Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Speech at Trans Day of Remembrance 2013 in Adelaide

Welcome to all on this important day on the trans calendar.

TDOR is a time to remember and reflect - in many ways. We obviously remember those we have lost through transphobic hate crimes. TGEU’s monitoring service sadly reports 239 known murders in the 12 months to 31 October 2013. We also remember those we have lost to transphobia in general such as inadequate medical care, unemployment or homelessness. I also seem to recollect all the trans people I have known including those who have left us of natural causes too – hold that last thought.

I also like to reflect on the amazing strengths of trans people: our ability to survive, our courage, our resilience, our ability to speak out and tell the truth about our lives and build our allies across society and community.

Re allies, it would seem a total natural that trans/gender diverse and people who work in the sex industry would be allies, given there are a high proportion of trans peeps working in the industry. At times, however, trans people may have been unduly influenced by society’s general sex negativity, including negativity to those working in the sex industry. I think it is incredibly pleasing to see this shifting and that there is greater co-operation between those working in the sex industry, both cis and trans, and trans generally.

I can report that this reached a new high over in Melbourne, albeit in a time of challenge, in early 2011. At a conference called Feminist Futures, both trans and workers were extremely concerned about the presence of well known so-called radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys and her allies. Everyone came together to ensure monitoring of discussions in the program and to provide a safe space outside of the conference building, among other measures. Whether by our karma or other reasons, Sheila decided not to be officially involved in the conference – no loss. If I can add one moment of humour on this serious occasion, there was some irony in the announcement that “Sheila Jeffreys pulls out.” Interestingly, she did attend as a sort of observer to some of the workshops and seemed to listen. Whether anything shifted or not we will never know. Main outcome: I felt bond between trans and those working in the sex industry was stronger than before.

As we get some progress for trans people with what I call the macro or big-picture advances such as federal equal opportunity law and the sex and gender guidelines – noting there is still much to happen - there will be a shift to what I call the micro issues within trans. At a fantastic forum on intersex, trans and gender diverse youth health in Geelong last month, Cannon O’Saurus, a young trans person who is also President of Ygender, a trans and gender diverse youth group in Victoria, made an important comment. Cannon reminded us to remember the “margins within the margins” including regional/rural, youth, non-binary and culturally and linguistically diverse trans people – among others. I believe it would be appropriate to consider trans people working in the sex industry as possibly one of those specific groups as well. I would take this opportunity to say I would be only too willing to communicate with those working in the industry to ensure those specific needs are included in policy. The bonds that arose from a time of adversity now need to become proactive bonds.

I said I would mention someone who left us of natural causes. I want to close by mentioning a trans woman who sadly left us in 2004 for non-trans health reasons, being Jenny Phillips. Jenny was hugely involved in Victoria’s GLBT Anti-Violence Project and was also an editor of Seahorse Club of Victoria’s magazine, the Seahorse Times. At the end of every column she wrote she quoted 2 lines from the song, sung by John Farnham and written by Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder and Chris Thompson being “You’re the Voice.”

We're not gonna sit in silence
We're not gonna live with fear

I agree Jenny ! We will stand and speak and we will live with courage. We will courageously seek out allies of all sorts and thereby paint into a corner those who would oppose us and our rights, be we trans, people working in the sex industry or both. Every person is entitled to live authentically in line with their soul and we are all people too.

Peace and strength to all

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