A night with Sandra Pankhurst

Sandra Pankhurst at Lilydale Library with the book about her life, 'The Trauma Cleaner'. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON. 237525_01

By Mikayla van Loon

Not many people could remain as positive as Sandra Pankhurst after everything she has endured.

And yet her positivity can fill a room, like the auditorium at Lilydale library on Wednesday 12 May.

Part of the Eastern Regional Libraries Reconnect Festival’s ‘Writing the Rainbow’, Ms Pankhurst was invited to speak on the difficulties, challenges and trauma she has faced.

Talking about the book ‘The Trauma Cleaner’, which is based on Ms Pankhurst’s remarkable life and business, fellow attendees were astounded by the life she had prior to trauma cleaning.

“The reason I do the story of my life is to promote care, compassion and dignity. And they are the three things I run my business on,” Ms Pankhurst said.

“To create respect, kindness and not just to others but to yourself because we often put ourselves out in reference to somebody else and we have to stop doing that because we have to create our own importance to believe in ourselves and to go further.”

As a transgender woman who struggled to find where she fit in all throughout her life, she is finally successful and happy in what she does.

“I’d rather have a positive mind than a negative mind because when you think negative, negative things come to you,” she said.

“I have a firm belief that life is full of cycles and by being full of cycles nothing lasts forever.”

From her early years she was outcast by her adopted family and had to scrounge for food.

Kicked out of home at 17 years of age, finding a safe and secure place to live was not easy, surrounded by men who were abusers.

“It’s like how many of you are out there that are abusers to women. [It’s] such a rife state that all these people abuse women for no real reason, just to have power over them,” Ms Pankhurst said.

“So I’m very much against domestic violence and I’d like to fight a few more battles on that score and see where we can get.”

Attempting to figure out who she was, Ms Pankhurst married young and had two children.

It was then she realised she wasn’t normal.

“I just knew this was my path, when that light went on the light went on,” she said.

“I was not one or the other, I wish to god I had been born normal but not in between but I’ve made the best of living in between as I possibly can.”

During an era of transphobic rifeness, Ms Pankhurst underwent surgery and started taking hormones to transition into the woman she is today.

Although she has been through so much trauma herself, Ms Pankhurst said she now does what she does because after the life she has had, she doesn’t want anyone to suffer.

“You ask me why I do it because I love to help, I love to be able to change one person at a time,” Ms Pankhurst said.

“You take the good with the bad.”

Not even ill health could keep her down, describing herself as a weed that can be pulled out but will continue to grow.

“I have no regrets at all, I’m actually a really happy person.”

Now she is looking ahead to her next book, her work and getting her health on track.

She has also been nominated for the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll which she is very proud of.