Today, March 31st, is international transgender day of visibility.
”It’s a day for the people of New Zealand to stand up and say we want everyone to be equal – to be respected as human beings, and to have access to human rights” says Ahi Wi-Hongi, National Coordinator of Gender Minorities Aotearoa (GMA), ”regardless of sex or gender.”
”Without resources such as safe housing, without freedom from violence, and without supportive communities, visibility is meaningless” says GMA spokesperson Adeline Greig. ”So often, trans women and other gender minorities are subjected to the public gaze in ways that harm us.”
“Visibility must go hand in hand with an acceptance of gender minorities as deserving of respect and rights” GMA youth spokesperson Kiran Foster says.
“Recently, gender identity was once again rejected from inclusion in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as a protected group; since then, Family First has released a document encouraging schools not to accommodate the needs of transgender students” Foster continues. “It is important that people are aware that we exist, because that enables them to make space for us in their world views and communities. But without that space, visibility is incredibly dangerous.”
”In Australia, the anti-bullying programme Safe Schools has come under vicious attack,” says Wi-Hongi, ”and we’re also seeing a targeted push-back against rising trans visibility in the USA, with 44 anti-trans bills introduced this year alone, 23 of which target transgender children.”
”However,” says Wi-Hongi, ”just yesterday in New Zealand’s capital city we saw the world’s first transgender woman symbol replace the ”green man” walking symbol on the Cuba st traffic lights. This year has also seen both Wellington High School and Onslow College take up the call of transgender students and their supporters and move toward genderneutral bathrooms. We’re seeing progress in the medical sector. We want to see visibility translate into positive actions which improve the lives of transgender and intersex people”
”The takeaway message,” says Wi-Hongi, ”is that visibility alone is not enough. The people of New Zealand are good, caring, and progressive people. We are world leaders – we led the world on women voting, we elected the worlds first openly transgender Member of Parliament, we are the only country in the world to protect sex workers by decriminalising their occupation,” Wi-Hongi says.
”Let’s continue to be at the forefront of human rights – let’s make 2016 the year we carry the torch for transgender and intersex whanau”.