Supporting growth and sustainability of trans and gender diverse peer support across Victoria. Supported by the Victorian Government.
It’s been a year of ongoing changes, and we’re nearly at the end - again! Let’s take a moment to reflect on how the year has passed and what lies ahead.
Following our AGM on the weekend we have a change of line up in how we’ll be tackling 2023. After a transformative 18 months, including professional triumphs and personal challenges, Mama Alto has stepped down from the role of CEO. Son Vivienne will be picking up the mantel for a 6 month interim period of re-evaluation, goal setting and strategic planning for coming years.
At Committee level we are joined by two new members, Kim Lee (he/him) and Sophie Shrimpton (they/them). In addition to Mama stepping down, Brenda Appleton is retiring from her long and invaluable commitment to our organisation, embedded in years of stalwart advocacy and gentle mentorship. Andrew Elkin and Margot Fink, as long term TGV employees and leaders, are also leaving our fold for new professional opportunities. No amount of words, flowers or chocolates can truly express our gratitude.
For most of this year our small team has remained working largely from home, meeting on Zoom and Slack and email. We have had periodic planning sessions in person and prioritised attendance at occasional public events that enabled us to connect with trans and gender diverse community.
In March, on Trans Day of Visibility, we held a Gala - which we hope to make an annual event. Following a moving rooftop smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country from Uncle William Pepper, we celebrated TGV’s 21st birthday, launched the 2019-2021 Peer Support Report (excerpts featured later), the Victorian TGD Historyreport (authored by Dr, Noah Riseman), and the Country Roads to Pride Exhibition. We hosted lunch, snacks and networking for regional and rural TGD folks who had opportunity to connect with facilitators of peer support activities from the previous two years.
Other highlights of that period were participation in Melbourne Pride, a Smith St celebration of 40 years decriminalisation of homosexuality. With Transcend we hosted a TGD youth, friends and family’s day, with not one but two last minute venue changes, finally enjoying pizza and sunny weather on the VPC rooftop.
TGV had a presence at AusPath in August, when Mama Alto and Son Vivienne, travelled to Larrakiah Country and Darwin, to engage in conversations with TGD community leaders, social service providers and medical practitioners from across Australia. Many plans were nurtured as both formal collaborations and informal mutual aid were established or further developed.
Our Rose St Artist’s Market has provided fortnightly opportunity throughout winter and spring to hang with volunteers, speak about TGV’s work with the general public, and provide direct support to TGD artists through sales of their creative enterprise – ranging from Lego rainbow-pride hearts, to handmade masks and jewellery, stickers and unframed art works. This array of TGD ingenuity also engaged attendees at PAX over a 3-day period in October, while volunteers and staff had the pleasure of admiring equally colourful array of gender-bending and fantastic cos-play. We have been pleased to note that, in all of our mainstream public community engagements, gender-cynics have been few, while parents who are proudly supporting their gender-diverse kids are many.
Like most years we have had challenging periods, where gender-diversity has been the subject of mainstream news-cycles and national politics. The federal election in August saw amplification of some transphobic candidates and their poison, divisive rhetoric. While these campaigns always negatively impact TGD community, occasionally they offer a silver lining. When stigma makes headlines, and the battle lines are marked, hatred becomes visible for the rest of the world to see. This gives us opportunity to connect with our many allies, and the people who love and celebrate us. With the bad comes some good.
Following months of media negativity, we were hopeful that episodes of Insight (on SBS), one focussing on issues of fairness and equity in sport, and another exploring the ‘gender spectrum’, would highlight the complexity of gender in the context of a world moored in binary oppositions. While these broadcasts offered some moments of gender euphoria, these were matched with moments of pain, when antagonists who deny our human rights were platformed. TGV was able to support interview participants during recording, and directly following the broadcast, we provided viewers with virtual space for debrief. This collaborative initiative with Switchboard allowed mutual support and amelioration of the intense mixed feelings that come with bearing witness to gender affirmation and simultaneous annihilation in mainstream media. Several weeks later we hosted an in person and narrow-cast discussion of the risks and rewards of being trans and gender diverse people in media - the Trans Media Takeback.
TGV has always been rooted in advocating in multiple ways for trans and gender diverse people across our intersections of very different lived experience. This means unpaid consultation on numerous advisory groups as well as getting actively involved in supporting individuals who are facing discrimination whether that be in a workplace, school, detention, incarceration, or sports fields. At both federal and state elections we have canvassed candidates on their policies for TGD wellbeing and published traffic-light voting guides that highlight green, orange and red positions on a spectrum of support.
More than anything else the financial year of 21-22 has been a period of continuing change. Over the last couple of years, we have been growing from our origins as a largely volunteer led organisation to a structure with a CEO, a General Manager and increased capacity of paid staff. With this growth comes necessary formalisation of systems and processes, and all of the challenges of coordinating collaboration and team wellbeing.
In June 2021 we were 2.2 full time equivalent (FTE) roles spread across 4 people. In October, with the wrap of the first Peer Support program we farewelled 4 staff (2 FTE), and welcomed 4 new staff with an org-wide remit. This took our capacity to 3.8 FTE across 7 people. As we received funding for new programs in 2022, we have had capacity to both extend the hours-per-week of our core team, and recruit and onboard 3 casual trainers for delivery of fee-for-service training.
