Following the murder of transgender woman Mayang Prasetyo, Brisbane people have offered unwavering support to a community that has been left hurt and broken.
In an unfair world of prejudice and hate, the Brisbane community has something to be proud of.
According to The Australian Transgender Support Association of QLD (ATSAQ), Brisbane and the wider community of Queensland have a history of kindness and acceptance when it comes to the transgender community. So much so that many transgender people have chosen to make their home in our state, on the basis that they will receive much needed support.
However, as lovely and heart-warming as this information is to hear, the harsh truth is that we all still have a long way to go.
Recently, the transgender community was thrown under an unwelcome spotlight following the tragic murder in Brisbane by chef Marcus Volke of his transgender girlfriend Mayang Prasetyo. In the days following Prasetyo’s death, the Courier Mail ran headlines deemed derogatory by ATSAQ (and most other people), including “Monster chef and the she male” and “Ladyboy and the butcher”.
ATSAQ president Gina Mather says that while the transgender community have received overwhelming support from the people of Brisbane following the incident, the damage from these headlines has set the transgender community back by nearly ten years. As Brisbane’s peak transgender advocacy group, ATSAQ is run by transgenders for transgenders and provides emotional and moral support for people with gender identity disorder (formally known as gender dysphoria) and their families and friends.
The Australian Press Council has received numerous complaints regarding the media coverage, while the Brisbane trans community have launched a change.org petition requesting an apology and demanding that the prevalence of transgender-related violence in Australia and worldwide be reported on, with the latest statistics showing 1509 reported murders have taken place in the last six years. The petition currently has 27,547 supporters.
“These media reports were totally obscene and inaccurate,” Ms Mather says.”The term ‘she male’ is absolutely insulting to our community, it’s like saying that every gay person is a pedophile or something just as inaccurate.
“Now the general community is confused as to where we stand, most of them don’t realise we have a medically recognised condition. We have to start all over again now and we were going so well with our education and outreach. This has set us back around seven to ten years when it comes to getting people to understand our position. Since I came in on this in 1992 we were all lumped together in the same category, there was no information and no education. It has taken me nearly 22 years to get to the point where our community has a bit of respect.
“Brisbane, and Queensland, in my experience have always been very accepting. People come here from other states because they’ve heard that the Brisbane and Queensland communities are very accepting. We have a lot of transgender people working in this community. In Brisbane alone there are around 400 to 500 people in the transgender community.
“The general community have been outraged and we are constantly getting phone calls every day from ordinary citizens offering us their support. Phone calls, email and text messages have been coming through and we have been amazed. We did not realise that the general community would be so supportive.”
However, despite Brisbane rallying behind ATSAQ, the association currently receives no funding and there is a desperate need for transgender people to receive support, given that many of them are cut off from their friends and family once they come out.
“80 per cent of our community will lose their family and friends once they come out,” Ms Mather says.” For example, if a girl comes out to her family and says that he wishes to become a girl some families will automatically say ‘get out of the house and come back when you can wear trousers’. They go from being in a happy family unit to being shafted out and where do they finish up? Down at the Valley looking for a one bedroom unit. They’ve lost that family interaction and they get depressed. When they go out they get vilified, they get victimised and there is no help out there for them. A lot of them get beaten up. A lot of them do commit suicide or self-harm.
“Unfortunately, harassment is par for the course. When they go out to a restaurant they see people talking behind their hands or pointing, and that still goes on today. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still good up here. I came to Australia in 1960 from England on my own. I knew all the time that I was transgender but if you told anyone you were transgender back then you would be put in the lock-up and given electric shock therapy. That’s why you see a lot of transgender people come out later in life, because there is more help available now.”
In the wake of the controversy and harm that has been caused, Ms Mather and ATSAQ have thanked the community for their support, but have also asked that everybody keep their emotions in check.
“I would say to all the people in the community to please be calm,” she says. “Do not be outraged to the extent of being violent. We will get through this, we will gain our respect again although it will take time. But remember, we are working to gain back our respect. Keep your heads up high.”
For more information on ATSAQ, or to donate, visit www.atsaq.com.