An Open Letter on transphobia, violence against transgender people and discrimination in our laws
From Jenny Leong MP with a contribution from Anna
I am writing because I want you to know that any form of transphobia, violence against transgender people or discrimination against the transgender community in our laws disgusts and angers me. It is unacceptable and something that I am committed to working with you to eliminate.
While the tragic issue of transphobia and violence faced by transgender people, particularly transgender women, in our community is not new – it has been getting a lot more media coverage of late.
I felt the seriousness of this situation would not be helped by me politicising the issue in the media. As such, I purposely chose to not put out public statements nor insert myself into the centre of specific incidents as I didn’t – and still don’t - want this to become all about me. Nor do I feel comfortable making comments about specific incidents without having the consent of those involved.
I now realise that it’s possible that this approach has meant that some in the community feel that I am ignoring the situation or not taking it seriously – and to those people who have felt that way I am sorry. I wish to reassure you that I am taking it seriously – and that I and the Greens stand with you in your struggle for equal treatment under the law and the ability to live in the community free from violence.
That said, I still don’t think it should be me at the centre of this, so I wanted to use my position to share with you some thoughts from Anna – an young woman and activist who I spoke to earlier today and provided me with the advice and guidance that resulted in this letter.
For me Transphobia and transmisogyny are everyday parts of my life, but this shouldn’t be so. The only way for the community to move beyond attacking, harassing and abusing transgender people is if the discriminatory laws against transgender people are removed, if Parliament took us and our well being seriously, if we were given platforms like this one that Jenny has given me so that we may speak, have our voices heard and hopefully that will help combat transphobic violence and transmisogyny.
I have been the victim of transphobic hate, and transmisogyny from members of the public and the police, I’ve been threatened, called all sorts of horrible things, I’ve been spat at, I’ve been given move on orders when I’ve tried to use the toilet that aligns with my gender.
Transphobia isn’t just happening in Newtown which has usually been a safe haven for people like me, it happens on the trains, in toilets, on buses, in shops, in pubs, in parks and many other places. The only way that we can change this is by engaging the public, by campaigning, by having MPs by our side and fighting for legal equality in Parliament and most of all by saying enough, this cannot go on any more.
It is for these reasons that we must continue to work towards equality and an end to discrimination in our laws – because it has a real impact, a dangerous and threatening impact on people’s lives.
On a more personal and specific note, I want to let you know that I have been in contact with Stephanie McCarthy who was violently attacked at the Town Hall Hotel in Newtown and suffered increased injustice and violence at the court hearing of her attackers yesterday. Stephanie gave me permission to mention that we had spoken and were in touch in this letter. For the record, let me make it clear that it is unacceptable that Stephanie was attacked in the way that she was – and it is even more outrageous that she suffered further abuse during the court hearing yesterday. I am so sorry at the violence and injustice that Stephanie has suffered and have offered to do whatever we can to assist her.
Finally, let me say that this is the phone number of our office 9517 2800 – and our email is email@example.com. If you have concerns that you wish to raise with me – or issues that we can assist with – or frustrations about what we are doing please don’t ever hesitate to get in touch.
Being a Member of Parliament is something that I am new to – so I encourage you to provide me with feedback and input on ensuring I do it in a way that meets your needs and expectations.
In return, I can commit to you that I will strive to be open and honest in my dealings with you, always willing to apologise and will listen to your advice if you think I could do things another way – and above all to work tirelessly every day to end discrimination and injustice.
Thank you to Anna, Stephanie, Teddy and the others in the community for talking with me and being a part of shaping this response.
Jenny Leong MP
Member for Newtown
NSW Greens Sexuality and Gender Spokesperson