Why I validate non – binary people

Non - binary gender symbol
Image: iStock

 

July 14 was Gender Non – Binary Day.

 

Gender non – binary is a blanket term for people who don’t identify exclusively as male or female. Some don’t identify with a gender at all (agender).

Statistics and erasure

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) first collected data that to include gender non – binary people in 2016. They found that approximately 35% of those who indicated that they were transgender also indicated that they were gender non – binary.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 25 – 35% of transgender people identify as non – binary.

Despite this, I’ve been disheartened at how many people, both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community invalidate non – binary identities. American YouTuber, who’s also trans, Blaire White is one of those people, arguing that there is only male and female. Sydney Herald columnist, Cate Mcgregor argued the same thing when she condemned Safe Schools in 2016 (she has since changed her view on the program).

Why does this matter?

If you read anything about the struggle of bisexual people, you’ll know that they are over represented in hate crime and donestic violence statistics. This is at the very least, exacerbated by erasure and not being believed, or, the other extreme, fetishised. I’ve written that asexual women in particular are often victins of harassment and sexual assault because they aren’t believed.

According to Stonewall UK, both binary and non – binary trans people have experienced a hate crime within a twelve month period, (41% and 31% respectively).

  • 28% of trans people reported being victims of domestic violence
  • Roughly 12% (1 in 8) trans people reported physical attacks at work by colleagues
  • 25% of trans people have also experienced homelessness
  • 41% of trans people have experienced hate crimes

These statistics are horrible. All people, regardless of gender identity or any other factor, should be able to feel safe at work, in public and at home.

Most importantly, the rate of homelessness and hate crime highlight the need for law enforcement and shelter operators to be inclusive and supportive of binary and non – binary trans people so people can find safety and justice. I’m pretty sure I’ve wrote in the past that s study in the US revealed that both binary and non – binary homeless trans people often find it very difficult to find appropriate homeless shelters that align with their identity and where they are accepted and feel safe. Binary trans people are often rejected by services that cater to their gender, while non – binary people often don’t have any services or shelters available for them at all.

 

Gender non – binary and asexuality

Asexuality flag in shape of heart
Image iSock

The reason why I feel the need to defend and validate gender non – binary people is it wasn’t that long ago that asexual people were misunderstood, not believed and ridiculed. In 2014, 2GB’s Steve Price was criticised for his comments about asexuality on The Project such as ‘try harder’ and ‘I find that [being asexual] ridiculous’. I remember watching the repeat of that segment and was quite offended by what I heard. Another panellist also sarcastically spread misinformation about asexual people. 

While The Morning Show wasn’t as harsh in talking about asexuality, misinformation  was spread and it wasn’t taken seriously.

Asexual invisibility has had more harmful consequences than just ridicule. In her book An Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, author and asexual activist Julie Sondra Decker highlighted discrimination and even sexual harassment and assault that asexual people face. She cited a study where a number of landlords admitted that they would likely reject applications from asexuals who wanted to rent their property. Asexual people were looked at less favourbly than gays or lesbians.

Everyone should be able to live freely, safely and without fear. I believe that for minorities, visibility and validation contributes that. It’s the first step for the whole LGBTQ+ community to be able to access services that most people take for granted.

To trans/ non – binary people, what have been your experiences? Have you found it hard to access services you needed? How have your experiences been at work and oublic? Feel free to share your experiences below.

 

 

Advertisements

In the wake of IDAHOBIT, thank you, but keep fighting

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi – phobia, Intersexism and trans – phobia. (IDAHOBIT). 17 May 1990 was the day when the World Health Organisation officially declassified homosexuality as a mental qaillness.

I said about a year ago about how IDAHOBIT was a great day for the LGBTQ+ community to show appreciation for those who have stood by us, fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and stood by LGBTQ+ people who are in distress. This is still close to my heart. Thank you again for everyone who has been a part of making our lives a little bit easier, especially last year during the same – sex marriage postal survey debate.

But, of course , the work is not done; not here and not around the world. Currently,  seventy – four countries still outlaw homosexuality, some of where the death penalty can be carried out for same – sex relations.

 

The Australian LGBTQ+ community won a major battle last year; same – sex marriage finally came legal after 61.6% of survey participants agreed that same – sex couples should be able to marry. The Act now states that two people can marry, with no mention of sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. This is monumental.

The battle for the right to marry for LGBTQ+ people is won. Where we still need to be vigilant is the reversal of anti – discrimination laws. Last year, there was discussion about whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples who want to marry on the grounds of faith or conviction. I have expressed numerous times how I think this is a potential slippery slope and how there is no guarantee that it’ll only be cake bakers or other wedding suppliers that will be exempt, but also teachers, other educators, counsellors, psychologists, etc like it has in parts of the US. I plead for our allies to be vigilant about that and, if it comes up, to vocally protest against it.

I still feel strongly about LGBTQ+ students being supported in schools. If not through Safe Schools, I don’t think it would hurt to have another program aimed at tackling homophobia, bi – phobia and trans – phobia etc. As I’ve said before in the context of education and AFL’s Pride Roun, I really don’t think it’s enough for students to have to assume that they are not at risk of being rejected. It needs to be made obvious. The voices in the head of someone even questioning their sexuality can make one assume the worst; that they won’t be accepted, that they deserve to be bullied, etc.

Not all advocacy is political either. Increasingly, the issue of proper LGBTQ+ visibility in the media and pop culture comes up. There are still issues with misrepresentation or invisibility, especially of bisexual people. Negative stereotypes about bisexual and pansexual people still persist and have negative consequences on their mental health.

While things are improving for asexual people,including visbility, things can still improve. For starters, it would be great if people would get to know what asexuality is. Allow people to define their own sexuality and/ or relationships, without resorting to comments that it’s a phase, etc, (often it’s not).

 

The West have made great strides in LGBTQ+ rights. I am really hopeful, although cautious, about the future. The world as a whole has a long, long way to go. Hopefully IDAHOBIT in the future can bribg positive change where it’s needed.

Have you, your school or workplace done anything for IDAHOBIT? Also, what do you think can improve for LGBTQ+ people?

 

Cate Mcgregor changes stance on Safe Schools

Screenshot ‘AUstralian article: ‘I was wrong abou5 Safe Schools’

Cricket commentator and former Lieutenant Colonel, Cate Mcgregor, has denounced and apologised for her opposition to the controversial Safe Schools program last year. Mcgregor had received backlash from LGBTQ media and community organisations after opposing Safe Schools, when she accused the founder Roz Ward as being a ‘Trotskyite’.

Mcgregor claimed that her mind changed after hearing testimonies about how Safe Schools had helped, and possibly saved, transgender children.

She has received some backlash from some people for her stance.

Mcgregor is free to change her mind. And to be honest, I think there was a lot of scaremongering about Safe Schools. Frankly, I think a lot of that was fueled by homophobia and trans – phobia.

I remember finding and reading through the All of Us online. While I didn’t agree with everything that I read (I didn’t see the point in the role – playing of being sixteen and in a same – sex relationship when the children were about thirteen/ fourteen), but, there was good in it. I did like the way that the resource went beyond the  gay/ straight dichotomy.

I also liked the idea of the videos featuring LGBTI teens. I think that would’ve been a good way to tear down stigma and negative stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people. I think there could have been a bit more on those who are questioning and unsure of their orientation.

I hoped that Safe Schools would start a conversation LGBTQ+ students and how they can be supported. I hoped that it would bring assurance to LGBTQ+ students who were being bullied or struggling to accept themselves. I firmly believe that acceptance and non – judgement can’t be merely implied. It needs to be explicit. Negative voices and doubt need to be confirmed wrong. It would be great for teachers, Student Advisers, School Counsellors and other support staff to initiate and welcome discussion, rather than students having to find the courage to initiate it, when, all too often, fear of rejection is all too real.

I liked the way that asexuality was mentioned  in the resources. This could lessen the alienation that so many young asexual people go through.

 

Then, it all went to hell in a  hand basket.  A damning video circulated the internet of a conference with Roz Ward as speaker. It exposed the ‘truth’ about the Safe Schools program; that it wasn’t an anti – bullying program, but a pro – LGBT program. Conservatives lapped this up and there was increasing pressure for State governments to can the program.

