Transgender Remembrance Day Is An Opportunity For Love To Trump Hate

For me, this is deeply personal.

18/11/2016 2:38 PM AEDT | Updated 18/11/2016 2:41 PM AEDT
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"Like many minority groups, the transgender community fears a backlash once the reality TV host becomes president."

In any moment of history when hate appears to win, there are defining moments when love fights back. The success of Donald Trump is undoubtedly caused by the fear his rhetoric invokes, something we now see creeping into the major parties in Australia. But Sunday -- Transgender Remembrance Day -- is an opportunity for love to fight back.

Like so many in Australia and around the world, I was shell-shocked by the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The positions he has taken, especially towards minorities, are simply scary. Whether you're a person of colour, a Muslim person, an LGBTIQ person, a person with a disability, a woman or even just an ally, there has probably been a moment in the last few months when you have shaken your head and wondered how we got to this point in history.

But perhaps even scarier is his unpredictability. Like when he said "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have an abortion. He may have reversed his position just two hours later, but how much damage was done in that time?

It is the feeling that we just don't know what he is capable of.

When the results became clear, my first thought was that our response has to be grounded in community, empowering people and overcoming hate with love. And that is exactly what the transgender community and its allies in the US are doing.

Like many minority groups, the transgender community fears a backlash once the reality TV host becomes president. While Trump unexpectedly backed the right of people to choose whichever bathroom they feel comfortable with, his 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.

The unending contradictions are distressing. So the community has come together through the hashtag #TransLawHelp. This has brought together lawyers with transgender people to enable people to change their gender on official documents before Trump is inaugurated on 20 January.

There have not been any explicit threats to prevent people from making this change, but such is the fear on the ground right now. And the fear is not unfounded. The everyday discrimination against transgender people, both here and the US, is enough to have anyone watching their back.

While society-wide statistics are hard to obtain, one survey found 41 percent of male-identifying respondents, and 28 percent of female-identifying respondents had experienced physical violence within a same-sex intimate relationship. On a worldwide scale, that's translated to more than 2000 transgender people being murdered in the past 16 years.

When acts of violence and hate from transgender people's own families are so prevalent, it is no surprise that the prevalence of mental health issues is sky high.

BeyondBlue's 2014 From Blues to Rainbows Report into the mental health and wellbeing of gender diverse and transgender young people in Australia found that almost half of the young people surveyed had been diagnosed with depression and up to 38 percent have had suicidal thoughts.

And in the wake of the US election, suicide helplines have been inundated with calls. Calls to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people, have doubled since the election.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to acknowledge those we have lost, to take stock of where we are and to set a path for progress from here.

The question for Australians is how to tackle transphobia and 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 transgender almost 20 years ago. She has been fortunate to have strong support networks. We were blessed to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

We 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 make in the political sphere is to reduce the legal hurdles for trans young people to access the hormone treatment they need. Australia is the only country in the world that requires approval from the Family Court for such treatment, which can cost up to $30,000 and take several crucial years.

As one parent of a trans young person told a meeting we had in Parliament in February, "the court process is slow but biology is fast".

We can also rally around the Safe Schools Coalition. The attacks on this program that is proven to reduce the discrimination of LGBTIQ young people have been nothing short of a disgrace.

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