Ethan Lyons: ‘Attacks on our queer and trans family is an attack on First Nations protocol’

April 3, 2023
Ethan Lyons. Photo: Paddy Gibson

I want to start with thanking the Pride in Protest organisers: they always are eager to have a First Nations voice at their actions and that’s important because all the discrimination and harassment against queer and trans people is taking place on stolen land.

From Gadigal country to my country down south, our culture doesn’t allow any kind of hate or violence; the attacks against our queer and trans family is an attack on First Nations protocol.

From the First Nations people of this country, I want all the queer and trans mob here to know that you are welcome and we will continue to fight alongside you as you fight alongside us.

When I was in Year 9 through to Year 12, I was a part of some of the biggest student-led movements in this country. I was an organiser for School Strike 4 climate. I felt let down by my leaders for failing to act on climate change. I was also a youth campaigner against sexual violence, because I was victimised by the lack of action on this in NSW.

But, on top of this, I felt let down by the same leaders for creating and sending me to an education system that also failed to protect queer people, like myself.

I find it appalling that young people have to go to school, have expectations to do great but are met with their basic rights being threatened and let down.

It is also appalling that young queer students at school can be threatened with expulsion purely on the basis of being queer.

Let me remind you, queer students aged 16 to 17 are almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime compared to their straight counterparts.

So, why, with such figures, do we fail to see any systemic change that addresses issues facing queer young people?

Why do we have a school system that breeds trans and queerphobia and allows students to target queer students?

I will tell you why: it is because this colonial and capitalist nation is upheld by systems of hate.

It is the bigoted church, the unsafe schools, the racist police systems, the far right media here that are allowing queer and trans people to become statistics, that are allowing us to experience some of the most vile acts of hate and discrimination.

To my trans mob here today, if you can’t find community, if you don’t feel visible, please know that me and my mob, we see you and we are here for you.

Colonialism tried to destroy our stories and create the narrative that trans bodies didn’t ever exist here. But what we know is that Indigenous communities globally have deep histories of gender nonconforming and trans mobs, and it is through this knowledge that I extend solidarity and love to you all.

Mob here don’t welcome bigots. I’m not sure if you saw the video of Lidia Thorpe interrupting Kelly-Jay Keen saying, “You are not welcome here”, but I am going to echo that message and say anyone who is threatened by the existence of queer and trans people, you are not welcome here.

The very land that I am fighting to protect does not need your added toxic, hateful transphobia.

It’s important to see the alignments of the queer and Aboriginal rights movement here: we are both struggling against colonial systems and it’s our collective resistance against these that will see any change.

Solidarity always.

[Ethan Lyons, a proud, queer Wiradjuri student, gave this speech to the Trans Visibility Day protest in Warrang/Sydney on April 2.]

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