opinion

"Having people like Elliot Page changes things." An entire community felt hope this week.

Today Elliot Page, Oscar-nominated Juno and Umbrella Academy actor, announced he is transgender – and I’m proud. Like his character Vanya on Umbrella Academy, Elliot Page is a superhero. 

As a non-binary person, I acknowledge how important and powerful it is to have Elliot Page make this statement to the world. It is by no means an easy one. Although many trans and non-binary people live healthy and happy lives, we are represented disproportionately in relation to mental health issues; we are at higher risk of suicidal behaviours than our peers; we experience greater levels of domestic violence, and homelessness. 

My name is Bobbie, I am the Senior Manager of Advocacy at YWCA: an Australian feminist organisation. A place where our evolving intersectional feminism advocacy aims to be inclusive for cis-women, trans-women and non-binary people. My pronouns are they and them, but I prefer to be referred to as just Bobbie. 

Being non-binary makes me feel more like myself. This is how I am most comfortable sharing my identity. I can’t speak for every non-binary person or other people of marginalised genders. Like Elliot, I hold many privileges as a white gender diverse person, and can only share my own experiences which are different to those of gender diverse people of colour. However, the stats don’t lie and they don’t look great. Sometimes the stats simply don’t exist - a non-binary sex option was only added two weeks ago to the ABS Census. 

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Here are the raw numbers according to the National LGBTI Alliance and their snapshot of mental health and suicide prevention statistics for LGBTI people: transgender people (18 and over) are nearly 11 times more likely to attempt suicide. They are six and a half times more likely to self-harm, and 74 per cent of transgender and gender diverse people aged 14 to 25 have been diagnosed with depression in the last three years.

These are staggering numbers, but they aren’t just numbers. They are people, part of my community and increasingly visible in yours. 

Were we to intersect these numbers according to First Nations people like Sistagirls and Brotherboys, culturally and linguistically diverse people, those with disabilities, living in regional and remote areas and those of us experiencing homelessness, those numbers would shift for us, and not in a positive way. 

Many people of diverse genders and trans people report precarious housing situations: homelessness, couch-surfing and living on the street. According to the Australian Trans and Gender Sexual Health Survey, more than half of transgender and gender diverse Australians have been victims of sexual violence or coercion – four times more likely than the rate of the general population. At YWCA, we’re currently in the middle of driving awareness around 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (which continues until December 10 – Human Rights Day). 

One in three LGBTI people experience violence from a partner, ex-partner or family member. This means that LGBTI people are just as likely as people in the general population to experience domestic and family violence. Abuse in LGBTI relationships looks the same as all abusive relationships, but there are some unique differences for LGBTI people including using someone’s identity against them, fear of disclosure to police, “outing” them, controlling their gender transition medication and the lack of specialist support. 

There’s still a long way to go, but today Elliot’s news was the first thing I said to my partner before she had even opened her eyes. I won’t be the only one who felt hope as the sun rose this morning.

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You can imagine that publicly sharing that you are trans, or non-binary is not just a difficult decision to make, it can feel like the heaviest of burdens without support. But having people like Elliot Page changes things. They are a household name and many young people have grown up watching their work play out on screens in their homes. This is significant. It makes it that tiny bit easier to take that first, ever so daunting step of sharing your true self.

Thank you, Elliot.

The silencing or erasure of trans and non-binary voices is something I encounter regularly. But I am motivated by the possibility of truly transformative social change if we can open up the binary ways we look at the world. 

Why am I speaking now, and now working at an intersectional feminist organisation? Because we believe in including women and people of marginalised gender to come together, amplify and share their voices for social justice. Solidarity between people of diverse genders and cis women only strengthens our movement which seeks to challenge power structures and push back against the patriarchy.

I leave you with this quote by ALOK – “Trans exclusionary feminism is racism by another name.”

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Bobbie (they/them) is the Senior Manager - Advocacy at YWCA Australia and is a former youth worker and gender-based policy and advocacy professional of over 12 years, committed to social justice. They live on Gadigal land in Sydney with their partner Cass and dog Pickle. You can follow Bobbie on Twitter  @BobbieTrower.

Feature Image: Getty/Supplied. 

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