Hunter Gurevich (TransFolk of WA Chairperson, medical student and current member of the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group) speaks about the privilege of family support and how simple acceptance and inclusion can drastically improve the lives of trans and gender diverse people.
March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual international celebration of trans pride and awareness, recognising trans and gender diverse experiences and achievements.
If you walk away from this page with only one thing, let it be this: when trans and gender diverse people are well treated, our lives are better, and we can contribute positively to society.
This isn’t just a nice idea. It’s borne out in countless studies and research from across the world and across cultures. All people, of all creeds, of all kinds, live better lives when their society treats them the way they want to be treated. It is self-evident, but it’s also well evidenced.
So then, why do we need a day to draw attention to this very obvious fact when it comes to trans people?
Because there are many trans people who don’t live with the privilege of being accepted and welcomed by their community.
In fact, as a group, we are arguably the starkest demonstration of how acceptance is a positive influence, and rejection and bigotry is a negative and destructive influence.
I think I’m one of the luckiest people in WA, trans or otherwise. I am able to pursue my passion and support my community because I’m accepted and supported by my family, friends and community. I’m a great example of what happens when a trans person is afforded these privileges. As far as the research goes, that doesn’t make me special, that makes me quite average. I’m doing what most people do when we feel safe and supported: we reach out and support others.
The way in which I’m special, sadly, is that I am so well supported and accepted, and I have had access to great health providers throughout my life.
Many members of our community do not have the luxury of a supportive family. They find themselves interrogated, invalidated or abused by those who ought to love them.
When they attend doctors’ offices, they are told they won’t be seen, or the doctor won’t use their chosen name, or that they must be putting it all on for attention. That they must be crazy. Unfortunately, at TransFolk of WA, these stories are not special. These are common traumas for which we offer support.
I am also an adult (despite my many efforts to the contrary) and I am independent. This means that I am in my own home, and I run my own finances, and my life would not be turned upside down if my parents decided to cut me off, or insisted I attended a religious camp to try to change who I am. But young trans and gender diverse people aren’t that safe.
Some young people find themselves on the street just for disclosing to their family that they are trans.
This naturally puts them at risk for other problems like violence, trauma and lack of a stable circumstance. This makes it very hard to pursue education, keep a job, and therefore to progress to a stable adult life.
One interesting thing about being in the trans and gender diverse community is, there are those of us who are visible, and those who are not, and that radically changes our experiences. Outside of my small public platform, I am not perceived as trans. I hear the occasional ill-informed comment, but I don’t have to manage bigotry, verbal abuse, or even violence. But not everyone gets to choose their visibility. Not everyone gets to choose who notices them.
So often trans and gender diverse people have to make the choice between expression of their identity, and safety. And that’s a grim choice to make.
Be who you are and be in danger, hide who you are and be safe. That’s doesn’t sound like we’re talking about a liberal country.
A unique challenge that the trans and gender diverse community needs to navigate is the select few politicians and public personalities who feel that our community needs more restriction and surveillance, rather than support and recognition. We hear an awful lot of opinions about trans and gender diverse people, but very few of them are really well-informed about the subject. These conversations constantly swirling in the media do not help us feel safe and valued, and it often forces us into unpleasant personal conversations, where we are forced to defend or explain to others why the loudest voice might not be the best voice.
What I want you to think about on Trans Day of Visibility is, what does it mean for you to be seen, to be safe, to thrive? What does it take for you to function in your life? What do you think should be the minimum safety we offer all people, irrespective of whether or not we agree with how they live their life?
I want you to see me thriving, and know that every trans and gender diverse person could do the same, if only given the opportunity.
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