International Transgender Day of Visibility is honoured every year on March 31. It is observed globally and on this special day, we acknowledge the challenges that transgender people have historically faced around the world. We also celebrate their accomplishments across all areas of society.
We are proud of our many initiatives in the diversity and inclusion space at Torrens University Australia, Think Education and Media Design School (MDS). However, as an organisation and as individuals committed to making our campuses and offices safe for our transgender students, staff, family and friends, there is always more we can do. We need only look at the circumstances and challenges facing the transgender community.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on LGBTIQA+ people and communities. The alliance makes some stark and eye-opening findings this year:
- Transgender people aged 18 and over are nearly eleven times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime
- 1% of transgender and gender diverse people aged 14 to 25 have attempted suicide in their lifetime
- Transgender people are six and a half times more likely to have engaged in self-harm in their lifetime
- 53% of transgender people aged 18 and over have self-harmed in their lifetime
These facts are startling and should be a call to action for our local, national and global communities. We need to better our diversity and inclusion efforts.
In New Zealand, the September 2019 Counting Ourselves report showed that trans and non-binary people in the country experienced very high levels of psychological distress, suicidal thoughts and attempts. They also face high levels of discrimination and violence.
There are simple actions we can all take as individuals to make a difference. The National Center for Transgender Equality in the United States identifies some basic concepts for us to bear in mind:
- There is no one way to be a ‘perfect’ ally. The transgender community is diverse and complex, coming from all around the world, and from every race, ethnicity and religion. This means that different members of the transgender community have different needs and priorities. Similarly, there is no one right way to handle every situation or interaction with every trans person. Be respectful, do your best, and keep trying.
- You don’t have to understand someone’s identity to respect it. Some people have not heard a lot about transgender identity, or have trouble understanding what it means to be trans, and that is okay. However, all people, even those whose identities you do not fully understand, deserve respect.
- You can’t always tell if someone is transgender simply by looking at them. Many people expect that they will “just know” when someone is trans and may be surprised to learn that this is not always true. Since there is no one transgender experience, there is no one way for transgender people to look, either. This also means that transgender people may be in groups or gatherings that you attend without you knowing it, making it important to be an outspoken ally and supporter even in spaces that you think don’t have any transgender people in them.
- There is no “one right way” to be transgender. Some transgender people choose to medically transition, and some don’t. Some transgender people choose to legally change their names or ID documents, and some don’t. Some transgender people choose to change their appearance (like their clothing or hair), and some don’t. Likewise, some transgender people may want to do many of those things but are unable to because they can’t afford it or for safety reasons. A transgender person’s identity does not depend on what things they have or haven’t done to transition, and no two transgender people’s journeys are exactly alike.
- Continue to educate yourself. One of the simplest ways to be a strong ally is to take your education into your own hands. It’s important to have conversations with the trans people in your life, but it’s also important for you to seek out resources and information on your own.
Individually these actions may be small, but collectively we can join forces to move the needle.
At Torrens University, Think Education and MDS, we have a strong diversity and inclusion agenda, which includes a robust Pride Framework. Our Pride Framework includes the following commitments:
- A call for staff to join the Ally Network.
- A call for staff to attend the online seminar on Transgender Day of Visibility by ACON Pride in Diversity at 12:30 AEDT on Tuesday 31 March.
- Developing a Transgender specific policy to a trans-friendly culture, free from discrimination and harassment, where all staff and students are treated with dignity and able to realise their full potential in a fair and inclusive workplace and learning environment.
If you are interested in supporting the PRIDE framework, expressing your interest in any of the above commitments and would like to find out more about any of the events or initiatives, please contact Ali Saad and the team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is up to all of us to remember those who have been lost to anti-transgender violence, and to be supportive and to speak up.
It’s important to look out for yourself and others. If you or anyone you know needs help: