Call for people to be better allies to trans and gender diverse communities

“Is there anyone here from Rio Tinto?” asked Nova Sobieralski as a small crowd gathered in Perth’s Cultural Centre to voice their support for the transgender community.

“How about Woodside? They are after all – the sponsors of Pride.” Sobieralski asked the crowd. Jokingly the convener of the Trans Liberation Rally answered their own question, “It’s almost like they want to sell their image to well-off Liberal queers without actually turning up to fight for our liberation.”

Following the Australian tour of British provocateur and self-described “women’s rights campaigner ” Kellie-Jay Keen, members of the local transgender community gathered to speak about what they needed to improve their lives, at a time when many are felling a growing hostility towards them in the media, and in some sections of society.

Keen, who isa also known online as Posie Parker, visited Perth a few weeks ago where her supporters were significantly outnumbered by trans rights protesters. As her Australian and New Zealand tour continued the atmosphere between her supporters and protesters became increasingly pugnacious.

At Keen’s Melbourne appearance a neo-Nazi group stood on the stairs adjacent to her Let Women Speak event and held derogatory signs up at the trans rights protesters before making Nazi salutes. At her Auckland event crowds pushed through barriers, Keen was doused with tomato juice, and she had to be escorted to safety by her security team and police.

The rally in the centre of Perth on a Saturday afternoon took a strikingly different tone to previous gatherings. A call for liberation. Liberation – a world that was at the centre of the gay rights movement in the 1970’s, shared in song by The Village People, liberation.

“What trans liberation really means is to be focused on the concrete material conditions that we live with every day.” Sobieralski said.

“As trans people we are massively over-represented in homeless populations. When we end up kicked out of home as young teenagers, we end up in an overly gendered housing system that has no care or reason to accommodate our needs.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one here who has spent the majority of their adult life couch surfing from place to place, never staying in the same house for more than six months, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has opened up their house to help other people who have been abused and kicked out of their homes.

“What we need is a world that says trans people are not a tiny minority that are not worth considering, but that trans people are a normal part of human diversity and our needs to be met within every service across the board – from housing to health care.”

Housing challenges, General Practitioner shortages, and doctors who turn away transgender clients are challenges often faced by transgender people according to Sobieralski.

Liam Gleeson shared his thoughts on how American politics was having a significant knock effect to the lives of transgender people around the globe, and his worry that many people were just ignorantly repeating right-wing attacks on transgender people.

“It’s important to say to those people who perpetuate the ideals of people like that, people like Posie Parker, and J.K Rowling, or any other reactionary, as well as the Liberal party – who are currently gearing up for the far-right vote – that we will not be sitting idlily and allowing them to spew their backwards views right into the minds of the populace.

Gleeson said there had to be a focus on not just a response from the transgender community, or the wider LGBTIQA+ community, but from the whole of society.

“We will have to stand together, and unite, and overcome this oppression through ignorance.”

Kate Salinger from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) spoke about the need for allies to stand up, a message she would repeat later in the day at a community photo shoot.

“Just because it’s trans rights that they’re fighting at the moment, doesn’t mean it won’t be women’s rights tomorrow. It’s starting here, but it won’t end here.” Salinger said, calling for allies to add their voices and visible support.

“We need them to stand up with us, we need them to stand up with love, because our super-power is love.”

Bridge Truell spoke about the support they got from the local community.

“I absolutely adore my community.” they said.  “I think so many of the problems that we do see in this right-wing rhetoric, in the words of those who try to oppress us, and trying to hide us, come from an idea of trying to paint the entire community with a single brush.

“I love the diversity in our community, and the people I’ve met in the trans community are some of the kindest, most beautiful, most creative, angriest, most talented, most wild, and at times – quietest people as well. That’s what a community looks like, people from all different walks of live coming together to fight our shared battles.”

One by one a succession of speakers shared their fears about the growing anti-trans rhetoric in society, but also their hopes for the future.

Closing off the event Nova Sobieralski said that there would have to be a lot more rallies before change was achieved, but they believed that real change could happen in the world.

Graeme Watson 

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