Family pain a regret of gender switch

02:25, Dec 13 2012
tdn andrea stand
Witt senior lecturer Andrea Corbett talks about retirement and life in Taranaki as transgender.

Doctor Andrea Corbett couldn't be happier as a woman but says becoming transgender is also her biggest regret.

The senior tutor of nursing leaves her role at Witt this week after more than a decade, in search of a new teaching role and a slice of retirement.

It was 27 years ago when Andrea, formerly Michael Brosnan, husband of Colleen and father of 3-year-old Ciaran, headed to Brussels for "reassignment" surgery.

The process required Michael and Colleen to divorce.

Despite the complexities of

Andrea's new life choice, Colleen chose to stick by Andrea and they continue to live together in a loving partnership.


Andrea is quick to point out it's not a lesbian relationship and they haven't shared a bed for 27 years.

It's Colleen's deep understanding of her wants and needs and their determination to bring their son up together that has proved powerful beyond all belief.

"For me it's been worth it but not for Colleen and Ciaran," she said.

"If there's anything I could change it would be to not have gone through the change I've been through.

"For what they've been subjected to is really too much to ask of any human being."

Andrea says her transgender urges were well entrenched before she had her son.

"I was cross-dressing all the time in private at home for years but I was so wrapped up in myself that sperm banking never occurred but it would have been lovely to have more children," she says.

The support of her close-knit immediate family is at odds with the reaction of her siblings, who have struggled to deal with her change.

"It's not my choice but they haven't had any contact with me since my mother died seven years ago."

It was her mother's death that allowed Andrea to publish her autobiography, Thoughts, Feelings and Reflections.

Both Colleen and Ciaran have a chapter in the book where they give their account of Andrea's life choice.

"Probably the fire we tempered our son with has made him the man he is today," she says.

"The torment that the Hamilton Boys' High School subjected my son to.

"He tried to keep the worst of the hassle he got at school from us because he knew we'd get upset about it."

But despite the difficult times Andrea's now 30-year-old son has endured, she says he's the son any mother would love to have.

"He didn't care and used to say he didn't know what all the fuss was about."

Andrea describes the world we live in as a "man's world" and says there's nothing special about being a woman.

"I just enjoy being me."

But what does she miss about being a man?

"The dominance," she says. There are things a woman says that she would get labelled "aggressive" for but if a man said it then it would be "assertive".

Andrea says Witt and the Taranaki community have been nothing but good to her and she will be sad to leave.

Up until a few months ago she was the only academic at Witt with a PhD and despite the challenges the tertiary provider faces, namely funding cuts, she sees a bright future ahead.

For Andrea, the future holds some more teaching and research and spending time with her son in Hamilton. Having worked closely with tangata whenua in her Taranaki nursing role, Andrea says she lets the role go reluctantly as there is currently no one to fill it.

Taranaki Daily News