Throughout this year we have been forced to manage with at least one, if not two, team members out of rotation at any one time, due to COVID illness or extended recovery periods. This called for agility and adaptability and has allowed us to diversify a suite of skills across our team. We have recently recruited again, enlisting 4 new staff with complementary skill-sets in Volunteer, Member, and Community Engagement, Events, Activities and Office/Admin Coordination. Several earlier team members have moved into specialist program management roles. We close out 2022 with a team of 9 staff with total of 6 FTE.
Our Trans Media Takeback, co-facilitated by Switchboard, provided further opportunity to analyse what is often represented as ‘balance’ in giving equal air time or column space to TGD community and bigots. A complex discussion provided three unambiguous ‘take-aways’. Firstly, media outlets need to seriously consider the dramatic negative impact on TGD community and individual interviewees, and approach them with ethical duty of care. Secondly, TGD spokespeople can make their participation contingent on manifestations of care – like commitments to not seat opponents in one another’s eyelines, like providing access to professional debriefing, like offering the opportunity to give feedback on drafts or rough cuts. Finally, as community we need to resource ourselves with care-plans in anticipation of negative coverage, choosing to surround ourselves with supporters and limiting our exposure to haters in comments etc.
Country Roads to Pride is a virtual and material exhibition of 21 regional and rural trans and gender diverse people living fabulous lives across the state of Victoria. A small Midsumma grant funded a collaboration between TGV and Ballarat Community Health to support trans photographer James Mepham in gathering portraits and stories. These were initially launched in January 2021 in digital form on our website (following a late COVID cancellation of the Ballarat opening) and later featured at the Trans Day of Visibility Gala at Victorian Pride Centre. Since then the collection has travelled back to Bendigo for A Place at the Table (also supported by TGV) and the Warnambool Art Gallery. We hope to build on this collection with more portraits that celebrate TGD lives outside of Naarm.
We Speak was a collaboration between Transcend and Parents of Gender Diverse Children in which x young people workshopped a series of personal images and stories with a friend and/or family member. These social media stories built on the impact of TGV’s social media campaigns Trans Kids are not Political Footballs during the Federal Election, and Fab Jab during the height of COVID. Initiatives that centre young people and/or vulnerable community members need to be carefully considered, treading a fine line between celebrating visibility and offering some protection from vitriol. They involve education on the possible risks and rewards of being publically identifiable, as well as intentional development of circles of care and community support for when the going gets rough. As a result of nuanced and ethical consideration of initiative like We Speak we are growing a cohort of robust spokespeople and TGD leaders of the future.
Our Change of ID Fund has helped many TGD people find financial and logistic resources to affirm themselves legally. This sometimes involves demystifying systems and guidance on where to start (e.g Medicare, Roads and Transport, Births, Deaths and Marriages, or Name Change by Deed Poll). At other times it means providing the much needed funds to pay institutional admin fees. In 2023 we will be hosting regular drop in days to offer support from people with lived experience through to legal advice and Justice of the Peace assistance. The Change of ID Fund has been supported by generous donations from Minus 18 and the Victorian Bears.
After several years of laying solid foundations, TGV is now in an excellent position to reap the benefits. To further develop the analogy, as we know from reality TV shows, building something ambitious is complex, and thwarted by set-backs. Inclement weather (i.e transphobic political storms) and challenges that impact time and budget (i.e ongoing COVID, a small workforce, WFH/hybrid/office) all require adaptations to the grand plan.
Our grand plan is to change the world to a place where gender diversity is universally celebrated – so it looks like we’re not about to runout of work at any time soon! The steps along the path to achieving this goal includes education of organisations and consultancy on systems that are aimed at better accommodating our non-binary and fluid, changing needs. Perhaps more importantly, we also focus our efforts on supporting our TGD communities and resourcing our allies.
Trans and gender diverse peer support is at the heart of everything that we do, whether through formal funded community projects or by providing a workspace that supports our staff to thrive.
In 2023 you will be hearing a lot more about the different branches of our growing Peer Support Program (refunded by the Victorian Department of Fairness, Families and Housing with $2million over 4 years). Annual small and medium size grants, networking, and training will support a broad range of grassroots peer support activities in ‘Trans Peer Support Packages’ (TPSP). A series of jobs/employment focussed workshops will centre community expertise to support folks in aligning ID and CVs, educating prospective employers around their needs, and practicing interview skills. We will work with target communities at our most marginalised intersections (Regional/Rural, Incarceration, Disability, and many others) to develop customised support that is sustainable. Our learnings will be captured and shared broadly for equivalent community groups, aiming at ripple-out impact.
Our Wrap Around program will begin with 1:1 and group support for young people who are navigating medical and social gender affirmation. This initiative is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and is a collaboration with Transcend, the Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Gender Centre and Orygen Mental Health. Intersections between youth-focussed and statewide adult support will be explicitly addressed in creative projects, like intergenerational digital storytelling.
Meanwhile our growing staff team are ably supported by a Steering Committee, and sub-committees, people by willing and dedicated Volunteers. Our volunteer program allows people to donate their time and energy, as well as offering social connection and skills development. In January 2023 we will come together as staff and volunteers to plan the next four years of TGV’s growth in a 23-27 Strategic Plan.
We reach for a world where we are not only tolerated, but celebrated. Not only accepted, but included.
We invite you to get involved. As a volunteer, as a donor, as a community member or ally, as funding partners or program partners. Take our hand and move with us into the future.