“It’s going to be a rough ride, but you will be living a life beyond your wildest dreams” – Teddy Cook on Transgender Day of Visibility
Teddy Cook is ACON‘s Acting Director of Community Health, and Vice President of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health. Sydney WorldPride had the privilege of speaking with the community leader about the importance of meaningful visibility, his personal experiences as a trans person, and Australia’s rich transgender history.
March 31 marks Trans Day of Visibility, and this year’s theme is ‘be seen.’ Why is visibility so important?
Meaningful visibility is important for trans communities in particular because we have so often been either completely invisible or hyper visible, with not much in between.
Trans visibility is a step toward trans liberation, which means it can be a double-edged sword, particularly for our Sistergirls [First Nations trans and gender diverse people] and for those who face trans misogyny and who are at greater risk of violence just for being who they are.
Visibility means finding welcoming and safe spaces for all of us as we are, as binary (female or male) and as non-binary trans people. Visibility and erasure play out in data collection, in culture and community, in health systems, government policy and in the immense lack of resourcing facing trans community groups and organisations.
Visibility means challenging stereotypes and the myth of ‘trans enough’ [the idea that there is a certain ‘critieria’ that qualifies someone as trans – there isn’t] while celebrating and elevating the wondrous diversity of trans communities, shining a light on achievements while standing up for gender euphoria [the joyful feeling that comes with gender-affirming experiences] and the work still to be done. We’ve all heard this before, but you just can’t be what you can’t see.
In what ways do you encourage your community to ‘be seen’?
It’s tough to write that in 2022, as being seen can still be dangerous. We encourage trans people to be themselves, to lean into self-determination and autonomy, know that there is no such thing as being ‘trans enough’ because trans is expansive and includes everyone whose gender differs from what was presumed and chosen for you.
Know that trans is not short for transition, that trans is as binary as it is non-binary, as ancient as it is contemporary. Trans isn’t about hormones and surgery, it’s about the freedom to be you, regardless of what others see, the bathroom you use, the team you play for or what your birth certificate suggests.
Trans people are everywhere, as we have always been, but on today’s Trans Day of Visibility it’s time for cis allies to #beseen supporting their trans people, and for trans people to #beseen as the gift we are.
What is your favourite thing about being part of Australia’s trans community?
I honestly love the Australian trans community, I feel so lucky to be part of this community.
My favourite thing though is that this country is home to the longest living continuous culture on the planet, which means of course that the longest living continuous trans culture is here too, our Sistergirls, Brotherboys and trans mob.
The trans experience has always existed here, many tribes and nations have language, ceremony and dance that recognises and affirms gender diversity on country. It’s important to remember that we existed 60 thousand years ago, so really understand that trans people are not a new fad but an ancient human experience.
In what ways do you think the LGBTQIA+ community, and Sydney more broadly, can do better to ensure trans people feel seen and heard within the scene?
There are two really profound things a cis person can do for trans people. Self-educate on the trans experience by engaging with trusted sources like TransHub, and have conversations with friends and family about how important trans people are for society.
These two actions will unpack any assumptions and assist with the unlearning/relearning we need to do for trans people, and supporting those closest to developing trans-affirming lives means trans people are more likely to be seen and heard across their lives.
What advice would you give to a younger Teddy Cook, still finding his place in the world?
Teddy, it’s going to be a rough ride, but you will be living a life beyond your wildest dreams, lean in. Don’t believe them when they tell you won’t be able to work, won’t form relationships and will hate yourself forever.
You do a lot of amazing work through your role at ACON, what are your goals/priorities at the moment?
The goals and priorities are always self-determination and autonomy for all trans people everywhere, but the specifics include clear and easy pathways for accessing gender affirming care, affordable and available gender affirming healthcare, an inclusive and knowledgeable NSW health sector, self-determined legal gender recognition (instead of requiring surgical sterilisation to update a document as is currently the case), ensuring all settings are inclusive and affirming and a vibrant, resourced trans community advocating for its own needs. Find out more here.
On Transgender Day of Visibility, and always, we recognise and celebrate the achievements of trans and gender diverse people everywhere.
If you or anyone you know is in need of support, visit ACON‘s support page for the wealth of services available to you.
If you are an Australian trans creator, have you considered staging your work as part of Sydney WorldPride? More information here.
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