An able world should be the one to change

It is with great sadness, and a great deal of frustration, that I have to inform you that I have been removed from the position of Queer Officer, at the University of Western Australia. Those who know me personally have known that I have been serving my term alongside a TERF, who has repeatedly misgendered me and otherwise made me feel unsafe in a so-called “Safe Space”. This is yet another experience of the broad left being unsafe for trans women, and for disabled people.

As someone who suffers from mental illness daily, to the point where it stops me from doing a variety of things that I would love to do – being deserted by the queer community in my time of need is unforgiveable. I have been to hospital in the past few months, because of my ailing health, and the desire to commit suicide. However, I have still taken on the duties of Queer Officer, and begun the process of long-term change within the University in changing name requirements of students, co-ordinating events that were poorly attended by UWA students [including a vigil for Mayang Prasetyo. How ironic, that they claim I have done nothing this semester, when they refuse to attend events to support trans women, women of colour, and sex workers?], and attempting to change toilet signs to gender non specific.

Instead of continuing this long process of work, they have removed me from my position, at the behest of the TERF whose term is very nearly up. A final strike to me, after rendering the space unsafe, causing me many anxiety and depressive attacks throughout the year, and finally taking my role in the community from me. The idea that disabled people should be responsible for making their community safer and hiding their disability to improve work output is an awful one. The onus of creating a safe space should be on individuals with power & privilege, not upon the disenfranchised members of society. I should not have been expected to make a dangerously unsafe space safer for myself – it should have been up to the members of the community for whom the space is already safe to do that.

However, the Queer Department at UWA is no longer safe, and probably won’t be for quite some time. I write this as a call to action – able-bodied & able-minded people – sort out your communities. Support individuals who are functioning poorly in a society which is clearly designed to disenfranchise them. Put the onus of creating a safe society, an equitable society, a just society upon yourselves, and relieve the burden that exists on disabled individuals. We will call you out if you do something wrong – listen to us, and follow our recommendations. It shouldn’t have to fall to individuals who are suffering to change the situation around.

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Mental illness & compounded effects of marginalization

DISCLAIMER: This article is written only from my own experiences and is not meant to represent other people’s experiences of ableism, transmisogyny, sexual assault, or other experiences.

TW: Rape, sexual assault.

A lot of people look up to people who appear to be struggling with life, as if they are inspirational in some way. I feel like while this can be perceived as a form of understanding – it feels hollow to me. When people tell me I am brave for enduring so much shit, it feels like a way for people to be supportive without actually doing anything. I guess the point of this article is to get people to understand what living like this is like. When you are reading this, imagine if you had to go through all this – and then know that many people are going through it. Try and think of ways that you can make your spaces safer for these people, for people like me.

I have had to deal with a lot of crap in my life, including but not limited to sexual assault, rape, depression & anxiety. These issues compound together to make my life very difficult, which often result in a lot of disabling triggers and fears for me. I have various irrational fears as a result of this stuff, including fears of bathrooms [which are slightly rational], and fears of libraries. These compounded effects make spaces that should be safe for me, unsafe. I haven’t really used libraries or read books for a long time because the thought or similar brings up triggering thoughts. It is this behaviour that compounds with my mental illnesses and other marginalizations to make me feel unsafe and awful.

Living in a rural and regional area is really difficult for me because I can’t actually access any resources or events for me, or people like me. With 0.3% of the population [according to some American statistics] identifying as transgender, and even fewer being disabled as well – the chances of finding a disabled trans woman in a rural and regional environment is very low. Not having that kind of specific support can be quite demoralizing – having general support is good, but I often feel like I am repeating myself in explaining basic content to people.

Mental illness can compound these feelings of isolation – and depression is especially skilled at doing this. Depression makes you feel like everything you do is a colossal waste of time and energy, despite the logical half of your brain arguing that what you do is important. I feel isolated because I’m worthless and pathetic, and then I start to doubt my own identity because I feel like I am the only one who feels this way due to isolation. Being poor as well doesn’t help, as I can’t solve the problem of my isolation, or of medications to either slow down the depression or start a physical transition. And when people constantly refer to you as your deadname, or use the incorrect pronouns, it really is like getting slapped with a wet fish. And that starts the cycle of self loathing and hatred yet again, which never seems to end as everything continually sets it off.

Being mentally ill is a real challenge but at the same time… I don’t want people to praise me for how strong, or how courageous I am. I want people to actively try and make spaces safer for me, by not questioning why I am triggered by certain books or by libraries. I want the stigma against hospitalized people to be dropped, so that we can seek help without the fear or being shunned. It should not have taken me until this time to hospitalize myself, and seek the help that I need. I want people to promote self-care and self-love over one’s usefulness to the wider community.