ENTERTAINMENT
19/07/2020 07:00 BST | Updated 19/07/2020 11:44 BST

The Girl Next Door: How Trans Neighbours Star Georgie Stone Is Blurring The Lines Between Activism And Acting

The actor talks accessibility of trans roles, mental health and groundbreaking gender confirmation surgery scenes in the Australian soap.

Jackson Finter
Georgie Stone plays Mackenzie in Neighbours

“I literally had to create this role for myself,” says the Neighbours actor Georgie Stone, 20, speaking to HuffPost UK down the phone from Melbourne. “Because there are no roles in Australia. None. I had to write to an executive producer to create a role for me. That’s how scarce these opportunities are.”

First she was a trailblazing child trans activist, becoming the youngest trans child to receive hormone blockers in Australia aged 10. Her treatment was to set a precedent which led to a change in law around access to hormone treatment for young trans people.

More recently, she took her activism to the small screen, developing the first trans character for Australian soap Neighbours.

Jackson Finter
Georgie Stone as Mackenzie in Neighbours

In a few short years, Georgie Stone has made history by blurring the lines between acting and activism. Schooling viewers about transness in the soap opera since her character Mackenzie arrived in 2019, in real life she is proudly outspoken on trans rights and believes, for one thing, that cisgender people playing trans roles is “grossly unfair.” 

“There are so many trans actors looking for these parts,” she stresses, although she’s also keen to assert her desire to work on strong female non-trans roles when she eventually explores work outside of Neighbours.

Now permanent on the Australian soap, Georgie works closely with scriptwriters to help assure her character is as representative of the trans experience as possible. And the story of her development as a young trans person culminates in her gender confirmation surgery scenes, airing in the UK on July 22 and 23. 

The surgery plot may be the last time Mackenzie’s gender identity is dealt with directly. Georgie hopes that in the future storylines, Mackenzie will be approached in the same way they would be for any other young female character on the show.

But the surgery storyline felt like an essential inclusion.

This surgery isn't making Mackenzie a girl - she is already a girl.Georgie Stone

“It is a very personal subject and I wanted it to be done well and respectfully,” says Georgie from her home in suburban Melbourne. 

“It is about the surgery,” she continues, “but it’s more about making it clear that this surgery isn’t making Mackenzie a girl - she is already a girl, she just wants this for her own comfort, this is purely for her own benefit but it’s there so she can now move on. Onto the things that she is passionate about, like law.”

HuffPost UK
Georgie Stone's character Mackenzie with her boyfriend Richie in Neighbours

While for many trans people surgery feels essential, Georgie stresses that it is only physical - having surgery doesn’t help trans people overcome any mental health challenges they may be facing. Mental health issues, such as feelings of shame, are very common among trans people, and the LGBT+ community more widely. 

Georgie says she is privileged not to carry a heavy burden of shame around with her, partly because she had supportive parents, although she describes to HuffPost UK how the “process” of dealing with shame is ever-present in her life, much like it is in Mackenzie’s.

“It’s weird, because I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud to be trans, and then sometimes there are these moments that I just really wish that I wasn’t,” says Georgie.

“They’re fleeting and those feelings go away, but sometimes they’ll just come back, and those feelings of shame creep in again when you’re feeling especially vulnerable or something’s happened in your life. What I wanted with Mackenzie was to show that it’s a process.”

Georgie calls Mackenzie “an alternative reality version of myself”: less confident, less comfortable in her own skin, but ultimately sharing the powerful experience of being trans in this era of change for transgender people.

While the majority of Australians and Brits are supportive, there are still waves of feminists who argue, much to the upset of people like Georgie, that trans women aren’t women - and some prolific figures have recently made headlines.

I realised this isn’t my problem, this is her problem, actually. I’m not at fault here, there’s actually nothing wrong with me. It’s other people’s shit that I’m having to deal withGeorgie Stone

JK Rowling’s recent controversial comments on transness were deeply upsetting for Georgie. “It was just another one of those moments where I crumbled, and I wished for just a very small second that I wasn’t trans, just so I wouldn’t feel so bad, so I wouldn’t feel so attacked by someone who I looked up to,” she says.

“And then that second was gone and I realised this isn’t my problem, this is her problem, actually. I’m not at fault here, there’s actually nothing wrong with me. It’s other people’s shit that I’m having to deal with.”

Dia Dipasupil via Getty Images
Georgie was a fan of Harry Potter and has been saddened by JK Rowling's comments around transness 

What would she say to Jo Rowling?

“I’ve fantasised a lot about what I would say,” she ruminates. “I would really love to just sit down with Jo and explain to her why modern day feminism is so important to include trans people.

“I don’t agree with where she’s coming from,” she continues, “but I see what she’s stuck on in terms of her perceived fear of trans activism and how that will lead her down a bad path. I’d just love to help her out of that and explain to her why she’s wrong, but I don’t know if she really wants to listen and that’s the disappointing part.”

Expecting to be confronted by hateful comments online and in real life is an unfair but inevitable experience for trans people and explains why so many suffer from bad mental health.

Georgie says: “Mackenzie carried more shame and anxiety with her and she’s definitely less confident in herself, and less trusting of other people, and I wanted her to come across as someone who’s really really unsure of who she is, not in terms of her gender identity but in terms of who she wants to be as a person.”

HuffPost UK
Mackenzie and her dad Scott in Neighbours, who doesn't instantly support her decision to go through gender confirmation surgery

“I think it’s important to see that sometimes when you’ve been bullied for a long amount of time like Mackenzie, or she’s had years of trauma, it’s not something that you can shake very easily,” she says. “It’s not a black and white journey from A to B of going from ashamed to not anymore, it’s kind of a cycle or bumpy road where it’ll all come back.”

As the story of Mackenzie’s transness simmers, Georgie hopes to create an authentic female lead with the character: one that isn’t solely defined by their romantic relationships but has career aspirations and independence. She hopes to still be contracted on Neighbours in a year, but what about further down the line?

“I want to keep playing trans characters and keep, I suppose, educating people,” she says. “But I’d also love to play characters that aren’t trans or their gender identity isn’t mentioned. I think that would be really cool - my main thing is I just love acting, I just love the job.”

Neighbours airs every weekday at 1.45pm and 5.30pm on Channel 5.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
  • Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
  • LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
  • Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
  • Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK