On the 20th of November 2019 TPA hosted an TDoR event at Green Park in Sydney. We payed respect to those who have lost their lives in acts of anti-transgender violence, and expressed love and respect for our community.
Speakers included Sister Rusty - A Watjarri woman who has lived and worked in Kings Cross since her early twenties and is now an outreach worker with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and Mark Beckett and his mum Kate - Mark is a 10 year old Brother Boy and actor, who’s story will be told on ABC TV in 2020. And Cassy Judy wrote and performed a beautiful original song accompanied by Alison Gould.
TPA Patron Peta Friend hosted the event, with TPA President AJ Brown speaking about the impact of online trolling in the group.
Thanks to everyone who came along and made this really beautiful and heartfelt event possible.
You can read AJ's speech here. (TW: transphobia and hate speech)
We live in a digital age, information can be used in a harmful manner. Cyber bullying, stalking and trolling is common place. Anxiety, suicidal thoughts and even self harm are worsened by our online worlds. We now all have the ability to air our prejudices and discrimination from behind the safety of a computer screen. With little consequence we can all become a cyber bully, a keyboard warrior or as I call them, a key board killer.
Many of you here know me, if not, I’m AJ Brown, President of Trans Pride Australia. Before I became President, only a month ago, and the organisations was incorporated, only a year ago, I was admin for the Trans Pride Australia groups and page over the last four years. We provide social support in the groups for over 3000 people, both in the city and suburbs and across regional and rural Australia.
I’ve seen this keyboard killing first hand, how their comments grind away at our confidence and feelings of safety till many of our people can’t go on. I’ve deleted hundreds of membership requests from people who’s only intention is to abuse us. I’ve received threatening and derogatory DM’s though our page and I’ve deleted, hidden, blocked and reported thousands of comments. Recently I boosted a post that promoted a Trans Pride Australia event. Facebook set up an example of this boosted post and I accidentally approved it. This meant I didn’t set the audience. We’d normally be extremely careful with our reach, but without restricting the audience it became a free for all; we were inundated with trolls from the extreme right, TERFS and people who just seem to be trolling for fun. For 24 hours, before I could remove the boost, I was hiding, deleting, blocking and reporting comments to try to keep the space safe. This isn’t ideal for the Page as Facebook thinks we’re censoring our engagement and so reduces our reach, which means we’re not reaching our people, the vulnerable people, those who need to hear our messages the most. But it’s essential to keep us safe.
While I was moderating this commentary I noticed the profile pic of someone I used to know. I would’ve called them a friend. They were a neighbour from where I lived a few years ago and along with their wife, their child and Beagle and my partner and our Boarder Collie we would regularly have coffee at the local dog park on a Saturday morning. They knew me before, during and after my social and medical transition. They were always curious but not invasive, respectful and supportive. They were nice people. We’ve lost contact since I moved and when I looked at their profile pic I wondered why they were commenting. How did they know I’m the admin of this group? Then I read their comment… and realised… they DIDN’T know I am the admin of this group….
If you’re trans or gender diverse it’s hard to trust even the people you think are your friends.
I found a way to take the most commonly used keyboard killer words and put them in our settings to stop the comments showing up on the page in the first place. Words such as kill, hang, die, dead, stab, filthy, disgusting. Blocking these words from the page has stopped nearly all negative commentary. It seems keyboard killers are incapable of expressing their point of view without wanting to kill us or wishing we were dead.
With these new settings in place we recently posted the photos from the Trans and Gender Diverse photo shoot we produced with Cassy Judy and ACON. The results were fantastic. We reached nearly 100 thousand people all over the world and ALL comments were supportive, empowering and championing the proud visibility of our community.
Before I became a horticulturalist and landscaper, ran my own business and became the President of Trans Pride Australia, I was a sex worker for 15 years. I know this park well and the places around here. During that time I discovered what abuse of power really is. Acts of aggression, violation and violence are accepted in this industry, whether it be on the street, in a parlour, a private situation or as an escort. It’s no wonder 61% of all trans people killed this year were sex workers. SWOP provided an on the ground service to keep us safe and heard. I would like to acknowledge the late Roberta Perkins, who lived and worked at the intersection of sex worker rights and transgender rights for more than three decades. As her obituary written by SWOP and the Scarlett Alliance says: “Roberta was a trail blazer and her impact on the health safety and rights of sex workers and trans people has been vast and enduring and cannot be overstated.”
As Roberta worked tirelessly to create change and a safe space for our people, so do we, at Trans Pride Australia, commit to doing so.
It’s a new world and our battles are both on the ground and in the digital space but, just as this brings out the key board killers so too does it bring out the keyboard connections. It provide an opportunity for us to easily find the people and resources we need to survive and, not just to survive but thrive. Trans Pride Australia will continue to use this space to advocate for trans and gender diverse people to in Australia and beyond to live their best possible life.