Trans and Gender Diverse Peer Support Project

Supporting growth and sustainability of trans and gender diverse peer support across Victoria. Supported by the Victorian Government.

Rolling into 2021

Note: Please see 'edit' for an update, posted after the Forum concluded, on 18/02/21

Welcome to our first update for 2021 – coinciding with both Lunar New Year and the Victorian Premier’s announcement of 5 days of hard lockdown. It is also the anniversary of the 2008 National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples – the oldest continuing cultures in human history, and a reminder that we remain living on stolen land.

We’ve come a long way after a tough 2020, and have been fortunate to return to some weeks of near normal, but even so we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID... We acknowledge the unique impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – including but not limited to Aboriginal people, POC, refugees, asylum seekers, sex-workers, people living with disability, and those experiencing social or geographic isolation or unsupportive households.

COVID can be a trauma trigger as well as a virus, and we are reminded that in years past, Aboriginal communities were decimated by smallpox.

Ironically social distancing sustains disconnection, and anxiety easily bubbles over. In these ‘unprecedented times’ generous, compassionate peer-support has never been more important. It has the potential to save lives. 

We’re starting the year with TransForum – a pilot of the kind of program of training and themed panels that we are planning to do more of this year, through a mix of face to face and online formats. 

Peer support can be really hard. Making sure all voices are heard, honoured, and able to share openly in collective spaces can be difficult. Peers are people who share their vulnerability and offer unconditional care, while acknowledging privilege, difference and the invisibility of trauma. At the heart of peer support is a commitment to learning and growing, acknowledging when we make mistakes, and ongoing improvement. 

This year we will be supporting training and skills development to help us all be the best facilitators and community leaders that we can be.

TransForum highlights some of the peer-support that our TGD communities are already doing well, in a range of creative practices. There are panels on storytelling, seeking funding and community support, and training on trauma-informed practice, and how to do a meaningful acknowledgement of country. TransForum features a line up of diverse speakers including Dragan Zan Wright, Nikki Viveca, Nevo Zisin, Sally Conning, Jax, 6-inches Uncut, Ahli, Sam Elkin, Eliki, Surmalinah, Rhys and Emma.

You can register for all of the program, taking place on Wed 17 and Thurs 18 of February, or just the sessions that interest you. After you’ve participated we are very keen to hear your thoughts, and what you’d like more (or less) of in future. There is a 2 minute survey here

We’ll also be letting you know more about programs to come, including a second round of SPARK, Big Ideas funding, and a range of training and skills development options. 

If you have some more ideas about the kinds of things you’d like to learn or get you job-ready we have another short survey here.

We can’t be going to work or parties for the next week, so come along and spend some time learning with us!

'Edit' -Thursday 18/02/21:

TGV would like to acknowledge some feedback we have had on our programming of TransForum. 

One of today's presenters, Laniyuk, made a choice last night not to present on the storytelling panel. She did this because, as a cisgender Aboriginal woman, she wanted to make space for an Aboriginal trans voice on this panel that she felt was lacking throughout the TransForum event. Laniyuk’s full statement was read out in full by the session moderator, Nevo Zisin, and is included in the recording which will soon be available on the TGV website.

Laniyuk’s withdrawal from the session is regretful and we have issued her a full, direct and unreserved apology for our miscommunications resulting in anxiety and distress. Laniyuk’s withdrawal created an opportunity to amplify the voice of Ahli, who took Laniyuk's place on the panel. Ahli is a proud Aboriginal gender-fluid artist located on Kuarna land in South Australia and their contribution to the panel was invaluable and much appreciated.

We nevertheless want to take this opportunity to address Laniyuk’s feedback with transparency, along with some other feedback we have received. 

Our peer-support staff team is small and part time and the program was turned around quickly and with finite people hours. TransForum was intended as a pilot, an opportunity to stir up community connectivity as we open the new year, and a chance to grow and consolidate our relationships so that we can all continue to learn, and do better. 

The program was designed to uplift and amplify trans and gender diverse people across our community, and featured cisgender presenters only when requested to play a supporting role during specific sessions and workshops as allies to trans facillitators. 

We anticipated that our 2 day line up of 17 speakers, while diverse, could not be fully representative of all of the intersections of our community. We acknowledge that older binary trans women, people living with a visible disability and TGD Aboriginal folk living in Victoria on their ancestral land, are underrepresented. To our knowledge three of the presenters identified as cisgender, while the remaining identify across a spectrum of trans, gender diverse and non-binary. 

This is an opportunity for us all to check any judgement we may have found ourselves making about the faces or names we’ve seen or will see on screen as cisgender - we don’t wish to be complicit in ‘not trans enough’ discourses. Similarly neurodiversity, disability, trauma backgrounds and racial or ethnic identities are not always visible unless they form part of a presenter’s bio - and we could have done better in presenting and promoting some of this information in an accessible way.

We made a clear decision to open TransForum to cisgender allies as audience members in the knowledge that this was not denying seats to TGD folk and in the hope that this would amplify the impact of the event. We commit to removing people who behave in ways that are not compliant with a clear code of conduct and mutual respect - and in fact we have needed to do that with numerous trolls on Facebook.

None of this is intended as a defence for where we’ve fallen short, and is offered in an effort to be transparent and accountable. We acknowledge that TGV has historically been a largely white organisation and are committed to doing the work we need to do to engage more meaningfully with local People of Colour and Aboriginal communities. 

We apologise for any harm we have caused. We are sorry for the circumstances that resulted in a change of speakers today and regret that this has caused anxiety and distress. We are grateful for community feedback now and in the future as it is a crucial element in learning to do better.

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