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.

Rolling into 2021

Note: Please see 'edit' for an update, posted after the Forum concluded, on 18/02/21

Welcome to our first update for 2021 – coinciding with both Lunar New Year and the Victorian Premier’s announcement of 5 days of hard lockdown. It is also the anniversary of the 2008 National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples – the oldest continuing cultures in human history, and a reminder that we remain living on stolen land.

We’ve come a long way after a tough 2020, and have been fortunate to return to some weeks of near normal, but even so we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID... We acknowledge the unique impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – including but not limited to Aboriginal people, POC, refugees, asylum seekers, sex-workers, people living with disability, and those experiencing social or geographic isolation or unsupportive households.

COVID can be a trauma trigger as well as a virus, and we are reminded that in years past, Aboriginal communities were decimated by smallpox.

Ironically social distancing sustains disconnection, and anxiety easily bubbles over. In these ‘unprecedented times’ generous, compassionate peer-support has never been more important. It has the potential to save lives. 

We’re starting the year with TransForum – a pilot of the kind of program of training and themed panels that we are planning to do more of this year, through a mix of face to face and online formats. 

Peer support can be really hard. Making sure all voices are heard, honoured, and able to share openly in collective spaces can be difficult. Peers are people who share their vulnerability and offer unconditional care, while acknowledging privilege, difference and the invisibility of trauma. At the heart of peer support is a commitment to learning and growing, acknowledging when we make mistakes, and ongoing improvement. 

This year we will be supporting training and skills development to help us all be the best facilitators and community leaders that we can be.

TransForum highlights some of the peer-support that our TGD communities are already doing well, in a range of creative practices. There are panels on storytelling, seeking funding and community support, and training on trauma-informed practice, and how to do a meaningful acknowledgement of country. TransForum features a line up of diverse speakers including Dragan Zan Wright, Nikki Viveca, Nevo Zisin, Sally Conning, Jax, 6-inches Uncut, Ahli, Sam Elkin, Eliki, Surmalinah, Rhys and Emma.

You can register for all of the program, taking place on Wed 17 and Thurs 18 of February, or just the sessions that interest you. After you’ve participated we are very keen to hear your thoughts, and what you’d like more (or less) of in future. There is a 2 minute survey here

We’ll also be letting you know more about programs to come, including a second round of SPARK, Big Ideas funding, and a range of training and skills development options. 

If you have some more ideas about the kinds of things you’d like to learn or get you job-ready we have another short survey here.

We can’t be going to work or parties for the next week, so come along and spend some time learning with us!

'Edit' -Thursday 18/02/21:

'Edit' -Thursday 18/02/21:

TGV would like to acknowledge some feedback we have had on our programming of TransForum. 

One of today's presenters, Laniyuk, made a choice last night not to present on the storytelling panel called ‘Telling Your Story’. She did this because, as a cisgender Aboriginal woman, she wanted to make space for an Aboriginal trans voice on this panel that she felt was lacking throughout the TransForum event. Laniyuk’s full statement was read out in full by the session moderator, Nevo Zisin, and is included in the recording which will soon be available on the TGV website.

Having discussed this with her at length, we understand Laniyuk’s choice to withdraw from the session. We have issued her a full, direct and unreserved apology for the situation. Laniyuk’s withdrawal created an opportunity to amplify the voice of gender fluid artist Ahli, who took Laniyuk's place on the panel. Ahli is a proud Aboriginal gender-fluid artist located on Kaurna land in South Australia, and their contribution to the panel was invaluable and much appreciated.

We nevertheless want to take this as a very important opportunity to address the situation, and Laniyuk’s feedback, with transparency.

We acknowledge that TGV has historically been a largely white organisation. This situation arose because Transgender Victoria has lacked meaningful engagement with local trans and gender diverse Aboriginal communities in Melbourne and Victoria. The TransForum event, while diverse in many ways, lacked these connections and there was a distinct absence of local Aboriginal trans and gender diverse voices. We are committed to doing the work we need to do to engage more meaningfully with local People of Colour and Aboriginal communities on every level of event organisation, including presenters and performers, behind-the-scenes management, and consultation.

We are sorry for the circumstances that resulted in a change of speakers today and regret that this has caused anxiety and distress.

Other feedback

Separate to the very serious concerns about whiteness and the diversity of voices in the ‘TransForum’ program, we have also received some queries and feedback about the inclusion of cisgender people in the program and audience that we’d like to take this opportunity to address, in the interest of accountability and transparency.  

The program was designed to uplift and amplify trans and gender diverse people across our community. Three of the presenters identify as cisgender, while the remaining identify across a spectrum of trans, gender diverse and non-binary. The program featured cisgender presenters only minimally, and only where we thought it appropriate in the context of the presentation and information they had to offer. We could have done better in presenting and promoting this information in an accessible way, to ensure that audience members and presenters felt confident and comfortable with who was there and why.

We made a clear decision to open TransForum to cisgender allies as audience members in the knowledge that this was not denying seats to TGD folk and in the hope that this would amplify the impact of the event. Rather than restricting attendance, we commited to removing people who behave in ways that are not compliant with a clear code of conduct and mutual respect.

We anticipated that our 2 day line-up of 17 speakers, while diverse, could not be fully representative of all of the intersections of our community. We acknowledge that older trans women, people living with a visible disability and TGD Aboriginal folk living in Victoria on their ancestral land, are underrepresented. 

This is an opportunity for us all to check any judgement we may have found ourselves making about the faces or names we’ve seen or will see on screen as cisgender - we don’t wish to be complicit in ‘not trans enough’ discourses. Similarly neurodiversity, disability, trauma backgrounds and racial or ethnic identities are not always visible unless they form part of a presenter’s bio.

We apologise for any harm we have caused. We are grateful for community feedback now and in the future as it is a crucial element in doing better.

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