Dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The holiday was founded by Michigan-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people and has gone on to globally affect trans visibility, law changes and wider community awareness of trans issues and some of the incredible people in the community.
The day in Australia will take on new meaning as Guidetogay.com can exclusively reveal that Australia's upcoming federal election, the Greens will have its first ever trans candidate in the state of New South Wales.
The first ever Trans candidate in Australia was in the 1980's for the Australian Democrats, since then federally, only one other Trans person was preselected, by the Greens in Tasmania, who is also standing in the upcoming federal election.
Voters will be able to cast their vote for Greens new candidate Michaela Chantelle Sherwood in the Federal seat of Hume.
We caught up with Michaela to discuss her run for Parliament and what it has been like to be a trans woman in Australia.
So why did you decide to join the Greens?
I joined the Greens in 2009 as I believe that the Greens are the only principled party that takes combating social injustice seriously. Being a transgender woman, I relate to and empathise with all people of diversity who experience prejudice.
What was life like growing up trans and how did your personal experience bring you to this point in your career?
I grew up in the 1950s knowing that I was different, but unable to talk with anyone about it - not at school and certainly not at home. I started dressing surreptitiously in my sister’s clothes and then when I was 12 I read a newspaper report of a transwoman who boarded a bus and was arrested for gross indecency, then being sent for therapy. That report terrified me and thereafter I tried to keep my “condition” secret, although of course it was impossible not to express myself in private at home.
By the late 1990s I was leading a double life: weekend trips to Sydney as my female self and weekday work in Canberra as a male. I experienced huge guilt and shame at my condition, but could not give up who I really was. It all got too much by early 2000 and I made a determined attempt at suicide. After psychiatric treatment I tried to suppress my female self but by 2010 I was back to leading the double life and in 2012 decidedly to finally come out publicly and permanently as transgender.
On my coming out, my three regular clients (government agencies) suddenly had no more requirement of my consulting services and I was left without income. Having made some contacts within the Sydney Greens community, I worked as a volunteer for Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Member of the NSW Legislative Council, advising on transgender issues and assisting with other aspects of Mehreen’s busy portfolio. I was deeply moved by the support and acceptance of all Greens members with whom I interacted. I finally began to find peace within myself and a confidence to engage fully in society.
Why did you decide to seek pre-selection to become a candidate for the election?
I decided to seek preselection by the Greens in the forthcoming federal election for two reasons: 1) to give something back to the party, to the people, who had supported and nurtured me in my painful search for self integrity and fulfilment and 2) to increase the visibility of transgender people and, hopefully, make life easier for those of us who are afraid of being known for who we are. That said, I am passionate about the Greens’ policies for the environment and for social justice: I want to be seen as a Greens candidate who is, by the way, transgender - not as a transgender candidate who happens to be Green.
Guidetogay.com is proud to make this announcement. Do you have a message to our readers?
I am very excited and proud to have been endorsed as the Greens preselected candidate for Hume and I am very grateful to all those Greens members who have accepted me so unconditionally. With the decent, caring people that the Greens have within its ranks, the Greens really deserve to do well in the election - and the people of Australia deserve it too!
There is current debate as to when the election will be held, but this year's dates are looking likely to be a July 2nd or later election.
As mentioned easrlier in our piece, Tasmania will also have a trans representative, the lovely Martine Delany - who will be up for election - also with the Greens, in the seat of Franklin.
So Trans Visibility Day is not just about Caitlyn Jenner, kids! There are some amazing people out in the community making a difference and standing up for everyone's rights.
If you have an amazing trans story, person or message, feel free to share it in our comments section below.