CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mentions of violence, queerphobia and transphobia. Call QLife on 1800 184 527 for mental health support tailored for queer people.
About thirty protestors gathered beside Tumbalong Park on Sunday night to protest transphobia. Originally billed as a protest against Donald Trump Jr. who was previously scheduled to speak in Australia, speakers at the snap rally highlighted issues faced by transgender people in Australia and overseas and emphasised the detrimental effect of Trumpism on trans people.
Rachel Evans, a queer activist and chair of the rally, said that “[Trump Jr.] and his ilk are having a grave impact on trans rights in the US.
“The American Civil Liberties Union have tracked 491 anti-trans bills in US states and council regions … In Australia too we are mindful that ten councils in Victoria have caved to right-wing threats and cancelled drag storytellings, NSW Parliament just hosted an anti-trans, bigoted forum … the NSW ALP are threatening a state anti-LGBTIQ+ religious anti-discrimination bill.”
USyd Queer Action Collective (QuAC) member Esther Whitehead denounced claims that anti-trans figures “stand for liberty,” referencing the Friedman Conference, self-described as “Australia’s biggest and best pro-liberty conference,” that occurred at UTS the day prior. The conference featured speakers including former United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, and Victorian MLC Moira Deeming who was expelled from the Liberal Party after she spoke at an anti-trans rally which was attended by neo-Nazis.
She also condemned the recent disposal of a large number of Queer Honi copies immediately after its launch. “This is the real danger of not opposing these bigots – they be emboldened, and they organise against us.”
Tilly Fay, a UTS National Tertiary Education Union member, spoke about the international struggle for trans rights.
“[Trump Jr.] might not be here but the fight [for] trans rights is international, and we’re standing in solidarity with our trans siblings in the US … [we’re in a] worldwide economic crisis, struggling with the cost of living, and we’re seeing people like Trump Jr. deliberately pointing at trans people and drag queens and saying they are the problem”.
Fay hailed recent victories in achieving gender affirmation leave at UTS and USyd, as well as thousands marching in London this week demanding equality for trans people, calling for similar action in Australia.
Jessica Duffy, QuAC member, connected attacks on trans people to attacks on women’s rights, abortion, disabled people’s rights, and the rights of people of colour, recalling the recent US Supreme Court decision prohibiting affirmative action at universities and declaring “when they come for those rights, they will come for yours next.
“Support in Sydney is for the LGBT community, and we need to remember that we need to mobilise, we need to be in the streets to say that you [transphobes] are not welcome, because if we do not then they can take away our rights.”
Vieve Carnsew, a member of Solidarity, spoke about their history of organising and the need to oppose transphobia.
“Although Trump [Jr.] isn’t actually here, we still need to be protesting not just him but our own government and the transphobia that permeates it.”
Calling out the Albanese government, Carnsew said that “Albanese’s pandering to the same anti-trans and anti-abortion politics that Trump pushed by making gender affirmation surgery and abortions inaccessible across Australia in public hospitals.
“Surgeries that are required for trans people to be recognised as their gender on their birth certificate in New South Wales are at the same time classed as cosmetic under Medicare.”
Melodie Grafton, a Filipino-Australian member of Rainbow Rights Coalition spoke about the negative influence of Trumpism on trans people in the Philippines, especially the killing of Filipino trans woman Jennifer Laude by an American marine who “would use the trans panic defence in a 2015 trial.”
They also referred to the 2019 killing of Filipino trans woman Mhelody Bruno in Wagga Wagga by former RAAF corporal Rian Toyer, who spent a mere 22 months in jail after pleading guilty for manslaughter, as “she and her family are yet to receive justice.” Melodie also denounced the lack of legal protections for queer and trans Filipinos, with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Bill having been introduced three times in the Philippine legislature since 2017.
Turning Point Australia, the promoter of Trump Jr.’s Australian speaking tour, cited so-called cancel culture and visa issues as reasons for its postponement, prompting home affairs minister Clare O’Neil to respond on Twitter.
“Donald Trump Jr. has been given a visa to come to Australia. He didn’t get cancelled. He’s just a big baby, who isn’t very popular,” remarked O’Neil.