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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] ISGD Historic rally hears stories of violence and discrimination from ISGD people

Historic rally hears stories of violence and discrimination from ISGD people

ISGDrallyTwo women – one trans, one trans and intersex – shared their personal experiences of harassment and discrimination at Australia’s first national rally of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse (ISGD) people in Canberra recently. Miss Ava and Indi Edwards recount them here.

15 May 2011

Around 180 campaigners gathered on the lawns of Parliament House, Canberra on 11 May. Intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgendered, genderqueer and androgynous people and people without sex and gender identity came together to demand equal treatment under federal and state laws, and spoke of their experiences of discrimination, harassment and violence.

The experiences of Miss Ava and Indi Edwards give an insight into the horrendous and cruel treatment suffered by many ISGD people. They have kindly agreed to share their stories on The Scavenger to reach a broad audience, in the hope that as more people understand what ISGD people have to endure, legal and societal change will occur, allowing them to be treated equally under the law and with the respect they deserve.

Trigger warning: Violence and abuse is described.

Miss Ava, 55, a trans woman from Sydney

First up I want to emphasise that this is about who I am, not what I am. This is really important because my body is just the reflection the person that is within this body.

I was born in 1956 and raised on a farm, as I grew up I became aware I was different to all the boys. I realised I was a girl at the age 10 but never knew I could change my body until I was 21. I immediately transitioned and lived full time as a young woman, finally free to be me.

Well it was a part freedom of sorts – people still could not understand me and I was disappointed with their narrow-mindedness so I still kept my past to myself. I won’t go into the details here of the difficulties of gender dysphoria (knowing your gender identity does not match your body) as it in itself is a huge subject.

I worked in many different fields and as my confidence grew I took on more challenges in life, studying and working in electronic engineering and computers also as a seamstress and a carer for aged and disabled folk. I often lived a life of “stealth” as we called it – a life where you don’t let anyone know of your past.

That is until dealing with a government agency that has to drag up my former life all over again.

At the age of 30 I was broken-hearted after an eight-year relationship that went bad. I was very depressed and got caught up in a church group. After being in the church for six months I confided in a pastor about my past. He told me that God made me a man and to please God I should change back.

I can’t tell you how difficult and dehumanising it was to de-transition. I cried every night for six months as I fell fully back into hiding who I really was.

It was difficult in the church because I naturally gravitated to the women of whom I identified with and it was even more difficult to try to understand the men. I eventually married the girl who was my best friend but after eight years we never really made it happen.

During marriage counselling I broke down when the counsellor quoted Shakespeare “Unto thine own self be true” and suddenly realised that I was not being true to myself. Divorce soon followed after as my ex-wife could not come to terms with it all.

So at the age of 48 I was doing it all over again, going through the unpleasant time of being in between but this time it was faster than the first time as I already knew what to do.

Sadly I transitioned too fast and was not able to cope with the discrimination I encountered from the people at church and others in the community.

A year later I attempted to take my own life and was in ICU for three days and then moved into the psych ward. The next day my closest male friend from church came to visit me and refused to call me by my female name and then with self righteousness told me I was possessed by the devil.

I was so angry I screamed at the nurse to get him away from me and then wished my suicide had not been stopped. From that moment I cut all ties with that church and though I tried to go to other churches I could not find one that was willing to accept me.

This treatment was continuous both with churches and the general public. I attempted suicide two more times in the next few years but finally felt that I was not even able to be successful at that.

I was severely oppressed by a society that seemed to hate me. I suffered severe depression and anxiety that crippled me for many long years, moving from house to house and not having a home of my own. I lost everything to crooks that I lived with who used and abused me and I ended up living in a women’s crisis centre for 18 months – just another traumatic event in my life.

I moved to my parents’ place in North Queensland to try to recover from depression, and when I started getting better I moved to Cairns. There I got raped by two men which severely set me back, now I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on top of everything else and I am still trying to pick up the pieces of my life.

I have to say that the story of my own life is not uncommon among ISGD people. I constantly hear stories that reflect the abuse in my own life and this has got me riled enough to stand up and shout at our government and to all people.

I am putting myself out there with others like myself and we are now vulnerable to more abuse by being public but what choice do we have. We can just stay hidden and continue to suffer in shame or we can stand up and shout at all who might hear us:

“We want freedom just like everyone else, no more discrimination by government and society”.

We have been made less than third rate citizens and it is time that changed.

I have to say my life has been bitter-sweet. On the one hand there was the freedom to be who I am and feeling right within myself but on the other hand it was suppression, abuse and discrimination.

I want all this discrimination to stop and I want the government to listen to us and to help us change society for the better of us all. I have known many others like myself who have not been as fortunate and many have left the hardships of this life behind to end their lives of oppression.

Suicide is alarmingly high amoug ISGD people: around 47% take their own lives and this seems tolerable to our government.

I have not been proud about being transsexual but I was simply born this way. However I am proud of who I am and the person I have become through adversity.

Hopefully with the government’s response to our pleas for help we can put an end to the discrimination and abuse and I can become proud of what I am.

I would also become a useful and productive person in our community instead of being tossed into the too hard basket. There really is no basis for any fear or prejudice toward us: we mean no harm to anyone, we just want to be equal with our wider community.

Over the past 34 years I have had the privilege of meeting many ISGD folk and I am always astounded at our diversity. We cross many borders just to be who we are: race, colour and culture, sexuality and even fashion. We are diverse in the diversity of nature but we have one thing in common: we are sufferers of a government that allows us to be abused and mistreated.

