A transgender man has told a NSW parliamentary inquiry that trans people “deserve the dignity of being known”.
He was the only trans person to appear at the inquiry, which is examining Mark Latham’s proposed bill to ban the promotion of gender fluidity in schools.
Representatives from the Australian Christian Lobby, in addition to the Family Voice Australia Christian organisation previously gave evidence.
Former anti-halal campaigner Kirralie Smith also appeared at the inquiry.
Transgender man gives evidence to inquiry
Teddy Cook is a transgender man and vice-president of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health.
He was the sole voice for transgender people at the inquiry.
In his opening statement, he said:
“It is the case that people most affected that often get the least opportunities to speak.
“And even if my voice shakes, that is OK because I am still here.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to make an opening statement.
“I am also really grateful for the opportunity to speak as an adult who was once a trans child … We deserve the dignity of being known.
“The reality is that trans people have always existed. We have always been here.
“And we have place and culture and ceremony in First Nations populations across the globe.”
‘We are not the threat you imagine us to be’
Cook expressed bemusement at the perceived threat trans people pose to the community.
“You do seem to see us as a threat, which is interesting.
“I do hope that you know some actual trans people in your life. I hope that I am not the first one you have met.
“The reality, though, is that we are not powerful enough to disrupt the culture of this country.
“Many of us, even though we are incredibly resilient, are just trying to get through the day, really.
“We are not the threat you imagine us to be.
“How do I know this? Well, because I see it.
“I see the rates of suicidality in my community, and the violence. I see the rejection and the turmoil.
“And I hear the stories of people who have ended their own lives – young people, who would prefer not to be alive than to live in a world that tells them that there is something wrong with them, that we are disordered, that we are a problem, that we are a challenge to deal with, that we are something to legislate against.”
Trans students always existed
Cook also told the inquiry the existence of transgender youth in schools is nothing new.
He then explained how important support from school communities can be.
“A trans kid expressing their gender is work for us,” he said.
“It is not play. It is about being exactly who we are.
“The research globally, here and internationally, continues to show up the same results: that trans kids do better and they have a better quality of life when they are affirmed as who they are at school.
“We have always existed. We have always been in schools.
“I would prefer an education system that builds the ability of our children to live in the world as it is.”
Currently, he said children who experience discrimination feel “unsafe” at school.
Hundreds of LGBTQ advocates and parents of transgender children thanked Cook for his speech.
“I got one message saying, ‘Thank you so much for a voice for our kids,’ and stories – particularly from parents – telling me what it meant for their young person to see an adult trans person speaking so strongly,” he said.
“I have had a lot of messages from clinicians as well, they have been really lovely.”
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