It’s day 16 of #DearPM, we’re officially past the half-way point!
This is an important letter. Rebekah Robertson is the mother of a transgender teenager and the founder of Transcend Victoria, a service which provides information and support to families who are living this experience and navigating a complex process. Transgender people have been targeted by many anti-equality groups, such as the Australian Christian Lobby, in their bid to restrict the rights of LGBTI people across Australia.
The important thing for us to always remember is that, as an LGBTI community, we only succeed if all of us receives equal rights. The question put forward for the plebiscite was not fully inclusive of all transgender and intersex people. This is because our community was expressly excluded from the process of divising this question.
Today’s letter is important, and let’s all keep Rebekah’s words in mind.
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
30 November 2016
#DearPM: Marriage Equality (16 of 30)
To the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP,
On day 16 of this letter writing campaign, I feel honoured to feature a letter from an incredibly important person, Rebekah Robertson. Rebekah was nominated for the Straight Ally of the Year at the 2016 GLOBE Community Awards for starting and running Transcend an organisation that supports parents of young transgender people. This service provides information, links to services and support for parents who want to do what is best for their child.
Rebekah is also mother to Georgie Stone, Victoria’s GLBTI Person of the Year. It is a testament to Rebekah’s supportive and empowering approach to parenting that Georgie is in a position to confidently advocate for herself, and to be voice for transgender people in Australia.
Dear Mr Turnbull,
I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to you about marriage equality, and your statements that there is no alternative to a plebiscite. This is very confusing to me. If legislation was tabled in Parliament and a free vote made, marriage equality would pass through both houses. You agree with marriage equality as does the leader of the Opposition. There is no impediment, so clearly a free vote is the best alternative.
The plebiscite was a bad idea. It may have solved a political problem within the LNP but it caused shocking problems for the people it directly affects. The attacks on families and on children were appalling from groups such as the ACL in the months leading up to the failed attempt to pass it through the Senate. My daughter is transgender. She recently won the Victorian GLBTI Person of the Year at the GLOBE Community Awards here in Melbourne. She was also the subject of ‘About A Girl’ an Australian Story outlining the challenges she has faced throughout her life as well as the discrimination that has forced her to become an advocate for kids like her. Those opposed to marriage equality have used transgender children as cannon fodder in their war against equality. These people, Lyle Shelton in particular as the spokesperson of the NO campaign, has denied the very existence of my daughter and transgender children like her. They say she has made it up or been encouraged by crazy parents, or is crazy herself. They think that the very presence of my daughter at school will make everyone around her uncertain of their own gender and that she represents “gender theory” which is undermining the very fabric of society and culture. If you met my daughter you would understand how ridiculous that is. And for the record, in all the years Georgie has been at school (she is now in year 11) and all the kids she has come in contact with, nobody has caught ‘the transgender’. Head lice, gastro and flu remain the most likely things that kids pass on at school, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet she, (and children like her), is the focus of hatred and ignorance directed towards her simply because some people cannot accept that everyone should and must have the same rights they do.
Despite the ugly atmosphere that the marriage equality debate has created this year, my daughter Georgie has chosen to be visible and advocate for herself and her community. However, as someone who’s birth certificate states she is male, she cannot marry legally when she grows up, unless she has sex affirmation surgery. Whilst that may be possible for Georgie, it is not possible for every transgender person for a variety of reasons, cost being one of them. How terribly sad that is. Trans people are marginalised at every turn, even in love.
Over the next couple of years, as your term plays out, a new generation of voters will come into their power. My daughter and her twin brother Harry will be able to vote at the next Federal Election in 2019, and with them an entire generation of young people who believe in marriage equality and supporting the rights of LGBTIQ+ people. They want a parliament and representatives who reflect their values and their acceptance of and respect for their fellow Australians.
It can happen. You can be the Prime Minister who makes it happen with a free vote before we go to the polls again. I would be so proud of an Australia that truly reflected the wishes of the majority of its citizens and made marriage equality a reality. I don’t care which party does it. I don’t care who takes the credit. I want the people I love to be respected in law. I want my gay niece, engaged to a beautiful woman to be able to set a date and for us to celebrate with them as a family. I want my gorgeous daughter to have the same rights as her twin brother. I want my LGBTIQ friends who have loved, had families, been great contributors to their communities, paid their taxes and done amazing things for their country to have the same rights and legal status that I do. It’s really not so complicated.
Rebekah Robertson, Victoria
Rebekah highlights the likely destructive nature of discourse that would have surrounded a plebiscite, and her very real concerns of the effect that it would have on young LGBTI people. With that in mind:
- How many, and which transgender groups and/or individuals has the Attorney General advised the Prime Minister were consulted in the lead up to a parliamentary vote on the plebiscite?
- Did the Attorney General advise the Prime Minister that transgender groups or individuals were consulted in the formulation of a question for the plebiscite, to ensure that it was representative and inclusive of trans people?
This is my sixteenth letter in a series calling for a free vote on marriage equality in the parliament, and in your current term. A free vote is the correct way to legislate for marriage equality. You could allow this to happen today.