Then, during last year’s same – sex marriage debate, the real smear campaign started. Not only were opponents of Safe Schools screaming about ‘gender fluidity’ and ‘penis tucking’, there were also accusations that children, some who were in primary school, were modelling plasticine into vulvas and kids being taught about sex toys and masturbation. The Department of Education and supporters of Safe Schools, including former Australian Medical Association President, Kerryn Phelps. vehemently denied the claims. I had never read anything to suggest such things. To be honest, I can’t help but think that tactic was used by some to imply a link between LGBTQ+ people and paedophilia.

 

Personally, I don’t know whether Safe Schools should be modified, stay 5he same, or just go. But I DO knpw that LGBTQ+ students. They should feel safe, cared for and free from judgement. Victims of homophobia, trans – phobia, etc need to be confident that if they speak out, that they will ne supported and that such behaviour will not be tolerated by anyone.

Critics of Safe Schools keep saying that no child should be bullied. I agree. And LGBTQ+ students should be accepted and supported, a factor that people seem to want to swerve away from.

 

My take on the religious freedom debate after same – sex marriage

open book
Image: Pexels

The inquiry into religious freedom after the legalisation of same sex marriage in Australia still rages on. Advocacy group just.equal has been able to access and upload PDF files both for and against more  so-called “religious freedom”. Here’s what I think.

While I don’t think that churches or other worship leaders should be forced to conduct same – sex marriage (which I thought was never a problem anyway), I am suspicious of calls for further extensions.

It’s all sounds really good and gentle. So you’re someone who wants to deny services to a same – sex couple wanting to get married? Then you lose business. Sounds fair, right? And everyone else should be able to exercise their conscience, right? Well, who, exactly, should be able to ‘exercise their conscience? Florists? Bakers?… Doctors? Pediatricians?

This is what I fear. And my fears aren’t completely baseless. In Tennessee, for example, it’s legal for mental health workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds. In Michigan, just before same – sex marriage was law nationwide, a pediatrician refused to see a toddler because she was raised by same – sex married parents. That was legal, by the way.

I’ve seen comments on articles and social media that that won’t happen here. They argue that people should be able to refuse to cater for a same – sex wedding. Nothing else.

Yeah. For now.

Let’s get one thing straight (no pun intended). These people who are asking for extensions in ‘religious freedom’ are asking for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Do you think that a baker will refuse to bake a cake for a couple that is getting remarried after a divorce? For some reason, I doubt it.

‘Religious freedom’ extensions are asking for the freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. I wish journalists and conservatives in general would just admit that. If you don’t want to work for or cater LGBTQ+ people, then don’t work in the business or community services sector. Frankly, it’s that simple.

 

Thing is, I’m not convinced that it’ll stop at catering for weddings. If I did, I may have some sympathy for those arguing for it (I actually did once).

LGBTQ+ people have already had their lives debated endlessly for months in the lead up to same – sex marriage. Some were triggered with homophobic and transphobic abuse, which they thought they’d left behind. And now, people want the right to ‘other’ them… again.

Think about this another way.

You’re LGBTQ+. You’ve ummed and aaahed, fretted and dreaded coming out to your family, friends, church, workmates, etc due to fear of being rejected. This is also hard for young people who are merely questioning their sexuality, (believe me, I know). Unfortunately, for too many young LGBTQ+ people, their fears are realised and they are ostracised from loved ones, abused in their faith communities, kicked out of home, and sometimes, physically abused. Just imagine, you’re LGBTQ+ fret about telling your friends, family and faith community and your worse fears are confirmed. Your parents kick you out. A friend who you thought you could trust betrays or rejects you. You’re rejected by your faith community, unless you go through ‘conversion therapy’. You do the whole lot: prayer, exorcism, fasting. Nothing changes. You feel like you’ve ‘failed’. The cycle starts again, until you break. You may get your life on track after years of therapy, soul work and immense internal healing.

Years later, you meet the love of your life. You want to spend the rest of your lives together and decide to do that officially through marriage. You and your partner go through all the preparations. You come to planning your cake… then, you hit a brick wall. The baker refuses to make it on religious grounds. All your past comes back to haunt you. The rejection of your family, your friends, your colleagues.

