Monthly Archives: October 2014

When Did Cis Become an Insult? part 1

Many of us in Brisbane are exhausted, still reeling from Mayang Prasetyo’s monstrous death and subsequent slander by the media, and heightened emotions surrounding the organisation of her vigil. It is unsurprising that there is a significant amount of dialogue using the term “cisgendered”.

Today a friend asked,


“This is probably going to open a big can of worms but when did “Cis” become an insult?”


What resulted was a Facebook storm of ideas, jokes, and a lot of anger. Jade, a person I have immense repeat for, wrote this thoughtful reply, and I asked if I could post it here as I want to preserve it so that it will remain here for reference, as part of an ongoing dialogue and a touchstone in my own exploration into community, identify, shame, and the body. I have edited together a reply over several posts, but have messed with it as little as possible as this is Jade’s voice. Over to you Jade:


Okay, I’m going to try and explain this a bit. Entirely from my own perspective. Please take the time to read this if you’re wondering the same thing. This is very generalised and coming from the experience of a trans masculine person who has never faced oppression as a trans woman and cannot speak on their behalf […]

People aren’t equal. In a social way, in an economical way, in a safety way, in a life-style way. There is a constant hierarchy where certain people, because of the circumstances of their birth- are given a level on which they sit either above or below other people. It’s intersectional (which means it incorporates lots of different groups facing different issues) which makes it all the more complicated.

The basics of this is being aware of your own level granted by birth and by lifestyle and being aware of those who are on a level that is positioned lower than you are.

The best example I’ve seen is to relate it to playing video games. If we are talking trans experiences (because I’m trans so can relate to it) without including sexuality or race or finances-

Being born cisgender (your gender identity matches your unchanged birth certificate) is playing the game on the easiest level. You get to use the toilet without fear, and everyone uses the right pronoun automatically, you don’t need to get your identity validated by a psych and you don’t have to pay lots of money to get documentation changed, you don’t get killed for being cisgender (and lots of other things).

Being born a trans man gives you a harder setting to play the game with.
Being born a trans woman, is pretty much the most difficult setting in terms of discrimination and abuse and that’s using binary trans identities
Being born gender queer/fluid/non-binary has a lot of other difficulties within the trans community as well as everywhere else (erasure of identity etc). Which makes it a really hard level of the game to play as well.

As a cisgender person- playing the game of life on easy mode in terms of gender identity. If you then say or do things that hurt trans people as a community (not individuals) then you’re participating in oppression. e.g. If you have a trans friend who doesn’t mind you using their old name- but you do that to any other trans person who hasn’t given you permission. You’re contributing to the oppression of trans people. You might be the nicest person in the world- but if you say something that contributes to oppression, then you’re still hurting people- no matter how good you’ve been in the past.

Cis is not an insult, it’s an identity.
If a child gets bitten by a dog/s, sometimes they will develop a distrust of dogs.
If a trans person gets abused by cis people then they might develop a distrust of cis people.

If you are a cis person and you hurt a trans person- generally it’s /because/ you’re cis that you didn’t know that it hurts or you didn’t need to know. The same way that a lawyer might not know about plumbing, and vice versa. You haven’t experienced it, so you don’t know how it feels. Therefore, when a trans person tells you ‘stop.’ ‘That hurts’ ‘Don’t say that’. If you continue to do so it’s like a lawyer trying to fix the sink, even though the plumber is telling them they’re not doing it right.

Eventually, the sink is going to break because the lawyer wasn’t listening.

Trans people know more about the trans experience than a cis person does. Full stop. Always.
That isn’t an insult, or a jibe at peoples intelligence. It’s about experience.

So when a trans person calls you cis, in a way that hurts you- it’s because you have hurt them /because/ you are cis.

It is never “You hurt me, therefore you are cis.” It is “You are cis, which is why you’ve hurt me.”


What can we do about it though? 
– Listen to trans people when they talk about trans issues
– If a trans person tells you to stop, you’re doing something wrong.
– Show respect for trans people and more often than not you’ll be respected in return.
– Don’t force trans people to educate you*
– Show you support trans people by giving them the space to speak freely


Trans peoples lives are under the microscope of the media all the time. Look at all the interviews of trans people on TV. They ask about surgery, hormones, their past name and genitals and experiences. It is very, very, intimate.

Imagine having to tell people every day what your genitals looked like in order for them to accept you as a real person.
That’s a trans experience.
If you want to know about trans people, try and google some of the questions you have. It won’t be the best education, but it’s a start. Contact some of the advocacy groups (Many Genders One Voice and ATSAQ in Brisbane. There are heaps in other states too), see if they have resources on your questions. Even QUAC has resources on trans info.
If you’re still confused, then check out Tumblr. There are hundreds of thousands of trans people on there who are writing out answers to the same questions every single day who enjoy it!

Finally, if you are lucky enough to have a trans friend who is happy to educate you, ask them politely and be respectful if they choose to say no. Demanding trans people to educate you is disrespectful, as that is not their job. Unless the trans person is a trans educator by profession or choice- then you’re invading their intimate lives. Not on purpose- you’re just curious- but you’re still asking people personal questions that are invasive and often hurtful.

So please be careful and look after your trans friends. If they’re calling you names. You’ve said something hurtful and offensive.

You’re playing the game on cis mode. Suddenly you encounter someone playing on trans mode. You need to beat each other in order to get to the next level. Problem is, you have 5 weapons and they only have 1 because they’re on trans mode. So you hit them with your magic fire balls, and they hit you with their sword of might. But because you have better stats (because you’re on cis mode) the trans person KO’s and you leave with -3 points from full health.

That is the difference. Because when you say something to hurt a trans person. It is /extremely/ damaging. Because of their experiences as being trans. If they insult you, it hurts, yeah- but it doesn’t KO you the same way. You can leave the situation feeling hurt, but they can leave it feeling suicidal.

I was just talking about cis and trans. Intersectionality means that there is so much more out there to consider. (race, sexuality, socio-economic standing, job, disability etc).



Check out Group Captain Cate McGregor speaking on Q&A about Transgender issues and the subsequent discussion about the tweets occurring as she spoke.


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944.75 milestones – Celebrating with QuAC’s Gender Clinic

I was a small part in making something special happen – something that I could not have done alone, no matter how much I might have wished to. This is a moment for me to remember that we truly are stronger together. I am the richer for it as I can look back years from now and remember that I once stood there and was part of that moment…


Last night was a wonderful milestone for Brisbane Leather Pride and its 2014 Festival, or perhaps 944.75 milestones. This marks the second year that BLP has had the opportunity to raise funds in support of the Queensland Aids Council, an organisation that has done much to support us.

Photo courtesy of SFTU Media, ©2014 Pictured (left to right) Lucero, Jonathan Waters, Vandellous

Photo courtesy of SFTU Media, ©2014
Pictured (left to right) Lucero, Jonathan Waters, Vandellous

We marked our Inaugural General Meeting in QuAC’s rooms, received access to workshop spaces, borrowed their mailing address during incorporation, and utilised their venue for committee meetings.

More importantly, we recognise that QuAC works tirelessly to provide essential services and support to the community, such as through Clinic30, a free service dedicated to addressing the Mental & Sexual Health of the LGBTI Community in Brisbane.

Several months ago, the BLP Committee unanimously decided that this year’s donation to QuAC would be specifically for the Gender Clinic, QuAC’s service for the sex and gender diverse (trans*) community. This is an issue very dear to us and tonight we had the opportunity to put money where are hearts are by donating $944.75 to the Gender Clinic.

Whilst trans* people are part of the LGBT health agenda, trans* individuals have poorer health outcomes and face greater discrimination than lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The reality is that issues such as shame, phobia, and privilege affect our community differently. These inequalities are ingrained but not inherent to the LGBTIQ community and serve as indicators of what work remains – until we can all stand equally proud of who we are, who we love, and how we live.



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Upon Watching The Bachelor, A Trilogy

Once I wished to live with passion and love without reserve.

Now I live with reserve and love without passion.

– Upon Watching The Bachelor, Part 1



513761-ba8fc5c4-4e7e-11e4-bcd5-de8bc4352854We fly to Cape Town, we feel very cultured.

We eat lunch at a winery.
I look at his white teeth, imagine that we are a couple in a tourism advert.

He cues the choir of Africans to sing their cultural songs.
He holds me and asks,
“Do you feel that you know me away from the Rolls Royce, the yacht?”
I look at his skin, imagine our little mixed babies.

I ensure my face is angled, so they can see how cultured I am.
I tell him I love him in Afrikaans,
I keep an eye on the cameras, imagine the director cueing my close-up.
I will not be left on the editing room floor

– Upon Watching The Bachelor, Part 2



The cameras, the competitions

the eliminations. Article Lead - wide6173572410r1t3image.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.10r7l8.png1412645697823.jpg-620x349

I felt so real and natural

at the time

Now I am numb

– Upon Watching The Bachelor, Part 3

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I Will Reflect on Homelessness – So That Others Don’t Have To…

When we act as if being homeless is a choice or the deserved outcome of a failing, we lose our humanity.

This morning a friend (a friend according to Facebook) relayed this experience:

“A homeless guy asked us for money, so we gave him $2.50 (half of his ticket he needed). He then scoffed at the amount, hit on J—, and then told us that if anything happened to her he’d find me and kill me. (I just told him if anyone tried anything on her, I’d be worried about the other guy.) It left us feeling infuriated and spoiled our night out together, which we rarely get to do.

Moral of the story – some people are out on the street for a good reason.”

As upsetting as the experience must have been, I was shocked at the final sentence and the chorus of responses in the comment thread, calling this homeless individual “ungrateful” and “invasive” and, once it had been established that “begging” was illegal, another individual stated “Well, there ya go.. So for the next bum who hits you up for money, tell him he needs a buskers permit, then drop his pants” and posted a link to this video. Classy

As someone who has worked with people who are homeless, I view that last statement “some people are out on the street for a good reason” as exactly part of the problem. Just because some people are difficult to feel compassion for, it doesn’t make them unworthy.

Blaming someone who is homeless for having an unpleasant manner is like blaming someone without a leg for not being able to walk – people are homeless because they cannot fit in to the normal societal mould and have run out of favours and friends with couches.

In my experience, and this is supported in the literature,  many of the individuals experiencing homelessness possess a combination of conditions including chronic pain, acquired brain injury (prior to or following living on the street), behavioural issues, intellectual impairment, mental illness, poor emotional development, abuse and trauma histories, and other similar issues. To add to their situations, many face financial and legal issues, including parental rights disputes, drug abuse, or  failure to pay a telephone bill.

An understanding of the effects of brain injury can build our capacity to comprehend how inappropriate behaviour, lack of emotional regulation, and reduced impulse control, is quite standard. We are simply unused to interacting with individuals who exhibit such behaviour. Again, when a person lacks the neurological capabilities of impulse control and appropriate behaviour, criticising them for inappropriate behaviour is like criticising someone without a leg for not being able to walk.

In addition,  individuals with poor attachment or who exhibit challenging behaviour have learned to exhibit patterns or roles to have their needs met, to interact with others who are living rough, to express themselves. These patterns may be offensive, manipulative, and aggressive.

you gave me half the money for a ticket, all I can see is the money I am lacking, not the fact that I am halfway toward my stated goal, and I perceive you as having money, etc)

Gee, I am so sorry your evening was ruined as you got to end it by going back to your home with your partner and could complain about your experience through your technology devices. I question if the giving of money remains an altruistic act when you go on to criticise the recipient of your generosity for not being sufficiently grateful.  For the cost of $2.50, this homeless man became the subject of peoples’ ridicule and the judgement that there was a legitimate reason that he was homeless – that his failures had resulted in this outcome.

When most homeless people are survivors of many complex and interwoven circumstances that are unusual in people who might be considered well-adapted, “some people are out on the street for a good reason” falls in line with “some people get cancer for a good reason” or “some people get beaten up for a good reason” or “some people are raped for a good reason” ….


Things to Think About

More than a quarter of all homeless Australians are aged under 18 years.

An article in The Stringer from November 2013 explored why Australia, the world’s 2nd wealthiest nation per capita, has seen Homelessness rise by 17 per cent between the 2006 and the 2012 Census. During that period total homelessness numbers increased by at least 16,000 to 105,237 reported homeless persons.

Globally, the rate of child poverty is decreasing, yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census  revealed that there were at least 17,845 children under the age of 12 homeless. This was a rise of more than 3,000 from the 2006 figure of 15,715 children aged less than 12 years living homeless.

In November of last year, The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNICEF Australia cited cuts to school bonuses, Newstart and Youth allowances, and cuts to single parent subsidies as major contributors to the rise of child poverty, and called upon the House of Representatives and the Australian Senate to develop an anti-poverty plan.

According to ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, “The most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia report found that child poverty has increased by 15 per cent since 2001.”

“Half of these children are in sole parent families, and Australia has the fifth highest poverty rate for sole parent families of OECD countries.”



600,000 Australian children in poverty, 18,000 kids homeless 


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An Open Letter to the Crass Media

I want to talk about this.

I want to talk about this because, if you are going to talk so that others listen, it’s not just what you say but how you say it – and you are saying it wrong.

The mass media is having entirely the wrong conversation.

The story is not that Mayang Prasetyo began life as Febri or that she charged “up to $500 an hour for her services”. The story is not that her husband Marcus Peter Volke was “quiet”, “submissive”, and “cold” or that residents noted an “eye watering” stench – what Volke described as “pig’s broth”.



Scopophilics step right up! Does parading images of Mayang Prasetyo in minimal clothing “prove” that she really was a female? Does this render her a desirable object?

The story is that Prasetyo was a victim of domestic violence, she was murdered by her partner when individuals should be safest in their homes with the people they love. The story is how the news agencies use slurs to dehumanise the victim, and heavily borrowed from Prasetyo’s own advertisements in an effort to remind us that she was, after all, just a ” ‘high-class’ prostitute“. The story is that the media included quotes about Prasetyo being ” ‘jealous’ and ‘temperamental’ ” as if to insinuate that she must have done something to trigger her husband’s rage. The story is that the public service announcement component of the reporting is to direct the public to call a suicide help line should they feel the temptation to, you know, cut their own throats. What about resources for people dealing with domestic violence, angry or violent outbursts, thoughts of harming loved ones. Even the seeming confusion as to whether the couple were married or not seems to point to a discomfort in identifying Prasetyo as a woman in a relationship with a man and in representing her relationship with Volke as following usual social mores. The story is that a man felt entitled to take the life of a women with whom he was involved.

"Better in real life"

“Better in real life”

Instead of justifying her death, I would like to suggest that we mourn the murder of this stunning women who earned money in order to support her family in Indonesia, who was described by the people who loved her as “kind person, cheerful, warm to people, effervescent” and as a “cheerful person, easy to make friends”, who was not a sinner nor a saint but a goddamn human being, worthy of our respect. I would suggest that we ask what employment opportunities there are for trans men and women, or what support services are accessible for those who are not permanent residents, or for how much longer we will permit such pervasive discrimination against gender non-confrming people, when the media will approach the trans men and women in the community and ask to be educated so that their words portray all members of the public accurately.

Today, because Mayang Prasetyo’s murder was mentioned at work, I had the opportunity to speak about what the words “transgender woman” meant,  t describe the difference between cross dressing and transsexualism, or to state the fact that transgender men and women face some of the highest incidences of abuse, violence, and murder.* **

Let’s talk… or just shut up and listen.


* A useful resource about domestic violence in the queer community is Queer Without Fear.

** A sign of my own privilege is that I am surprised when other people do not understand the difference between gender, sex, and sexuality. Please remember that transgender people may identify as gay/lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual or other sexualities.

A vigil is being held for Mayang Prasetyo on October 10th.10338690_10204057144941762_8879300169058512102_n

You can sign a petition against the Courier Mail here.

You can issue a complaint to the Australian Press Council here.




ADDIT 8/10/2014


Dear Courier Mail – your “apology” this morning did nothing to address the issues that we – the public, YOUR readership – have with your depiction of Mayang Prasetyo. When you use words like “s-m-l-” to describe this woman and repeatedly draw on her occupation as a sex worker in order to represent her in print, you flatten out a human being into series of hateful slurs and empty stereotypes. This is a tragedy. A progressive choice might be to do a story examining the fact that Transwomen and Transmen are over-represented in the statistics as targets for abuse, discrimination, and murder. Instead you have furthered the same hatred and ignorance that underpin this fact. An excellent choice would be to talk about the fact that women are too often targets of domestic abuse, suffering at the hands of their partners and provided phone numbers or website links to support services for those experiencing such abuse. Instead, you listed two suicide helplines, which I can only see as a confused allusion to Volke’s decision to cut his own throat – following his act of murder, “tampering” with a corpse, and confrontation with the Police. An intelligent choice is to approach the Transgender community and requested an education as to how to respectfully describe Transmen and Transwomen in the media, and to write a story illustrating the fact that the lesson had been learned. As it stands, nothing has changed…

Some local businesses are publicly speaking out against the Courier Mail and cancellation their subscriptions. Read about it, the newspaper’s failure to apologise appropriately, and of  the journalist’s homophobic twitter remark here.

 You can read what SBS had to say about the portrayal of Trans* in the media here.


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