Multi-faith leaders in Melbourne are coming together tonight in a show of support for the transgender community on ‘International Transgender Day of Remembrance’—a day where those who have lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence are commemorated.
Leaders from the Melbourne Inclusive Church, the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism and the Melbourne Buddhist Centre will be among a number of representatives who will vocalise their support for the trans community.
“It’s an opportunity for us to build bridges with faith communities,” Michelle Brooker from Transgender Victoria tells SBS, adding that the organisation decided an interfaith discussion was an appropriate way to mark the solemn event.
Faith leaders will be joined by trans and gender diverse members of their congregations who will discuss how their faith has supported them.
“I’m going to be talking about how my Buddhist faith has supported me on my journey and has helped me come out and continues to support me through meditation practices and practices of compassion to others,” Brooker says.
“Other people will be talking about how the Christian and Jewish faith supports them and their transgender community.
“I’m hoping to highlight to the transgender community that not all religions are against transgender people and faith can be such an important part in supporting you on your journey,” Brooker adds.
“It’s an opportunity for us to build bridges with faith communities".
Pastor Becky Bauer founded the Melbourne Inclusive Church six years ago—a Pentecostal church based in Reservoir that has a predominately (90 per cent) LGBT+ congregation.
Pastor Bauer tells SBS that she’s “acutely aware that a lot of the hurt in the trans community has unfortunately been caused by faith communities”.
“I think it’s really important to go and let them know that not all faith communities are like that and that they have support, sometimes in places they might not have realised.
“And just to be there with people and say, ‘We support this community fully’.”
Progressive Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black from the Leo Baeck Centre will also be speaking—he conducts naming ceremonies for members of his congregation after they’ve transitioned.
“I’m hoping transgender people can see that religion isn’t necessarily the enemy and that there are people within that community who draw strength from their religion," says Brooker.
"And that we need to approach other faith groups and get them to move to a situation where maybe they too could have a transgender naming ceremony!"
International Transgender Day of Remembrance
This year alone there have been 325 cases of reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. Since 2008, there’s been a total of 2,609 murders—with most of them occurring in Brazil, Mexico and the US, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring research project.
Brooker says those figures are an underestimate of murders that were motivated by transphobia.
“Simply because authorities don’t recognise people as being transgender or the potential motive of transphobia in many, many cases,” she tells SBS.
“We also use this day to remember those people who have taken their own lives and experienced self-harm in our community—as well as those who have been murdered internationally as a result of transphobia."
You can find more information about tonight’s event here, and if you need support, click here for resources available to Australia's LGBTQIA+ community.