All the difficulties we go through in our lives make us strong and we are definitely a strong people. Today we are here to make a stand for equal rights and due respect from all humanity. We may be Intersex, Sex and/or Gender Diverse but moreover we are human and deserve to be equal with all others.

Indi Edwards, 45, an intersex and trans woman from Sydney

I have to confess that this is hard for me to tell my story as I have never spoken these words publicly. So bear with me.

My name is Indi Anna Edwards. My story is much like the stories I hear regularly from my ISGD brothers, sisters and of course people such as myself who have no particular investment in the gender binary. I am for the most part female and male or neither as it were. I was born in Nepean hospital, Sydney in August 1965.

I spent my childhood trying to understand why I was so different from the other children; in a physical and social sense I was always a bit of an outcast. I succumbed to bullying in my school years and due to my physical characteristics being different from other “boys” I avoided any sort of locker-room exposure.

However it was inevitable that I would be clocked again and again until it became a game for the other boys to routinely push me into the girls’ toilets. I toughened up over time but eventually got tired of the abuse and left school in the first month of year 10.

I didn’t know what I was, I just knew I was different and that somehow it wasn’t acceptable to be male one moment and feel female the next. I cross-dressed from the age of six and my greatest epiphany in life was seeing a movie from my hallway about a doctor/tennis player who transitioned and married a man. That person of course was Renee Richards, a name that always stayed in the back of my mind.

Flash forward to the age of 21: I had to see a urologist for an infection and was told I had an intersexed condition. It was much later when I realised what that meant for me and there was my second epiphany.  I had to have surgeries in order to save my own life and avoid cancer but for me that wasn’t an issue. There were times I wished I was dead just out of shear frustration with my struggle.

As I moved forward through my transition I realised there were very real reasons for this lack of employment I was experiencing. In my world in the mid-90s I found it very hard to find main-stream employment. I was a mini-lab printer when I commenced my transition and was bullied out of the job as the anti discrimination laws at the time couldn’t police workplace harassment.

One of my interviews post transition was at a mini-lab in Double Bay and I was turned down because the job involved customer service. Self explanatory. I was later to find out to my astonishment the interviewer was a lesbian.

I basically transitioned in a brothel 15 years ago and did what many trans girls did and became a sex worker. At the time it seemed like the norm and as I could not find suitable mainstream employment I bit bullet as I had to survive somehow.

I can look back on that now and understand how in an ironic sense the experience of being a sex worker was liberating but there are two sides to every coin.

Whilst I sex-worked I got myself into a computer course at Ultimo TAFE in 1996 and had made fast friends with the other students who were very accepting of my gender variance. One day a trans friend of mine came to sit in on a class; however, the real reason I had her there was I just wanted to get her out of the house because she was suffering severe depression and I though an activity might help.

She actually had a good day; however, as we exited Building W on Broadway at 4pm I was set upon by five civil engineering students. The only person in the street who came to help me was my friend and as a result her nose was broken, and not six months after a rhinoplasty which she paid for herself from her meagre wage.

To add insult to injury the two male policemen who attended the assault snickered and joked their way through the entire statement while my friend bled in pain. We were both beaten and bruised and now were being made fun of by two of our cities finest. We never got an apology from City Central Police. 

The TAFE did the right thing and expelled them indefinitely from the system and designated me my own personal security guard for the remainder of the course. The case was quashed in the courts and they got off on a racism plea even though I had never spoken a word to them.

The thing that always stays in my mind is that we were both crying for help on the sidewalk yet everybody put their rose-coloured glasses on and pretended that nothing was happening, including a big burly security guard no more than three metres away outside the Co-Op Book Shop.

I went on to study Community Welfare at the same campus years later to suffer more vilification and ignorance but got my Diploma regardless.

There isn’t enough time in the day to tell my whole story so I have just cherry-picked a few chapters.

I am a person who has transitioned and finally found peace with my intersexuality. My experience is that of a trans woman, but I am for the most part intersex and trans, and here is the cross-over for me.

I want everyone to understand why we are here. We have tried many times to find common ground in the past and put our personal interests a side as a means to an end.

We are here for many and varied reasons but we are all here to change legislation so we can be visible and exist openly without fear of vilification and or violence.

We are here to veto the surgeons who perform unnecessary surgeries on intersexed children, leaving them trapped in bodies that don’t match with their brains.

We are here to say we’d like to have the choice to marry as do our gay brothers and sisters and close allies.

We are here to ask the government to assist us with physiological and medical treatments that are far beyond the affordability for most of us. Medicare would be good.

We are here to say we are tired of the ignorance and or violence and the people who stand by and do nothing.

As an intersexed person I strongly believe trans and gender diverse people are our greatest allies and together we can all strive towards equality and obtain all the individual rights we deserve.

And we are here because we are fierce and we want the world to hear us ‘raw’.

I am legion.

For a full report on the rally, see this story at Green Left Weekly.

 

Comments   

0 #2 NSW is full of transphobes 2012-08-03 10:35
You have my sympathy Indi. NSW Police are scum. I complained to the NSW Ombudsman on their treatment of me when they falsely arrested me years ago. The situation is pointless because in NSW it's police investigating police, at their own station - of course they are not going to find their mates had done any wrong! The police sergeant the Ombudsman appointed to look into my complaint, even ridiculed my transgender status over the telephone. NSW police are also assholes for leaking my private details to the media. I was publicly outed, even though my transgender status and birth name was never mentioned in court or listed on court documents. I complained to Privacy NSW and again nothing was done. I will never forgive the police and media for what happened.
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0 #1 Tracie OKeefe 2011-05-16 23:24
Still Fierce ISGD people claiming their voices with integrity.
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