The transgender community; a fight between life and death

For a lot of transgender people, the news of marriage equality possibly being legislated in Australia doesn’t really mean a whole lot. Trans women are still not able to access any women’s refuges in WA, and a recent study done into the mental health of trans people across Australia found that over 50% of trans people had been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, and 20.9% of participants had experienced suicidal tendencies on at least half the days within the past 2 weeks.

Trans people obviously don’t need to be told these things, but the cis queer community constantly forgets not only that we exist, but that our needs are very different to theirs.

Trans people need:

  • Doctors who actually know what they are talking about in regards to trans issues. GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists & endocrinologists need to be aware of who trans people are, and how to professionally and appropriately treat us. Doctors who regard us as objects of curiousity often don’t have our best interests at heart.
  • Actual proper sexual health education, that is aimed at trans people, especially concerning HIV and AIDS. Trans women are 49 times more likely to live with HIV and AIDS than the general public, with approximately 19.1% trans women living with HIV worldwide. [here’s a great example of sexual health information for trans men, and trans women]
  • Name changes should not cost $170. Neither should endocrinologist appointments cost $350. While there is a rebate to the endocrinologist appointment, you still have to pay the $350 upfront. Reducing the costs of these services would make it easier for trans people to use their correct legal name and access hormones easier [if they choose to use them].
  • Allowing GPs the ability to prescribe hormones. Some GPs do practice prescribing hormones to trans people, but usually you have to go see an endocrinologist and pay their fee. With better knowledge about trans people, GPs could feel more confident in prescribing trans people hormones and reduce the extra financial burden placed on trans people.
  • Removing the Gender Reassignment Board and replacing the process to change gender with something less intrusive. Currently in WA, you must prove before a board [that has at least one trans person on it, one psychiatrist, and one endocrinologist] that you have made “sufficient changes” to legally change your gender. This process is ridiculous – no trans person should have to prove that they are, effectively, “passable enough” as their gender. It should be replaced with a much easier, and faster system that does not cause undue stress to trans people.

We, as trans people, need these services so that we can live safely, and authentically. By not providing adequate care, and adequate services for us to use, we are pushed out onto the streets and suffer violence. So, to us, the fight for marriage equality is of much less importance than the fight we go through every day – to survive.

I came for a vaginoplasty, not to get SRS

Time to explain one of my personal gripes when it comes to commonly used language in the transgender community – SRS, or GRS stands for sexual reassignment surgery, gender reassignment surgery or even gender reaffirming surgery. This surgery is often described as “the final step” in someone’s transition – where the penis and testes are inverted to form a vagina [vaginoplasty], or where skin grafts attach to the large clitoris to form a fully functioning penis [phalloplasty]. The terms SRS & GRS, however, are quite alienating and offensive to a number of individuals in the transgender community, myself included.

The idea that one must have a vaginoplasty or phalloplasty in order to be legally recognized and accepted as your gender is not only dehumanizing, but also inaccurate. In Western Australia, you only need have a “reassignment procedure”, either surgical or medical, such as hormone replacement therapy [HRT]. Similar laws are also in South Australia & the ACT. In Victoria, you must have either a vaginoplasty or phalloplasty, or be recognized legally in another state as your gender. Similarly, in New South Wales, you must be both born in the state, and have undergone either a vaginoplasty or phalloplasty surgery. In Queensland, you must have changed your name, be born in the state, and have undergone phalloplastic or vaginoplastic surgery. Tasmanian law requires you to only have undergone surgery. Finally, in the Northern Territory, you must both be born there and have undergone vaginoplastic or phalloplastic surgery. In both the ACT & NSW, you are also able to identify as “non specific”, a third gender category.

Nearly all of the official documentation and legislation of these laws detail the phalloplastic/vaginoplastic surgery as “reassignment” surgery – which, considering that we have always been our gender, is quite infuriating. In addition, we know that intersex people often have non-normative bodies, and the idea of “reassignment” surgery sounds an awful lot like “corrective” surgery performed on intersex infants. Also, not all transgender people may want a vaginoplasty or phalloplasty – some are comfortable with their genitalia the way it is.

The idea that we should be “fixed” by society in order for us to be recognized as who we are is a sick idea – and consequently, I dislike terminology such as SRS/GRS. Also, as we constantly have to reiterate – whether I am a woman or not is purely a matter of identity. I shouldn’t have to be x,y,z or fulfill certain tasks in order to claim the identity – my identity – of woman.

Mayang Prasetyo; a culture of entitlement to trans narratives

TW: murder, transphobia, transmisogyny, transmisogynistic slurs, cannibalism, sex-worker-phobia, sex-worker-phobic slurs 

Yesterday, major news outlets discovered that Mayang Prasetyo, a transgender woman of colour, was murdered and in the process of being cooked and eaten by her husband, Marcus Volke. Media outlets have been quick to report that Ms Prasetyo was a “transgendered prostitute” and rush to the defense of Mr Volke, citing his “outspoken opposition of violence against women”. This victim blaming tactic is despicable, and creates further stigmas and stereotypes about the transgender community – a community which already has so many obstacles to overcome. Adding the fact that Ms Prasetyo was a woman of colour, and a sex worker as well, and we begin to see how astronomical the rates of violence are against society’s most oppressed.

This idea that newspapers such as the Courier Mail, with its appalling story and headlines, can get away with such transphobic and sex worker phobic vitriol is disgusting. All human beings deserve to be treated respectfully and decently – even Mr Volke, who in most of these articles is being paraded as a virtuous paragon who lost his way. The entitlement of major news channels to trans bodies, and narratives is appalling. There are some good news reports that have come out of this, especially the Guardian’s article. The focus of the media should be on how society has sat there and done nothing to help this poor woman, and other trans people in society are made to feel unwelcome and undervalued.

What is perhaps most shocking, however, is that the media outed Ms Prasetyo to her family, and to the rest of the world when the first stories were published. To out a trans person is an unforgiveable act – many trans women who are not out are in that position because being out would render them unsafe. As a trans woman myself, I completely understand why Ms Prasetyo would not feel comfortable being out in today’s society – the media’s response and use of bigoted language is enough to prove that society is not safe for us.

The constant entitlement complex of the media to our bodies, our narratives, our lives only proves one thing – in the eyes of society, we are worthless, we are doomed, and we deserve to be laughed at. A truly equal and just society would pay Ms Prasetyo the respect she deserves, and create more services to help sufferers of domestic abuse, to help transgender women, and to help sex workers. All of these support systems combined could have saved Ms Prasetyo – so it is about time these systems were implemented.

If you want to report the Courier Mail article, a petition is available here.