Trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst’s controversial views on growing up trans

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Above, watch 'Coming Clean', a short doco on Sandra’s extraordinary life; then watch the web-special video where Sandra talks about growing up “effeminate” and later deciding to transition.

While Sandra Anne Pankhurst’s professional life is dedicated to cleaning up the mess left behind after a trauma – suicide, meth labs, and hoarding – many people don’t know that Sandra’s personal life is an incredible tale of trauma, transformation and survival.

At the age of seven, when Sandra identified as a boy and went by her given name ‘Peter’, he was told by his adoptive family that he was “no longer wanted”. After that, Peter survived 10 years of severe physical and psychological abuse before running away from home.  

Kids need to live a little before they make life-changing decisions.

At 18, Peter married and soon after had the first of two boys with his then-wife. At 23, when Peter’s wife discovered that he had been visiting gay bars, Peter went through a major transition: he moved out of the family home, separated from his wife, and embraced his emerging identity as a woman, as Sandra.  

For many trans people, transitioning is a process of becoming the gender identity they always wanted to be. But for Sandra, it wasn’t like that – she didn’t always want to be a woman. In Sandra’s experience, she decided to transition when she learned that it was possible.

In November 2017, a Family Court decision ruled that Australian transgender teenagers would no longer have to front a courtroom in order to access Hormone Replacement Therapy. Families seeking puberty blockers or their children must still seek the approval of psychologists, endocrinologists, and paediatricians.  

Transgender advocate Georgie Stone has spoken out about her own race to access puberty-blockers at the age of 10 in order to stop the 'masculinising' effects of puberty. She became the youngest-ever Australian to be granted access to the therapy at age 11.

Sandra doesn’t think the Family Court ruling is a step in the right direction. In her words, “Parents should let kids dress however they want, but granting access to puberty-blockers is going too far. Kids need to live a little before they make life-changing decisions.”