 

Lastly, what peeves me off to no end is the reason why people are arguing this. And, no it’s not religion. It’s because they can’t see LGBTQ+ people as people. They see them as pornified stereotypes. Go online and see what people who are against LGBTQ+ couples say; that they are ‘practising homosexuals’. References to anal sex, etc. See what I’m getting at? They immediately put their head in the gutter and refer to LGBTQ+ people as ‘acts’ that they imagine they do. How icky is that?! And dangerous. I really believe that is the reason why hate crime against LGBTQ+ people occurs around the world. Get your head out of the gutter!!!! The couple asked for a cake, not for you to participate in a brothel!

There is another solution. Let businesses be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, but they should have to advertise it. Both on their premises and all their advertisements both in traditional and social media. If there is a backlash and they go bust, it’s their fault. But don’t allow them to drag LGBTQ+ people along, only to crush their dreams.

And, to those politicians who want this ‘right’ to be enshrined, don’t you DARE extend anti – discrimination laws any further. As many people on sofial media have said, last year, Australia voted for less discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, not more.

 

What do you think of the enqiry

About allies

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

I thought what an ally was was common knowledge. Maybe it’s only within sections of the LGBTQ+ community.

Apparently, not everyone does, according to what I heard last night on 2GB.

According to Human Rights Campaign, an ally is:

… someone who is supportive of LGBT people. It encompasses non – LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other.

So, that’s it. An ally is someone who is supportive of LGBTQ+ people. Pretty simple. Allies are crucial to the LGBTQ+ community and it’d be great if we could all support each other: cis – gender people standing up for trans people, etc.

 

When you have a habit of catastrophising and always thinking the worse, having people I can be myself around is really important. It’s crucial really. I think we owe a debt to those who supported us during the same – sex marriage debate last year. We’re also going to need them to make sure rights of LGBTQ+, particularly anti – discrimination protections, are not watered down.

At least six out of the seven million who voted in favour of same – sex marriage last year would have been straight. That’s over six million people who think that LGBTQ+ people should be free to love and have that love recognised like straight couples under Australian law. This is huge.

There were media personalities who were great allies during the campaign. These included Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman and the panel on The Project. No, they aren’t perfect, (the Margaret Court “interview” was a train wreck, in my opinion and what Freedman said about Josh Manuatu on Twitter in 2016 was uncalled for). But they lent their voices to support members of the LGBTQ+ community who were calling for change to marriage laws to include LGBTQ+ people (now sex nor gender is a determining factor of who can get married in the law). Paul Murray from Sky’s Paul Murray Live was also a great ally. He consistently (more than others in the media, I’ve got to say), called out extremists in the “No” campaign, as well as calling out those on the “Yes” side.

These people, including some in my personal life, made the campaign a tiny bit more bearable.

Allies were also great before the same – sex marriage debate took full swing. Family and friends I’ve come out to have been awesome. One of them was really, really sweet. It was great to know that our relationship wouldn’t be affected negatively in any way. It’s great to know you’re unconditionally loved by them. It’s also great that most of these people are open about their support.

That’s what I’d say to allies. If you support the LGBTQ+ community, if you can, please be open about it. Let LGBTQ+ people in your life know that they are safe to be themselves around you. We’re not mind readers. For those who are, I love you.

What does ally mean to you? What do you want any allies to know? Leave your thoughts below in the comments. 

 

 

‘Yes’ won, so let’s stop the abuse

gay wedding cake with couple, aerial view of Australia
Images: iStock

December 7 was a historical day for Australia’s LGBTQ+ community. The Bill to legalise same – sex marriage passed the House of Representatives in a landslide.

January 9, 2018 is to be the day when same – sex couples can start registering their marriages, (excluding one special and sad circumstance).

We have won. But has love won? Daily Telegraph, news.com.au columnist and Studio Ten host, Joe Hildebrand has slammed  some ‘Yes’ voters for using the victory as an excuse to bully prominent ‘No” campaigners.

I agree with his assessment.

Australian LGBTQ+  won the opportunity to marry the person that they love. Yes, it was a hard battle. It was taxing. It did see many in the LGBTQ+ distressed. Counselors, including at Lifeline, saw a spike in the calls for help during the debate. Unfortunately, a number of LGBTQ+ people felt let down when finding out family members voted “no”. I won’t got into all the horror stories I’ve read about the tactics of some of the “No” campaigners.

