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International Transgender Day of Visibility 2023

Each year on 31st March, International Transgender Day of Visibility is recognised across the world. Started by activist Rachel Crandall in 2009, TDOV is a day of significance to acknowledge and celebrate the living members of the transgender & gender diverse community. 

To celebrate TDOV this year, DEFGLIS asked five of our amazing transgender & gender diverse members to share what visibility means to them, and what allies can do to support the community. Here’s what they said, in their own words. 

What does “visibility” and TDOV mean to you? 

Our members all shared the positive impact that visibility has on the community, both for other transgender & gender diverse people and for the cisgender people in our workplaces or social lives. 

Current-serving RAAF member Amethyst Armstrong (she/her) reflected on the impact of trans visibility in the workplace, “visibility shows people we are everywhere. Particularly as a trans person in uniform, the general perception is we don't exist and I like changing that perception” 

Several people reflected on their experience growing up without positive representation of trans people in the media, or trans role models to look up to. 

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the highlights of the DEFGLIS calendar. Participants often describe it as an amazing experience to hear the roar of the crowds as they march down Oxford Street (or, the past two years, through the SCG). Other LGBTIQ+ Defence members have spoken about how watching the Mardi Gras made them feel more comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender identity.

            Among the LGBTIQ+ veterans I have interviewed, seeing ADF members marching at Mardi Gras sometimes conjures mixed emotions. Many veterans served during the eras of the LGB and trans bans when their sexuality or gender identity was grounds for discharge. Some describe watching Mardi Gras as bittersweet – a mix of joy that currently serving members can be so open, while melancholy about what happened to them. Others express sentiments akin to resentment – a sense that the current generation of LGBTIQ+ Defence members do not appreciate the suffering they endured. There are also plenty of veterans who feel only joy to see how far the ADF has come.

            This 23 November, we celebrate 30 years since the Australian government lifted the ban on LGB service. I often say that one of the most remarkable things about the lifting of the ban was how unremarkable it was. Whereas in places like the United Kingdom and USA it took decades of activism, political wrangling and court cases, in Australia it happened like a blip. Yet, it was a significant turning point which deserves celebration.

Melbourne Shrine Defending with Pride Exhibition

by Rachel Cosgrove White, DEFGLIS President

DEFGLIS stands by the exhibition planned by the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance: Defending with Pride: Stories of LGBTQ+ Service. The exhibition can still achieve its intended purpose to commemorate brave heroes with diverse sexuality, sex and gender who have contributed to the defence and security of Australia.

In light of safety concerns to the hardworking and dedicated staff of the Shrine of Remembrance, we understand their decision to cancel the rainbow light show. As veterans, we condemn abuse directed at the Shrine’s staff.

We find it concerning that harmless symbols of inclusion such as rainbow colours - whether on national institutions or a rugby jersey have received unwarranted backlash - increasing stigma against LGBTQ+ Australians. These attacks are particularly harmful to young people and their mental health.

Defending with Pride is on at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance 01 Aug 2022 - 01 July 2023

Image: Shrine of Remembrance

Over the weekend, DEFGLIS Member Stuart Martin was featured in a documentary produced by the ABC, The Many Days of Anzac. The documentary is available on ABC Iview.
Stuart appears toward the end of the documentary (51:05) in an interview on the attempt to lay a wreath at the Shrine in 1982 and the modern day (DEFGLIS run) rainbow wreath project.
DEFGLIS runs the rainbow wreath project each year to commemorate the service of LGBTI+ veterans, laying rainbow wreaths at memorials all around the country.
To get involved with the rainbow wreath project or the other fabulous work of DEFGLIS, join as a DEFGLIS member.