A safer Surf Coast: Community gathers for debut Trans Awareness Week event

November 25, 2021 BY

Merrin Wake opens the Trans Awareness Week event in the Surf Coast Shire council chambers. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

THE Surf Coast’s first Trans Awareness Week event has celebrated progress on the issue but acknowledged there is still a long way to go.

About 50 people came to the event, which was organised by Surf Coast For Equality founder Merrin Wake and took place on Friday last week.

Speakers included the second Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities, Todd Fernando; Member for Western Victoria, Animal Justice Party MP and parent to two trans children Andy Meddick; former AFL coach and trans woman Danielle Laidley; and 2021 Surf Coast Youth Award winner and LGBTIQ+ advocate Jay Wake.

Member for Western Victoria Andy Meddick. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

Although held in the council chambers in Torquay North, the event was not an officially sanctioned Surf Coast Shire event but was attended by incumbent shire councillors Libby Stapleton and Rose Hodge, as well as former councillors Margot Smith and David Bell.

“I hope that alongside you, we can make this a wiser and safer Surf Coast,” Merrin Wake said in her introductory remarks.

“Change may start with awareness, but what it really needs is a commitment to action, and now. I always say I’m a really impatient mum who needs the world to change tomorrow.”

Rose Hodge and Danielle Laidley. Photo: ROSE HODGE

Mr Meddick passed on the apologies of Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley, quipping “there’s a little piece of pesky legislation that’s sitting in the Upper House at the moment that’s taking up an inordinate amount of our time”.

He said Trans Awareness Week was a time for celebrating every aspect of every person in the trans and non-binary community.

“My family and I have been living here for 32 years, and we have seen all of the struggles of this community that was, to use an old expression, very much in the closet for a very, very long time.”

He recalled the Surf Coast Shire council’s debate about flying the rainbow flag as “a very terrible period” when “the shire became quite divided”.

“This is a week where we should be smiling and happy and dancing and everything else, it really is, but we also have to recognise that there is such a long, long way to go.”

Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities Todd Fernando. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

The event was held the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance, marked annually on November 20 as a memorial to those murdered as a result of transphobia, and the crowd observed a minute’s silence.

“I’m asking the rest of you, across our communities, in every community across the state, to look after your friends and families; they (LGBTIQ+ people) should not be targets,” Mr Fernando said.

“I call for visibility, but I recognise that it’s not always easy to publicly live our truths.

“When I see the cowards who attack or murder trans or gender-diverse people, I see fear – fear of difference, of their narrow understanding of the world being threatened, but really, I don’t understand them.

“I think they’re threatened by your resilience, your strength, that no matter their persistent, awful hatred, you are all still here, still living lives worth celebrating.”

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