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How to be a trans ally- what are your list of dos and don’ts? Could you share some positive examples? Or perhaps a personal one that might be positive or negative that left an impact on you?
I think being a good ally, means being a kind and sensitive person. Someone who takes care in communicating and thinks about what language they are using. Someone who is open minded and up for always learning, but not using a trans person as the source of all information to learn from Just try to act normal and if you make a little mistake by using the wrong name or pronoun, then just move on and maybe reflect on what was said or privately just say sorry to the person. Don’t make a big show about it because it can be more stressful if that happens. Another really helpful thing that an ally did for me when my gender presentation wasn’t always read as male, was to make it really clear to a group that I was male identified by using the words ‘he’ and ‘him’ alot when referring to me.
Some transgender people have expressed that others interpret their disclosure of trans status as an invitation to ask personal or inappropriate questions. What is your perspective on this, especially considering how you describe yourself?
Yeah this is true. Because disclosing is a really personal thing it can open up situations where it is interpreted as sign of mutual trust and respect, but it isn’t always the case. Disclosing can sometimes be about sharing some personal information for the purpose of generating a mutual discussion, but it can also be about making sure that someone is aware and informed with no desire to continue talking or asking questions. I think it is polite and appropriate to check in with the trans person if they are ok with being asked questions, or maybe even not asking any questions and going to do research privately. It can be tiring to be asked so many questions and it can be a really vulnerable experience. I think it usually comes from a place of good will and good intention, but we just need to be mindful of what it would feel like to be under the microscope.
What has been your experience navigating the health system as a Transman? Have you experienced discrimination or violence of any kind, and how have you responded to this?
The health system in Australia definitely needs improvement, especially with having access to hormones and surgery in public hospitals. Surgery is so expensive. It is tens of thousands of dollars for some people. This is inaccessible for many people and some people desperately need medical intervention to be able to be themselves and feel better about who they are. Also, sometimes it can be a really strict system about what treatment and financial rebates some people can and can’t get based on their sex listed with Medicare. It can feel like overcoming an intense obstacle course. Anyway, it is still pretty good that we have Medicare and I hope that we get to keep it with our new Government!
I’ve experienced a lot of discrimination, some direct and some indirect. I’ve been harassed by employers before who behaved really inappropriately and asked horrible questions. I have also been physically assaulted by random strangers, which was a really traumatic experience. What is really telling though is that I don’t really experience this anymore. Because now I look like a man as per what society deems to be what a man should look like. So for people who are more easily identified as trans or queer or different, they actually experience a disproportionate level of harassment, violence and discrimination. Especially trans women and gender queer people.
Further to this, have you had trouble navigating other systems, such as the legal system as a Transman, and how much do you think laws and policies impact on gender or sexual expression?
Laws and policies impact everything. But laws and policies reflect social attitudes, advocacy, research, activism and many other things. So it can be a slow process to enact social change at a policy level. But it is the policy platform that governs how we are treated and what kind of access we have to services. Equal opportunity and human rights laws are really important because they aim to protect our freedom of expression to be who we are.
You are strong advocate for challenging traditional gender norms and hetereonormative behaviour; how have you challenged these structures in the past and how would you encourage people to continue to do this?
So hetereonormative behaviours are the socially constructed concepts that there is a right way to be and that the way to be is to be heterosexual and usually fall within a binary system of male and female and to follow the tradition of getting married in a monogamous relationship and having children. This is the main story we are fed all throughout our lives. I guess I have personally challenged that by being a trans person, but actually I am really just a guy, so I don’t think being trans is that much of a challenge to that. But I am a queer person who has an open relationship and I am not ashamed of pursuing my sexual interests and desires. It is totally healthy to do this! I also think a lot about every decision I make and how I relate to people.
What do you think the big issues are for young people today in regards to sexual expression; sexual health and HIV?
I think that some people, possible young people haven’t been around people living with AIDS or HIV. So they may not be aware that it is still something we need to prevent. We need to make sure we are having safe sex, to not only prevent HIV, but also a range of other STI’s that we can contract from having skin to skin contact. Always use a barrier!
Young people under the age of 18 who use their smartphones a lot and get into sexting, need to be aware that to take nude or part nude photos or videos of themselves or others and then texting those photos around is a really dangerous thing to do. We can’t always trust that the people who receive the photos are not going to share them around to others or put them on the internet. Also, it is considered to be distributing child pornography, so please be aware of this. A fun thing to do can lead to some not very fun outcomes. Victoria Legal Aid had a cool app to download to find out more about consent and your rights, please download it and check it out! It is called ‘Below the Belt’.
What would you say to our young audience or anyone who wanted to become a leader or speak up about something they feel passionate about but feel they won’t be taken seriously or not sure how to go about this?
First of all, go you! Yes if you feel passionate about something and want people to listen, then make that happen. There are lots of ways, but asking to set up meetings with local politicians and youth organisations is a good start. Talk to friends about how you feel and rally together to approach the issue as a group. Work out what the key issues are and how to best communicate them with an ideal outcome. Get partners on board to build solidarity. Use social media, hit the streets, write zines and share the word. Contact local media outlets and try and get your campaign a bit of spoltlight. Research other community and advocacy groups who work in similar areas and set up meetings to network.
What’s coming up for you that our audience would be interested in, or how we can support you?
On May 16th it is the launch of a youth project I am working on with Transgender Victoria and Y Gender. We are launching it in Werribee at Wyndham City Council. It is called ‘What makes an Ally?’. It is an exciting new project which will be Victorian wide and we will be working with amazing trans and gender diverse young people to create a campaign on how to build positive and healthy relationships with our allies. It will also be a campaign that will encourage allies to step up and stand out in positive ways. Please get involved if you are keen. Come to the launch on Friday the 16th at 1pm if you can too!
Keep a look out for more details at the Transgender Victoria website: