VISIBILITY THROUGH A CRACKED MIRROR
IDAHOBIT DAY 2023
Monday, 15 May 2023.
1990 marked an important year that coincided with the beginning a new chapter for the visibility of raising awareness about the discrimination and violence faced by the LGBTQIA + SB communities worldwide with the establishment of IDAHOBIT DAY 1990, It also marked the beginning change of my relationship with my adopted family and the lifelong journey of dealing with, gender Identity, violence, discrimination, and visibility.
In this reflective account I will thread key aspects of IDAHOBIT DAY through my living experiences and hope this can provide you with a deeper insight into why this day is more than just a day of remembrance, but a mirror edged catalyst positioned as the outgroup.
This year’s thematic messaging universally
Photo taken in 1986 (18 years old) when I started to unpack my gender identity but felt unsafe and resided in identifying as a gay male, after being verbally and physically assaulted in public spaces.
These publications perpetuated the visibility messaging that the mass media was positioning during the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1990 I was 21 and still trying to make sense of the AIDS Crisis in Australia and the World. The daily lived experiences of many people like me were one of constant fear of being abused and discriminated in schools, health services providers and education. The collective understanding of gender during this time was embedded in binary notions of male and female. The ideas of transgender had not yet made its way into the politics of queer representations. For some of us prior to the internet and digital social media platforms of the past two decades, we only had limited exposure to what was broadcasted on television and written up in journals. There was no mention that gender existed outside of gender binary, the division of gender was into only women and men. Therefore, my feelings of being trapped in a man’s embodiment was threaded through the discourse of psychiatric interpretations. These readings positioned us as having a condition and needing therapeutic care. I was frighted that I would never find employment, and would have no way of supporting myself, so I hid in a hyper vigilance of constantly surveilling those around me.
Ths images still haunt me thirty years later.
In1990 was a year that changed my life and cemented my fear of being visible. I had just finished an evening with a male friend a night of dancing to the tunes of Black Box, Kylie and Pet Shops Boys at Commercial Road South Yarra LGBTIQ Venue Three Faces. It was around 12.30am and we had decided to snack on hot dogs which was the way to finish a night of exuberance on the dance floor before we would both go on our way to our homes. I had begun to eat my hot dog when a young man came up to me and held an axe to my head, while we were both sitting down. I still remember the cold stares of hate permeating from his dark eyes, that had no soul. He kept mumbling that people like me should be killed and he hated me. I felt frozen in time, and all I remember saying “please leave me alone”. The next minute I looked up over his shoulder and noticed a Police Van drive past and, with a blink of the eye he disappeared into the darkness of the night. I didn’t bother to report the incident as I had previously reported being bashed and egged on numerous occasions and they weren’t interested and never followed anything up.
It was a sign for me that being perceived as different, in 1990 was a flag for hate, violence and being visible. My family at the time enforced that it was my fault and for choosing a filthy lifestyle that encouraged the transmission of AIDS. My support base was just me, and this has been more life experience of being alone and constant searching for relationships to fill the gap of love. I knew I had no family and this eventually led to a estrangement with my family that has now lasted for over 10 years.
Over the decades, the changing landscape of understanding how AIDS is transmitted and better treatment options slowly created a visibility of the discrimination that many from our LGBTIQA community had been exposed to. The advent of recognition of a day where the whole community can be It was clear that we needed some way of bridging the social and cultural landscapes in Australia, that would allow us to voice our living experiences and have a day to reflect on the past, present and emerging ways to better understand us. Yet, the constant bashings of gay men near on-site gay venues and sex on premises was not being addressed in the1990s.
Now in 2023, the hatred has morphed towards trans and gender diverse people. Online dating sites pose a high risk for violence and risk of sexual assaults. Trans and gender diverse women like me, who do not pass as cis women, struggle to find partners who are respectful and want stable ongoing visible relationships. There is still a complicated relationship that some of our LGBTIQA SB+ have with the police, and there needs more work on building a relationship that addresses the power imbalances of policing.
It wasn’t for me until the mid-2000’s that I knew that IDAHHOBIT Day was celebrated through our various institutions. For those like me, who identify as transgender or gender diverse and who are in our 50s, visibility has a double-edged saw. The day is essential as it aims to promote equity and acceptance for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation but, the increased visibility leads to a greater exposure for verbal abuse and ridicule I receive when I go out in public spaces.
The impact of Passing for many trans and gender diverse people mediates where we chose to meet in public spaces. There is still the perception that if you don’t confirm to the binary visual representations of gender, then you are purposefully seeking attention and welcome public comment, and that flow on effect of this is that we can be supporting CIS women in feminist ideologies of oppression as we are trans and or gender diverse people and we are somehow taking away the platform of authenticity from the dominate ideologies of gender presented by the Greer Movement. I would argue that this is not the case, and that the two are not mutually exclusive.
The primary goal of IDAHOBIT is to provide conversation starters and deeper discussions around the issues that impact my community and consider ways to disrupt discrimination, hate, fear, violence and build connections.
Each year there is a theme that is threaded through the activities that organisations and individuals can frame their activities. The 2023 theme of diversity and unity symbolises the continual need to address the ongoing challenges of discrimination and alienation faced by the LGBTIQA SB+ communities globally and promoting solidarity, equality, and acceptance.
There are challenges that LGBTIQA SB + communities face locally and globally in 2023. There has been a reported surge of unprecedent protests to Drag Time Stories being held in Library spaces throughout Australia and the world. The media’s coverage of anti- trans issues raises important questions as to why there is a narrow focus on the few people who have had affirmed surgeries and then for some have decided to Detransition. These specific messages have been hijacked by the rise of anti- trans radical feminists and some religious affiliated groups in the community who do not support gender affirming surgery.
It is difficult to encapsulate in a short article the interconnected ideologies of heteronormative privilege that operates in Australian society in 2023. I have tried to highlight that positioning IDAHOBIT Day needs to start moving forward beyond flag raising ceremonies and ensuring that actionable polices of diversity and inclusion are embedded in daily praxis in all community spaces. However, before this can be authentically enacted, we of the LGBTIQA SB+ communities, have to voice that we need allies to have personal conversations with their significant others and consider the issue of accepting that binary notions of gender are problematic and are not inclusive.
The essence of IDAHOBIT day for me is that my embodiment does not take away from your embodiment. The irony for my living experience, in 1990 I was stigmatised because I was a visible representation of the community that was linked to AIDS and now in 2023, I am visibly linked to being trans. My trans gender identity is my positionality I bring to this diverse world and your CIS gender Identity is yours, surely, we can coexist and live in harmony or do we need to wait another 30 years.
Ricki Spencer (pronouns- She/they) M.Ed. B.Ed. B.A B.SW.
Research Student University of Melbourne
Co-Chair of Inclusive Rainbow Voices LGBTIQA SB+ People with Disabilities Victoria.
Convenor for Sociology of Media, Australia Sociological Association