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International Transgender Day of Visibility 2017

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 30 Mar 2017

Each year on 31 March, the International Transgender Day of Visibility brings the trans and gender-diverse community and their friends, advocates and families together and offers them an important opportunity to publicly affirm and celebrate trans and gender-diverse people's lives, their stories and their contributions to our communities.

We have seen significant progress in the fight for rights and community acceptance for trans and gender-diverse people in recent years. Much of this progress has been due to the work of incredibly brave and diligent leaders working within their community—people like Georgie Stone, who is an inspiring young activist who was here in parliament this week when she presented a petition with more than 15,000 signatures calling for much-needed legal reforms allowing trans teens to access hormones without going through the court system; people like Sally Goldner, who is the first trans woman named to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for her longstanding work in the LGBTI community and her outstanding advocacy; and people like Brenda Appleton, who was inducted to the honour roll just a few weeks ago for her many years of groundbreaking work including the establishment of a peer-based mental health support service.

Leaders like Georgie, Sally and Brenda show us the power of public advocacy and visibility. Greater visibility and awareness lead to greater acceptance, and on this note I find it very encouraging that referrals to the Royal Children's Hospital gender service in Melbourne have increased dramatically over the last five years. In 2012, they had fewer than 20 new referrals. Last year there were 226 new referrals, and I understand that the service is on track to receive around 300 new referrals this year.

This increase is not happening because there are suddenly more trans people, and it is not happening because, to quote the rantings and ravings of the News Limited papers, the Safe Schools program has become 'a Trojan horse employed by Marxist and socialist-Left activists to force a radical lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex agenda on children and schools'. No, the rocketing increase in the number of kids presenting is because trans young people feel safer and more comfortable in coming forward to seek the medical assistance they need to proudly and happily live their lives as the people they truly are.

International Transgender Day of Visibility is a fantastic opportunity for trans and gender-diverse leaders and communities, allies and advocates to stand together. This solidarity is growing. I was thrilled to meet Tiwi Islander Sistergirls and Pacific Islander trans community members at this year's Mardi Gras. I hope that, as acceptance and visibility continues to grow in years to come, more and more diverse people and communities will join in the Mardi Gras celebration.

But unfortunately, despite these encouraging signs, there is still a long way to go. Just yesterday, I heard the heart-rending story of Archie, who was physically and verbally harassed and humiliated for wearing makeup on a night out in Melbourne. Archie said he was singled out by a guy in the street. He stopped all his mates to swear at him. After challenging him, Archie was then abused by the group of men for 15 minutes for 'starting a fight', 'not minding our own business' and 'taking things too seriously'. Archie continues by saying how later, at a bar, a stranger began propositioning the two women friends he was with, and he says: 'As I put my arms around them and said we weren't interested, he began to shout that he knew what I really wanted and that he'd be happy to bend over for me. We finally managed to get to the bar and as we waited in line, the people standing directly behind us openly speculated about my sexuality until one of them reassured the others that I "might not actually be gay".' Nobody's night out should be ruined and their safety compromised simply for being who they are, but sadly these types of incidents still occur.

I also acknowledge that there is work to be done to ensure diversity in who and what is 'visible.' Sadly, in mainstream discussions about trans rights in Australia, some voices are too often excluded, such as trans people of colour, trans refugees and asylum seekers, genderqueer people, gender-fluid people, brotherboys and sistergirls, and anyone who exists outside of the gender binary. To these communities and individuals, I give my heartfelt commitment to listen to you and learn from you about how to be a better ally. I want you to know: if you identify as a trans or gender-diverse person and feel that your voice is not being heard, please contact me, because I want to hear your story. Everybody has the right to be comfortable with their identity, to be safe and happy, and to be part of our community. International Transgender Day of Visibility is a chance to recognise progress, to congratulate communities and individuals working towards justice and equality, and to reflect upon how much more we as a community can do to make this happen.

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