This is the sentiment at the core of Transcend Australia, a system of parent-led peer support networks that connects the parents and carers of transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary (TGDNB) children with each other. Rachel Richardson, Chair of Transcend, spoke with Inclusive Australia to highlight the organisation’s crucial work in supporting parents and families to create the best environment for TGDNB young people to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Founded in 2012 by Rebekah Robertson, Transcend encourages connection and community to combat the often-isolating experience of raising a transgender child. Given that parents of transgender children are almost exclusively cisgender themselves, it becomes a steep learning curve to navigate cultural expectations while dealing with something “extremely foreign to the parents’ broader society and their own experience of it,” said Rachel. These parents often become “exhausted mediators” between their child, support services, and broader society. However, extensive research indicates that when a child is supported by a loving, understanding family with access to support services, they’re more likely to be included in regular childhood activities like Scouts and sporting clubs. More simply, parents find immense relief in connecting with other parents who can relate to their experience. This sense of community facilitated by Transcend is key in ensuring that a new generation of TGDNB will not face the same adversities as the generations before them.
The central focus of Transcend is supporting TGDNB children and young people, so aligning with Wear It Purple Day is a natural partnership.
“Transcend believes in empowering young people, and Wear It Purple Day is a key way of achieving this,” explained Rachel. “The day acts as a signal to allyship for the rainbow community.”
The theme of this year’s Wear It Purple Day, held on August 27th, was ‘start the conversation, keep it going’. Rachel believes this is incredibly valuable, considering that the validity of trans identities is “questioned unlike any other” due, mostly, to a lack of visibility and understanding in Australia. Starting conversations and normalising diverse gender identities is a necessary step towards significant social change, because allyship cannot exist without education. As a trans woman, Rachel is passionate about creating a future where society understands that trans people exist, and that almost all of them “just live ordinary lives”. While there may be outliers who live more public lives—such as actress Georgie Stone, who is the daughter of Transcend’s founder, and an ambassador for the organisation—it’s important to note that in many media representations of transgender people, “the sensational is not representative of the reality”.
While the cultural landscape in Australia has improved for transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary people, there are still many changes that need to be made for active inclusion to become a reality. The community was buoyed by the hugely progressive Sex Discrimination Act of 2013, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and validated the existence of TGDNB and LGBTQI+ people across the nation. Prior to this legislation, trans individuals feared lawful dismissal from employment for simply deciding to transition or make their gender identity known. Furthermore, significant and “wonderful” improvements have recently been made in cultural understanding and legal access to care and support.
However, there is still a long way to go.
“Society is ignorant of our existence,” said Rachel. “The Census is a perfect example of this at an official level, as it gives no way of recording gender identity.”
Compounding this oversight are recent legislative moves to backtrack on the progress made in 2013. The proposed Latham Bills in New South Wales championed an “active erasure” of TGDNB people, and represent a burgeoning conservative backlash against the rights of transgender people.
“It’s important to understand that legislation matters on a personal level,” said Rachel, who was prompted to transition in 2013 with the safety granted by the Sex Discrimination Act. Increasing public discourse and exposure to the trans experience in Australia, as well as supporting the individuals from a young age, is the best path to effective change at a government level—and to combat misinformed denial of transgender existence.
Moving forward, Transcend aims to build upon its current resources and galvanise its networks in all areas in Australia. “We want to increase our presence across the nation so that parents looking for help know where to find each other,” said Rachel. The organisation is currently focussed on pressuring the Federal Government to build and implement a nationally coordinated system of care for transgender children; timely medical care is extremely important concerning young TGDNB people, and as it stands this care is inconsistent across the country.
Ultimately, Transcend wants to see young people live openly and freely as their true selves. Rachel concluded that while her own childhood as a transgender person may have been “soul-destroying” due to a lack of intervention and understanding, seeing young people now flourish in a reliable system where they are loved and supported is nothing short of “glorious”.
To find out more about the fantastic work of Transcend Australia, https://transcendaus.org/
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