Trans activist calls for marriage equality

Sally Goldner. Photo: Melbourneprotests Weblog

November 20 was Trans Remembrance Day. Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria, gave the following speech at the 3000-strong marriage equality rally held in Melbourne that day.

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Trans Remembrance Day started to mark the violent death of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was murdered in Boston on November 28, 1998. Prejudice against trans people comes from the same evil seed as any form of prejudice — and all manifestations are totally unacceptable.

But many trans people understandably find this day sad and uncomfortable. So as we observe a minute’s silence, I ask people to also consider the many positives of trans people — the amazing insights into sex and gender. For those of you tweeting throughout this rally, consider your phone would not exist without its ability to multi-process — a process invented in the 1970s by the genius of Lynn Conway, a trans woman.

Let us remember Australian transsexual soldierCaptain Bridget Clinch, who was formerly Captain Matthew Clinch. In early November, the media picked up her campaign to get the Australian Defence Force to pay for her gender reassignment surgery. Some people might have seen the story a few weeks ago, on Seven’s Sunday Night show.

Bridget, born with a male body, has had to fight to keep her job in the ADF — because there is no federal equal opportunity law protecting gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people — an injustice in itself.

Trans surgery is not covered by Medicare (another injustice) so the ADF realised they need to cover the medical costs. Bridget has had to endure “taxpayers’ money”-type media sensationalism over the ADF’s correct decision, but has had the support of her wife, Tammy, through this difficult journey.

The Sunday Night report ended with the comment: “After all this, Bridget and Tammy will have another fight — trying to stay married.” Because of Australia’s callously unequal marriage laws, Bridget has to choose between having her gender reassignment recognised, and keeping her marriage. Bridget and Tammy have two daughters.

This happens to couples around Australia and has many impacts. Another couple who have spoken publicly about this also had to consider the financial disadvantages of divorce.

When 85 changes to discriminatory federal laws were introduced by the Rudd government in February, didn’t the government imply that the changes ended all financial discrimination against all couples in Australia? Clearly there is still a big question mark. The only way to expunge that question mark is to have equal marriage for Australian adults.

There was a great sign at a previous rally: “I can’t marry my Venus because she doesn’t have a penis.” Well, I don’t care if your Venus does have a penis, I don’t care if your Mars doesn’t, I don’t care if you love someone from Saturn or Neptune. The bodies of people who love each other are noone’s business but their own. They are certainly not the government’s business. So the lack of marriage equality affects all of us and we’re all in this together.

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