You may know of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, but how well do you know the range of people that make up the trans and gender diverse community? Sally Goldner from Transgender Victoria explains.
As someone who has been involved in the trans and gender diverse (TGD) community for a long time, it is really exciting to see the rapid increase in interest and understanding in this area over the past three years. And while people like Caitlyn Jenner have been in the spotlight, there is a whole range of diversity across the kaleidoscope of TGD people. And I sometimes wonder how visible all of TGD is.
Caitlyn is someone who was recorded male at birth, identifies as female, and uses the term trans woman. My guess is people are aware of other prominent people like Cate McGregor and Laverne Cox, whose stories have similarities with Caitlyn’s. But what if I asked people to name someone recorded female at birth who identifies as male (often called trans men or trans masculine identified, among other terms)? There might be head-scratching, needing a coffee, and then people might say: “Sonny and Cher’s child?” That’s right. Chaz Bono, who was on the USA version on 'Dancing with the Stars' in 2011, gave many trans men a sense of connectedness. On an Australian level, 2011 was a good year in that Paige Phoenix was on The X Factor - the show's first openly transsexual contestant. But that’s kind of where it ends – and I think we need more stories to increase visibility in this specific area.
It's really important, in a world that is often very “either/or”, to remember there can be both, neither and everything
People might ask why I mention trans and gender diverse. Two pieces of Australian research released over the past year found up to a third of the TGD kaleidoscope (around 2.5 per cent of the overall population) identify as other than male or female. That's why it's really important, in a world that is often very “either/or”, to remember there can be both, neither and everything - that is, other than the “binary” of male or female. Ruby Rose uses the term gender fluid, and Miley Cyrus is also reported as identifying as gender fluid. There is a big need for inclusivity here - saying all genders not both genders and having inclusive forms.
Other aspects to consider include at what age someone discloses about themselves. There can be very different situations to face for a young TGD person - such as school and home life - compared to a middle cohort or senior coming out at work and often with a partner and/or children. And the older TGD people may have seen and incurred a lot of discrimination, often creating a lot of emotional baggage. That's not to say these issues are impossible – the various Safe Schools organisations do great work in that area and many employers can tap into resources.
In a country like Australia with great cultural and linguistic diversity, some cultural backgrounds are often not aware of issues like TGD and sexual orientation at all. Happily, people are speaking out, such as young trans man of Vietnamese origin, Erik Lock, a member of Ygender. On a similar note, it’s great to see people like Starlady and Kai Clancy give visibility to original inhabitants, including sistergirls and brotherboys - which also taps into issues for the TGD community across regional, rural and remote areas.
And all of that is just for starters!
So while TGD often face similar issues - finding inclusive health care, having accurate documentation - it’s important to note that we are everywhere and often face different issues too.
Sally Goldner is Executive Director of Transgender Victoria.