TransFolk of WA & Pride WA provide update on Basil Zempilas

TransFolk of WA and Pride WA have published a statement on their interactions with Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas, following his statements on trans and gender diverse folks.

Both organisations sent a joint letter to the Lord Mayor last week, outlining concerns over the Lord Mayor’s comments, with reference to the City of Perth’s Code of Conduct, and inviting Zempilas to engage with community organisations and service providers to learn more about being an ally to LGBTQIA+ communities.

The update, signed by TransFolk of WA Chair Hunter Gurevich and Pride WA President Curtis Ward, shared details of both organisations’ interactions with the Lord Mayor and the City of Perth over the past week, and their hopes for the Lord Mayor’s future relationship with LGBTQIA+ communities.

Read the full statement below.

The Trans community and greater LGBTQI+ community in WA has weathered a cruel storm in the past week. It has been painful not only to hear the comments made by Mr Zempilas during his radio broadcast, but to hear them repeated endlessly in the media and the wider community, compounds the harm being done. We understand many within the community are angry, hurt, disappointed and feel betrayed. We know first-hand how such comments can be dangerous not only to individuals, but also to the health of our society, and therefore have no place in it.

We affirm your right to call for public officials and elected representatives to be held to account. We even understand the impetus to call for resignations. And we encourage you to maintain your right to be seen and heard.

It does feel justified to banish those who jeopardise our safety with their ignorance. However, if we do so, we lose the opportunity to engage and educate those who do not yet understand. We lose the opportunity to show the wider community that perspectives can change, and new allies can be won. We want Mr Zempilas to understand us and the community better, so we can cultivate a productive relationship that allows us to better provide for the LGBTQI+ community in Perth.

As organisations, we are here to advocate for you and to bring awareness about trans and gender diverse people, but also support each other and demonstrate the vibrancy, resilience and goodwill our communities contribute to society. To this end, we want to explain our perspective and our plans.

Last Monday, we met with the CEO of the City of Perth and Mr Zempilas regarding his comments. We conveyed the community’s sentiment that apologies are empty without action, which they have both acknowledged. As a very first step, Mr Zempilas and the City of Perth have committed to training delivered by TransFolk of WA, with other short- and longer-term suggestions currently under consideration by the City.

Both our organisations value our relationships with the City, and we are extremely gratified that both the Lord Mayor himself and the City have been so responsive and amenable to our suggestions. We feel these are extremely positive signs for a bright future in the City of Perth.

We wish to make clear that this is not about moving our presence from one city council to the next or speculation around funding driving our intentions, this is ONLY about engaging with education to bring about change and positive outcomes for our community. To paraphrase a community member this past week, our Community shouldn’t run from the fire when faced with adversity but run towards it.

We also wish to reiterate that the Lord Mayor’s comments should be no means condemn the entire City of Perth and its staff who have in the past been great supporters of our organisations and community.

We are not asking you to have faith in Mr Zempilas. We are not asking you to simply believe he is sorry and move on. But like you, we too will be watching him carefully over the coming weeks, months and across his tenure as Lord Mayor and hold him accountable for the change he wishes to make, both personally and professionally, while we assist him on this journey. We ask that as elected representatives of our communities that you place your trust in us in guiding this situation to a better place.

Finally, we remind you that vandalism and harassment is not productive. Members of the LGBTQI+ community work in the city of Perth. The wider community is watching. The last thing we want is for any more people in the community to be victimised, the media to discredit us or the wider community to turn on us. We affirm your right to express your rage and frustration, but respectfully request that it is channelled in a way that moves the conversation and the community forward together.

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