However, despite all the the antics of some “Yes” campaigners and — dare I say it — scaremongering from the “No” camp, 61.6% of those who chose to participate in the voluntary survey decided that LGBTQ+ people can marry the person they love. Most of those seven million did not have a personal stake in the fight. They weren’t fighting for their rights. They chose to fight on behalf of many LGBTQ+ people. We can’t take this for granted!

The 61.6% result was better than what I expected. I thought it would make fifty per – cent, if lucky, or just under. I read comments on blogs about how people changed their vote because of the disgusting behaviour of some of the “Yes” campaigners. And, “No” campaigners and other skeptics of same – sex marriage, exposed that as much as they could.

Now, despite the antics of some of the “Yes” campaigners and scaremongering of the “No”, about 7 million Australians agreed that same – sex couples should be forwarded the right to marry. This is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community. About 5 million still oppose, or were scared off voting “Yes”. We shouldn’t treat them appallingly. In our victory in another step towards LGBTQ+ rights, let’s be civil towards opponents, even though some of our scars may not have fully healed. Let’s use this opportunity to reach out to our family members and friends who did vote “no” and be the first to build bridges.

 

On social media, STOP the abuse! (CW: cyber – abuse, coarse language)

 

This does NOT, I repeat, NOT represent the LGBTQ+ community or their supporters as a whole. But this vile minority will no doubt be used to prevent further rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people. Or worse, it will be used to demand a backpedal of existing rights and protections.

Final thought: These tweets, and probably more examples I haven’t yet stumbled upon), are nothing more than blatant hypocrisy. They scream “love is love”, then abuse opponents. I know many people have been hurt by the vote process. It’s been hard and taxing emotionally. I get it. Frankly, I felt it. But let’s use this time to all heal, rather than inflict more wounds.

Same – sex marriage is won. My hopes for the future

D5ED582A-D349-49C2-8E65-BA6091F0DB33
Images: iStock

It’s happened. The Upper House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for legalising same – sex marriage on Thursday. There were celebrations and tears across the nation.

61.6% of eligible voters that decided to take part in the postal survey made the decision that people in same – sex relationships should be able to marry. This is quite an optimistic result. It has made me positive for the Australian LGBTQ+ community in the future.

 

Over seven million people believe people in same – sex relationships should be treated legally as those in opposite – sex relationships. They have the choice to make that commitment.

So, what does this mean for young people who are yet to recognise their sexuality or those who have been previously married (in a straight relationship), but find themselves in love with someone of the same sex? Will it easier to admit their same – sex attraction, without fear of retaliation from those who they care about?

The extremes of the ‘Yes’ campaign were right in one sense. This does go beyond marriage for same – sex couples. It should. Here me out and I’ll explain what I mean. My hope is that with this embrace of same – sex couples, that other members of the LGBTQ+ community waill also be embraced – that bisexual and asexual people will be believed and safe. That bisexual men are believed. That transgender, including non – binary people feel safe to come out and express their gender identity. I hope that intersex people will be granted the right to be autonomous and have a voice in what happens to their bodies medically, rather than being forced into having invasive surgeries without their informed consent.

I hope that schools become safer places for LGBTQ+ students and their families. I hope that anti – LGBTQ+ bullying will not be tolerated and that victims don’t have to doubt whether they should speak out in fear of further attacks or rejection from family, school staff, or peers.

I hope that asexual people will be acknowledged in school. I hope that when there is talk about sexuality, there is a separation between sexual and romantic orientation, allowing potentially asexual students the ability to experience their romantic attractions (if they have any), without the worry or confusion.

 

Even though the process was painful for many in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope the vote showed that many non – LGBTQ+ people are willing to treat us like people, not outrageous stereotypes or caricatures. I hope that this means that lesbians and bisexual women are not treated or viewed as a porn fantasy. I hope this means that gay and bi men aren’t negatively stereotyped and attacked because they are not “masculine” enough.

My guess is that over seven million people didn’t buy into the paranoia that gays were out to get kids, or to turn them gay, or that transgender people (especially transwomen) are predators. Like the general population, the vast majority aren’t!

 

So, here’s to love. Here’s to acceptance. And, most importantly, here’s to LGBTQ+ people being free to be who they are without fear.