Support For Trans and Gender Diverse Communities

Support For Trans and Gender Diverse Communities

(Public Interest Debate, 21 October 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I Move that this House:

  1. Notes the contribution made to New South Wales from the trans and gender diverse communities.
  2. Commends leading organisations supporting the trans and gender diverse communities including The Gender Centre, ACON, the Inner City Legal Centre, Twenty10, Trans Pride Australia and Equality Australia.
  3. Notes the national sports codes' trans and gender diverse inclusion measures.
  4. Notes the disproportionately high discrimination, and health, mental health and economic impacts experienced by the trans and gender diverse communities, especially during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
  5. Notes the importance of ongoing funding support for organisations and health and welfare services supporting the trans and gender diverse communities.
  6. Calls for the trans and gender diverse communities to be treated with dignity, fairness, respect and equality.

The Parliament of New South Wales has long worked together when it comes to matters of equality for LGBTIQ communities. We got behind marriage equality, apologised to the 78ers, removed past homosexual convictions and worked through tensions with police and we continue to support the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. There is still a long way to go and we urgently need to focus on the trans and gender diverse communities, whose basic health and welfare are overlooked and who are regularly subject to discrimination, stigma, isolation and exclusion. Trans and gender diverse communities have been under increased attack lately—including in this Parliament, where their very right to exist is the subject of discussion.

"Trans", "transgender" and "gender diverse" are catch‑all terms for people who see their gender as different to the sex assigned to them at birth. They include people who are non‑binary, meaning they do not identify as wholly male or female. The World Health Organization recognises that being transgender is not a mental illness; however, it shares concerns that discrimination and ignorance of trans and gender diverse people can hinder their access to health care, social protection and employment, which impacts on their mental health. There are estimates that around 0.7 per cent of the New South Wales population is transgender, although it is likely to be more. They are our friends, family, co‑workers and acquaintances. Their transgender status is their business but their dignity, fairness, respect and equality and their access to services and opportunities should be a priority for us in this Parliament. Trans and gender diverse people experience significantly high rates of discrimination, harassment, bullying and stigma and report high levels of isolation and rejection. Suicide rates are alarmingly high. People who are transgender face battles every day in ways that most of us cannot imagine just to access employment, education, services and health care.

For many trans and gender diverse people, the COVID‑19 pandemic has increased already high rates of social isolation. Lack of access to documentation that reflects their true sex or gender creates incredible barriers in their lives. Transgender people are regularly forced to reveal their very personal transition experience when, for example, they apply for a job or need to provide a birth certificate. That is because in New South Wales a transgender person can only update the sex on their birth certificate if they have a sex affirmation procedure. This out‑of‑date requirement does not reflect the reality of the vast majority of transgender people who transition without surgery. Sex affirmation procedures have health risks and long‑term consequences, such as sterilisation, and are not appropriate for everyone. The cost and recovery time can make procedures unattainable for many. Hormone treatment has now become a far more common treatment for transitioning sex, though this intervention is unnecessary for some. Most other States and Territories and, indeed, the Commonwealth have removed these archaic obligations. New South Wales should finally give trans and gender diverse people the security of a registered record to help them engage with employment, health and life like everyone else.

Transgender people face alarming barriers in health care in terms of access to gender‑affirming care and access to general health services. There are disturbing reports of humiliation of transgender people in the healthcare sector. Last year a La Trobe University study found that 14 per cent of transgender people had been verbally harassed in a healthcare setting. Transgender people can find it difficult to find a supportive and understanding general practitioner and often have to educate doctors because they have not been trained in transgender health care. Examples include failure to provide a cervix screen. They are often refused basic gender‑affirming care. Despite the massive improvement to quality of life, most gender‑affirming treatment is not covered by the public health system and transgender people are often forced to see specialists unnecessarily. Gendered billing categories still exist in health care, including Medicare billing codes.

Despite the many barriers transgender people face, they continue to provide vital contributions to the community. Leading organisations such as The Gender Centre, ACON, the Inner City Legal Centre, Twenty10, Trans Pride Australia and Equality Australia provide vital support and advice to transgender people attempting to navigate the healthcare sector, employment, education or the justice system, and also advocate for law reform. They work with families to help them support their transgender loved ones. Representatives of these organisations are watching this debate from the Jubilee Room here at Parliament House. The organisations have helped me understand the challenges of people who are transgender so that I can better advocate for my community. They save lives and help people reach their best potential in work, education and the wider community. But they are at capacity and cannot meet demand for services. These organisations need increased and guaranteed ongoing funding.

I inform the House of a world‑first resource developed by ACON empowering trans and gender diverse people with information and the capability to advocate for themselves. TransHub is a digital platform for trans and gender diverse people and their allies and health providers, providing easy access to information about social, medical and legal affirmation, as well as health and support resources

I encourage members to refer their trans and gender diverse constituents and their families to this great resource, and to the resources and supports and services provided by the Gender Centre and Trans Pride Australia. The trans and gender diverse communities need support from people in this place. We should look to the leadership shown by eight peak sporting bodies who recently committed to developing a trans and gender diverse inclusion framework for their sports. Sport can bring immense social, health and mental health benefits making greater inclusion of trans and gender diverse people is so important.

We in this place have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to health, services, education and employment, and can fulfill their potential in the community. We also have the responsibility to protect them from attack for being who they are. I call on the House to make support and reform for trans and gender diverse communities a priority and to work together towards equality, dignity and respect. I commend the motion.

Assented to 21 October 2020.

See the rest of debate HERE.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!