Trans and Gender Diverse Peer Support Project

Supporting growth and sustainability of trans and gender diverse peer support across Victoria. Supported by the Victorian Government.

Doing ‘Both/And’ – a critical presence in the Pride March

After two years of stepping out of the annual Pride March due to COVID, this year TGV is choosing to step back in. We are doing so after careful consideration of the significance of our presence, and the ramifications for TGD people who are, now and always, centred in TGV’s community support and public engagement.

As both systemic racism and brutal authoritarian violence [1] continues locally and globally, we oppose the many intersecting ways that Blak, POC and TGD people are oppressed, excluded, and physically punished because we exist. Regardless of who this is enacted by, or what socio-cultural groups are impacted, this is not ok.

Midsumma has been organising 'safe enough' Pride Marches since 1988 and these have grown and changed in ways that reflect our social contexts. This year we have reached out to Midsumma in their role as organisers of the Pride March to request clarification of the presence of police and security organisations in the parade. We include Midsumma’s responses to our questions in quotations below.

“Victoria Police do have a contingent in the march– the LGBTIQ+ Liaison Officers and Vic Police march group is for Victoria Police employees who identify as LGBTAIQ+ and their allies.  As of last year, Vic Pol announced they would not march in traditional military form, choosing to participate in the march with a casual walk. Some group participants wear their rainbow pride uniform. No participant in the march is permitted to carry weapons.

As with all Victoria's large-scale events, organised protests and parades, police officers are present as part of the event permit. The event permit requires Vic Pol to be present to monitor external threats or any situation that may become unsafe for event attendees.”

In response to trans gender diverse and non-binary communities’ questions and feedback TGV offers the below summary of the key discussions that have led to our decision to participate in Midsumma events and the Pride March.It is important to note that TGV does not require our staff, committee and/or volunteers to align with this decision and participation is a personal choice.Our strength lies in acknowledgment of our diverse lived experiences and perspectives and willingness to engage in disagreement with compassion.

· TGV acknowledges that many trans and gender diverse people have traumatic lived experience with police and other armed and/or uniformed authority figures. This may cause us to feel anxious, fearful and/or angry at public events where these representatives are present and consequently, we may choose not to attend. We support and promote alternate programs and events that explicitly celebrate TGD wellbeing in spaces away from trauma triggers.[2]

· We know that TGV’s presence at LGBTQIA+ events provide opportunities for newly identifying or new-to-Victoria trans, gender-diverse and non-binary community members to meet and connect with other TGD people. These events also provide opportunities to engage with allies, families and service providers who support TGD wellbeing. This important community engagement can reduce social isolation, improving and even saving lives.

· Trans and gender diverse events in public spaces still attract attention and occasional targeted violent opposition from TERFS, Proud Boys and other hostile organisations and people. Until we have a feasible alternative to police and/or security services, they remain our main pathway to offering ‘safe-enough’ participation for vulnerable TGD young people and community members at events where threats of violence are anticipated.

· TGV works actively and intentionally to hold security services, law enforcement bodies and prisons to account [3],and provide them with tools for being and doing better.[4] We do this by offering training in gender affirmation, and education on the ongoing systemic oppression that stigmatises and punishes TGD people at our intersections including but not limited to First Nations people, POC, refugees, asylum seekers, sex workers, people with disability and incarcerated people.[5] We also offer peer support programs for people who are entangled within these oppressive systems.[6]

· TGV has a responsibility to facilitate community connection and wellbeing for ALL TGD people. Wherever or whenever TGD community members feel alienated or excluded we need to offer alternative ‘safe-enough’ spaces for them. In any one time or space we need to understand how to serve both the people and groups that are present AND those that are invisibilised, overlooked and excluded.

TGV believes in both/and rather than a binary either/or or yes/no that diminishes our complexities.

Every day, trans and gender diverse people are forced to engage in public spaces that are not 100% safe all the time, and particularly unsafe for some of us, especially those at our most marginalised intersections. Rather than live in fear, we seek to offer one another care, respite and shelter - and programs that can support us to build collective confidence and resilience. Injustice is unfair, but when we're up for it, when we have capacity, we try to be brave enough to tackle it, in a myriad of personal and political ways.

TGV believes in the power of 'both/and'. We can be BOTH participants in inadequate social systems AND be critical of them, demanding improvement.

We understand that this is an approach that is not always popular and can enrage both sides of a debate, but we choose to centre the wellbeing of our many and varied trans, gender diverse and non-binary community members. When we make a difference in even one or two lives, self-acceptance and collective wellbeing have opportunity to grow and spread. We think our [critical] presence is worth it.

[1] We refer here both to Black Lives Matter and the recent brutal murders of Tyre Nichols in the US and Cassius Turvey in Australia (alongside many other unnecessary deaths).

[2] In 2022 TGV was proud to co-present the Trans Pride March Melbourne with TransSisters United and we are committed to providing continuing support. Our peer-support program provides both grassroots and targeted programming for multiply marginalised TGD communities and trauma-informed facilitation training.

[3] In 2022 TGV collaborated with prisoner advocate groups to demand review of solitary confinement conditions that breached Human Rights, and better access to affirming medical services for TGD prisoners.

[4] TGV has consulted on the Victorian Police LGBTIQ+ Advisory Committee for many years, and advocated for a recently established specific TGD subcommittee. TGV advised on the establishment in 2018 of an internal Pride group for serving officers, and the recent establishment of a TGD sub group within their pride group. In 2008 TGV supported establishment of the LLO statewide network of officers to engage with LGBTIQA+ communities. Our consultation in these spaces provides opportunity to demand better policy and practice, and is resulting in slow change.

[5] TGV’s peer-support program supports multiply marginalised communities through our Peer-Support and Platformed Communities Programs.

[6] TGV facilitates digital peer-support groups for Incarcerated TGD People and partners with groups that advocate for prison abolition and/or carceral reform.

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