Trans and gender diverse people at risk of violence, NSW LGBT inquiry hears

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The trans and gender diverse community is now at greater risk of violence than ever before, a NSW inquiry into historic LGBT hate crime has heard.

The special commission of inquiry is investigating suspected hate crime deaths in the state between 1970 and 2010 and this week is focusing on legal, social and cultural issues of the period.

Author, lawyer and academic Eloise Brook told a public hearing in Sydney today that trans people were being “swept up” in the rising violence that was a reaction to queer visibility in the 80s and 90s.

Dr. Brook said the demarcation between different groups in the wider LGBT community was far less in those decades.

“Nobody took the time to find out if someone was trans, transwoman or gay when they were perpetrating violence against them,” she said.

Dr. Brook, who is also health and communications manager at the state’s main support service The Gender Centre, expressed concern about transphobic or discriminatory media reports.

She said that while there has always been some media interest in transgender people, it is now “unparalleled”, with another article aimed at the community published every week, whether it is about sports, children or other topics.

“It is important to recognize that violence against the LGBTIQ community is not a purely historical phenomenon,” wrote Dr. Brook in his statement to the inquiry.

“In some ways, the trans and gender diverse community is now at greater risk of violence than ever before.”

Since 2008, an international advocacy group, Transrespect vs Transphobia Worldwide, has been collecting the names of trans and gender variant people who are murdered each year.

Dr. Brook said Australia had only contributed two names to the list, which she said was in no way an accurate reflection of the true number.

During her evidence, she explained how the “bureaucratic death process” can be harmful because it focuses on protecting the victim’s families or loved ones, and any information a coroner may have excludes gender diversity.

“So we often have people who may have been trans women, trans men who have been killed, who in death are misgendered for their birth sex,” said Dr. Brook to the hearing.

“We don’t have a clear way of being able to identify the community members that we lost.”

Official data such as that collected from Australia’s census every four years is also problematic, she said, because the processes still “struggle to identify anything outside of a binary gender – male or female”.

“There have been moves since 2016 to try to address or change this, but those attempts have been somewhat laughable,” Dr Brook said.

In 2016, the census recorded that there were 1,263 people who were part of the trans or gender diverse community.

When asked if that was correct, Dr. Brook: “Sounds like The Gender Centre’s Facebook group”.

The investigation continues Friday.

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