Feilding Herald : January 15th 2015
6 THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2015 FEATURE Happy to be living life as a boy Soul Mehlhopt is happy now but for half his life he was a girl. Thomas Heaton talks to Soul about his journey. Withdrawn, quiet, friendly; just a regular 20-year-old guy. Sporting a lip ring, ear-spacers, you wouldn’t blink twice walking past him in the street. But this guy was a girl for more than half his life. Soul Mehlhopt says he has realised his true self, but it was a long journey of self-discovery and transformation. As a young girl she questioned her sexuality and gender. Complex questions swam around the 11-yearold’s head. Growing up in Rongotea was hard for the teenager. It’s better now, but it took time and effort. There was little support to help with the burden of a gender she was uncomfortable with. Feeling confused by her gender identity and sexual orientation, she eventually came out as a lesbian in high school. Mehlhopt had no knowledge on how to find information on changing gender. ‘‘It wasn’t until I was 14, 15. I made my own effort to seek out information . . . It was so hard to find.’’ Being a lesbian in high school and questioning her gender was difficult enough, let alone dealing with the judgments from unaccepting and sometimes ignorant school mates. ‘‘I got lots of stick . . . I got asked if I was a boy or a girl, even though I was wearing a girl’s uniform. ‘‘It’s still real common, because you’re a minority group . . . especially in high school. ‘‘If anything’s different they are more likely to use it as ammunition.’’ Looks and jeers were not confined to the school yard, as Palmerston North was not entirely welcoming either. But the strong support network Mehlhopt built around himself made things easier. ‘‘It’s still not 100 per cent accepting. ‘‘There is still a lot of negative stigma reactions to people being LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender].’’ He said he ‘‘more often than not’’ heard comments when walking down the street. His family also found it hard to come to terms with. ‘‘[They] came to terms with it in their own time and own ways. Some people who I thought would take it well, sometimes didn’t.’’ Some people he thought would take it badly, welcomed it; the most surprising was his 92-year-old grandmother. ‘‘Nana said as long as I am happy that is what matters,’’ Mehlhopt says. But whatever negativity there was, it did not dissuade him from making his choice. He demonstrated resolve and made the transition for himself. ‘‘I was trying to compromise with my happiness . . . keeping up a facade to Changes: Soul Mehlhopt, 20, is thanking his supporters by becoming a social worker himself. Photo: DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ make others happy.’’ So he continued to look for infor- mation and slowly found answers. With the help of sexual health nurses, Mehlhopt found information on making the switch. ‘‘There’s more [information] around the world but not much geared towards New Zealand, let alone Palmerston North.’’ His choice was ‘‘cemented’’ when the hospital delayed an appointment to begin hormone replacement therapy. ‘‘I realised that if I didn’t start HRT soon or within the year and a half, I would have highly likely become a statistic.’’ He did contemplate taking his own life, he says. But support from family ‘‘worked wonders’’ and he pushed through. Mehlhopt has completed hormone therapy but this year he is planning to have surgery, involving a hysterectomy and ‘‘top surgery’’. He says he has contemplated ‘‘bottom surgery’’, but it would take time to save enough money ‘‘There’s no way I am going to be able to afford it without throwing myself into debt.’’ But he is ‘‘utterly and completely’’ happy with his progress. He likes girls and hangs with his mates. He has made some changes and now wants to help others facing similar challenges. He wants to pay it forward. LGBTTIFQ+ A recent survey, the first of its kind in Manawatu, is going to help inform social workers and families who encounter people ‘‘questioning’’. The Palmy Youth Network’s LGBTTIFQ+ survey questioned 64 young people in the city who identified as gay, lesbian, transgender or CONTINUED Page MORTGAGEE TENDER 535 Rangitatau West Road and 3774 Waitotara Valley Road Two forests situated in the lower and middle reaches of the Waitotara Valley are being offered for sale by mortgagee tender (forests not included). 1,114 hectares in total (more or less). Ideal properties for keen hunters, trampers or for recreational use. Arerewa is in the upper Waitotara Valley and has an older three bedroom house, while the Maxwell block has no facilities. 983 hectares (more or less) across both properties currently sit under the PFS Initiative, plus forestry rights. Due diligence will be required. www.bayleys.co.nz Waitotara and Maxwell Tenders Close 4pm, Thu 12 Feb 2015 (Unless Sold Prior) Bayleys Office, 208 Victoria Avenue, Wanganui View by Appointment www.bayleys.co.nz/3000146 Knud Bukholt M 027 222 6161 firstname.lastname@example.org COAST TO COAST LTD, BAYLEYS, LICENSED UNDER THE REA ACT 2008.
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