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Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 28 Nov 2016

Like so many Australians, I have been appalled by the rise of Donald Trump and the fear and hatred that has accompanied him. The positions that he has taken, especially towards minorities, are simply scary. Perhaps the worst thing is that it is something we are now seeing creeping into the major parties in Australia.

Last Sunday, Transgender Day of Remembrance, was a day for love to fight back. Like many minority groups, the transgender community fears a backlash once the reality TV host becomes President. For example, Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, has a worrying history of opposing LGBTIQ rights, including the unsettling promise to 'resolve' the issue of bathrooms for transgender people. I shudder to think what 'resolve' actually means.

So the transgender community has come together. The Trans Relief Project in the US is crowdfunding to assist trans people in updating their identity documents because of fears it will become a lot harder to do this once Trump is inaugurated on 20 January. The hashtag #translawhelp has brought lawyers together with transgender people to do the same thing.

The fears that create the need for these movements, sadly, are not unfounded. The everyday discrimination against transgender people, both here and in the US, is enough to have anyone watching their back. Across the world, it is estimated that one transgender person is murdered every 29 hours. One Australian survey found that 41 per cent of male-identifying respondents and 28 per cent of female-identifying respondents had experienced physical violence within a same-sex intimate relationship.

When acts of violence and hate towards transgender people are so prevalent, it is not surprising that mental health issues are sky high. beyondblue's 2014 report From blues to rainbows, which went into the health and wellbeing of young gender-diverse and transgender people, found that almost half of the people surveyed had experienced depression, and up to 38 per cent had had suicidal thoughts.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to acknowledge and to remember those we have lost, to take stock of where we are and to set out a path for the way forward. The question for Australia is how to tackle transphobia and to make sure that we celebrate diversity, including gender diversity, as a strength of our society. For me, this is deeply personal. My partner, Penny, came out as trans almost 20 years ago. She has been very fortunate to have strong support networks. We were blessed to have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary earlier this year. But others are not so lucky.

The Greens are committed to making it easier and safer for trans people to thrive, with access to support services and health treatments they require. One step we can take in this place is to reduce the legal hurdles for young trans people to access the hormone treatment they need. Australia is the only country in the world where young trans people have to go to the Family Court to get approval for hormones, which can cost up to $30,000 and take several crucial years. As the parent of one young trans person said in the gathering that we had here in February earlier this year, 'The court process is slow but biology is fast.'

We can also rally around the Safe Schools Coalition. The attacks on this program, which is proven to reduce the discrimination of LGBTIQ young people, have been nothing short of a disgrace. I am very pleased to see that the Salvation Army came out in support of the Safe Schools program last week.

In all of our lives we can make sure that our families, our friends, our colleagues and even strangers on the street feel welcome and that we call out bigotry and hatred when we see it. No-one deserves to walk down the street and to fear for their lives just because of who they are. This is why Transgender Day of Remembrance is so important and why it is so important to recognise that the hatred that is encouraged by the populist movements of Trump, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and Pauline Hanson must be countered with genuine steps to bring our community together, to reduce discrimination and to trump hate. 

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