News • 01 May 2018
"My clients know that they are truly understood and there’s an extra level of trust as I have been through similar experiences to them."
Riley Norton is 31 years old and is a Support Worker for the PHaMS team at Open Minds, covering the Bayside area. Six months ago, Riley decided to setup a dodgeball team for people who are transgender, to tackle the problem of isolation and to create a community.
Riley has at times felt alone and isolated being transgender, and didn’t feel that there was anything relatable within the trans community for him to take part in.
From these feelings came the idea of the Transformers – a dodgeball team that Riley founded consisting of 34 strong members who get together in Coorparoo to play a non judgmental game and feel as though they can truly be themselves.
Riley said: “6 months on and we have 34 members of the dodgeball team, including one trans female. All of our members know that they have a support network and everyone has formed solid friendships within the group. It’s fun and fierce, and it doesn’t stop at dodgeball. We get together to socialize regularly and it’s created a real community.”
Riley was born female but knew from a very young age that something wasn’t right. He had an epiphany at age 21 when he realized he was transgender, but with no-one else around him identifying as trans – he suppressed it.
It wasn’t until January 2017 that he decided to follow his heart and live as a man. Under the guidance of his GP and psychiatrist, Riley started taking testosterone injections, which he continues to take regularly, and is saving for chest surgery.
“When I came out publicly and started transitioning, I found it really helped me to watch videos on YouTube to hear about the experiences of other trans people going through similar changes. That’s when I decided to create my own YouTube channel and document the changes I was experiencing, to help others who didn’t quite know where they were at.”
Riley currently supports half a dozen transgender clients in his role with Open Minds, and works with them to achieve positive outcomes along their recovery journeys.
“I’m very happy to work at Open Minds, my supervisors are all incredibly supportive and I feel very fortunate to work with transgender participants.
“My clients know that they are truly understood and there’s an extra level of trust as I have been through similar experiences to them. My next goal is to help setup an Open Minds dodgeball team for clients, because not only does it create a peer-support community, but playing sport is good for our mental health too.”
According to the National LGBTI Health Alliance, LGBTI individuals in Australia are twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated for mental health disorders compared to the general population. A staggering 57.2% of transgender and gender diverse people aged 18 and over have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. These statistics demonstrate the importance of reducing stigma and having appropriate support services in place for optimal mental health.
Riley recently appeared on ABC News Radio station discussing his experiences and the dodgeball team, The Transformers. To hear more about Riley’s journey, listen to the full podcast here.