By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Alana Thompson
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
AJ Clementine, 22, was born male but experienced crippling gender dysphoria from a young age.
She told Barcroft TV: “I have been trans my whole life. From the get go, I was trans.
“I remember I wanted to transition from the moment I could speak and understand – as a child I just knew I was a girl,” she added.
AJ, who documents her life on YouTube and Instagram, underwent surgery in October of last year after beginning her transition during her teenage years.
“I never thought I’d end up being a girl and I never thought that it would be possible to achieve looking or feeling like I do,” she said.
To celebrate, AJ did something she never thought she’d have the confidence to do – she posted a bikini selfie.
“I was really excited to actually try my first ever bikini because I never even attempted it pre-surgery.
“I took some pictures but I became nervous to actually post them because it was something new, but it was an instant relief once it was up there and seeing how supportive and understanding people are,” she explained.
“I feel more and more comfortable – to be able to have the option to feel good in a bikini gives me a huge sense of joy and happiness.”
AJ, who lives in Melbourne with her parents and younger siblings, first recognised her need to change around the age of 13 when she was going into high school.
“I started to realise I was developing in a different way and something needed to be done. I knew I needed to transition but I didn’t have the information.”
During this time, AJ started transitioning socially and it wasn’t until later on that she became aware of her options in regards to surgery.
“I remember feeling that once I understood that transitioning was something I needed to do, I wouldn’t survive living as anybody else.”
Not transitioning just wasn’t an option for AJ, and she described living in the opposite gender as ‘suffocating’.
“Initially it was difficult to come to terms with needing surgery – it wasn’t about wanting it, it was about needing it,” she added.
Thankfully for AJ, her parents were more than supportive in regards to her decision.
Mark, AJ’s father, knew from a young age that AJ was different.
“We observed AJ changing way before she probably knew what was going on. We didn’t know what to expect but we knew something was going to be different.
“There was no surprise but more happiness for AJ, surgery was the last piece of the puzzle, now it’s about moving forward with her life,” Mark explained.
AJ’s mum, Anilyn, added: “We just try to support as much as possible, as parents we are just trying to support.
“We are happy and we have embraced it, her siblings are happy and we have no regrets.”
Since surgery, AJ has not only noticed the difference in herself, but also how others perceive her.
“When it comes to dating as a trans woman, it’s kind of crazy in the sense that I found it easier at the beginning of my transition, it was very visible that I was trans and they knew what they were getting involved with,” AJ explained.
“But at this current point in my life I get approached by guys that don’t know I’m trans and most of the time they will have a reaction that’s not great.”
However, AJ is learning to embrace and grow with the new challenges.
“You start to explore aspects of who you are and it has opened up new emotions and the ability to explore.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m leaning things now that my friends would have learnt in high school.”
When it came to the surgery, AJ surprised herself with how calm she felt.
“My emotions leading up to the surgery surprised me a lot because I was preparing myself to be really anxious and on edge. I was surprised with how calm and ready my body was.
She added, “I was at ease.”
AJ feels blessed by the support system she has around her, in particular, her best friends and immediate family.
Bambi, AJ’s friend who is also trans, found the process inspirational, describing AJ as her ‘fairy god mother of transitioning’.
“I wasn’t scared, I was excited and I was crying because I knew that this was something that you wanted – every bone inside of you wanted it so badly. It made me so emotional,” Bambi told her friend.
For AJ, speaking about her confidence post-surgery has made her realise that although she was happy before, gender reassignment has given her a sense of validation.
“Just knowing that I am who I was to begin with makes me feel reassured and it allows me to have these conversations that I wouldn’t have had before.
“I waited and I truly believed that it was going to get better one day and I would feel at piece with my body.”