attempt in their lifetime.
Transgender and gender diverse people are nearly five times as likely to experience depression and almost three times as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
CJ said this was largely because of harmful societal attitudes.
"Most of the mental health challenges of trans and gender diverse people are due to the stigma, discrimination and fear of violence caused by outdated social views of gender," she said.
"Trans and gender diverse people are humans, and just like you, they deserve respect, support and safety."
Actions such as using the wrong pronouns, misgendering transgender people and refusing to use new names, CJ said, were hurtful.
"It erases them as a person, because they finally present that to the world, and the world says, 'Nah, no, I don't accept that'," she said.
She said such attitudes from some in the community, and the harm they caused, made it important for others to demonstrate support for transgender and gender diverse people.
Visibility and positive representations play a significant role in the wellbeing and safety of the transgender community.
For people who had the support, confidence and safety to be visible, CJ said, it showed other transgender people that they were not alone, that what they thought and felt was real.
She said she saw the community's acceptance as a spectrum and many people were simply unaware when it came to gender diversity.
It was these people, she said, who with positive interaction, could become supportive of their fellow community members who were transgender and gender diverse.
Living in Bendigo, CJ said she had experienced negativity, but she generally felt safe and the places she frequented were respectful.
CJ would like to see more people take time to educate themselves about gender and learn that it exists not only as the binary of male and female, and participate in LGBTI events.
"To unlearn that, to unlearn the fact that there's binary gender at all, then opens the opportunity for people to be aware and to be accepting and supportive of gender diverse people, gender diversity in general," she said.
It is important people use a person's correct pronouns and name, take care around disclosure and the possibility of 'outing' someone, call out disrespect, and learn about the challenges faced by transgender people.
CJ also asked people to be mindful of the way they looked at other people, as it could make a person concerned that they might have to deal with a confrontation.
She said it all simply came down to respect.
"Trans men are just men and trans women are just women, and anyone who's gender diverse are just people," she said.
"Just treat people with respect and dignity and safety."
At the end of Transgender Awareness Week is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on Wednesday, November 20.
This is an annual, international event to commemorate the lives lost through transphobic violence.
This year, headspace Bendigo is holding a candlelight vigil, which will begin at 7pm at the Lake Weeroona pavilion.
QLife provides free LGBTI support and referral online at qlife.org.au or over the phone on 1800 184 527.
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