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Ah Trees’ Germaine Png on gender and epilepsy

Ah Trees is an exciting new wave indie pop band from Perth, Australia. Their latest single “Shark Bait” was released on April 26. In this Sungenre Soapbox piece, drummer Germaine Png discusses her struggles growing up with gender and epilepsy.

Have you ever stood by a frozen lake fully clothed, then the ice cracks underneath you, and you can’t do anything but watch yourself fall into the icy-cold water with no way out? That’s what it feels like to watch your breasts blossom and hips widen through puberty as a little boy.


I was a boy for as long as I could remember. I felt so happy every time my Dad’s colleagues called me his son, and when my mum let me buy clothes from the “boys” section. I never really minded being a girl at school though, because my friends didn’t care who I played with. I just felt awkward going to the women’s toilets most times. It’s like when you wear a fancy dress to a pool party — you’re out of place.

It was time for the puberty fairy to cast its burning hands around me. As if acne and sweating in odd places wasn’t enough. I was growing BOOBS, my voice wasn’t dropping, and there was BLOOD in my undies. It was a nightmare. I didn’t think there was a way I could avoid this. I had to conform, adapt, survive.


I thought that I was the only one like this in the whole world, so I eventually tried to learn to be a woman, and to love myself. It took A LOT of mental strength and struggle to overcome this barrier. Outcomes include a damaged teenager-hood, but I rose up above it all and became the woman I am today. I love myself now.

When I read a story a few years later of a kid knowing that she was a girl, just born biologically a boy, it hit me. I’m not the only one??? Shocker. More and more stories start popping up.

Not knowing what you are as a child is a very common thing, but I grew up liking boys, as well as wanting to be one. Now that is just a big ol’ double spam sandwich of a confusing cocktail to young me. What was I? Is there a name for this thing I’m going through? There’s definitely something wrong with me. Do I blame it on my epilepsy?


Speaking of epilepsy, I feel like this needs to be addressed.

No, strobe lights don’t affect me (only 3-5% of epileptics have this), and no, I do not do the wriggly dance on the floor when I have a brain funk. There are several different types of epilepsy and they don’t all look the same!

When I do have a brain buzz though, I look like I’m drunk. I’m staring into a space. It feels like I’m in a terrifying dream. An overwhelming vortex of things I can’t even begin to describe takes over all my senses.

I can’t breathe.
Who are you?
What’s happening?
I can hear you talking but I don’t know what language you’re speaking in.
Why can’t I speak?
I can’t even hear my own thoughts.
Are these thoughts I’m typing out even what I’m thinking during this?
I don’t know. I need to vomit.

I wake up from this bad dream.
I take a deep breath.
I feel sick. I throw up.
Oh god my head hurts.
Where am I?
Why are you all looking so worried?
What do you mean I can’t get my Ls for another 6 months?
Gosh I’m exhausted, and it’s only 9am.

That part of my brain that fuzzes off also controls my personality, so I get really cranky at times. Sometimes even feeling flat for weeks. Usual banter starts to annoy me. Everything annoys me. Please be nice to me during my bad days, and I’m sorry for lashing out like that.

-end interlude-

I figured that it’s definitely not epilepsy’s fault. This is all just me.


I feel empowered to be a woman. After eventually accepting that I love being a woman, I tried so hard to start dressing like a girl. I got shot down and made fun of with every attempt I made to wear a dress or a tank top. The moment I moved away from my family in Singapore to start a new life in a boarding school in Perth, I grew my hair out. I started buying skirts. I thought that how you look on the outside is what you are. This was the perfect opportunity to do a complete makeover.

If I had known that future society was going to be more accepting of me no matter what or who I am, I wouldn’t have needed to have gone through all of that trouble of buying new clothes and changing my look, or go through the emotional turmoil that is accepting that I was born to be a woman.


I don’t regret it though – Turning myself into the woman that I am today.
I rock a bowl cut and wear neither women’s nor men’s clothes.
I fancy men, women and everyone alike.
I don’t quite fall into a category in that way,

but here’s one thing I know for sure:
I was a struggling boy, and now, I am a beautiful woman.