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Tatryanna Eden LaCroix on HLR30

Tue 19 Jul 2016 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

Kia orana tatou katoatoa I te aroa maata o te Atua. Kotou tei tae mai ki teia ra akaepaepaanga no te 30 mataiti o te ture no tatou te iti tangata Anuanua. Ki te au akaere, pu tapere, tavini no te Atua e te au taeake. Turou, oro mai ki raro I e marumaru o teia ngutuare.   It is so overwhelming to be in a room full of people who mobilised a community, made significant contributions even in the fire of horrific abuse and changed a law that did not want to be changed so that I am able to stand here tonight. Even if I stand here nervously I thank you It is an honor to be asked to be the youth representative speaker at tonight’s anniversary! This law reform, which began 30 years ago, is like a beacon of hope. It is a symbol of difference, uniqueness, understanding and change. As a young person living in New Zealand I am able to be who I am and reflect how I feel in my everyday life. Today I’m sure walking out the door wasn’t the same as 30 years ago. Nowadays individuals can freely express themselves as LGBTIQ and not be harshly criticized or condemned to a life of imprisonment, oppression, silence and abuse. Although the state of being safe and free isn’t accepted globally, our nation, New Zealand tries it’s best to send out messages of equal rights and acceptance of people who are different. As a result of this reform, we can access a range of resources and services which help us understand and improve our lives though the works of organizations such as the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Rainbow Youth and other similar support groups. We have recently celebrated the passing of the Marriage Equality bill which allows us the right to be wed under the eyes of the law. How beautiful is love, when celebrated with no barriers acting against us. Growing up I never understood where the course of my life was headed. I knew at a very young age who I was attracted to, and who I felt like inside. The battle was not in knowing who I was, but more the desire to express. It was very hard because breaking away from social norm as a young teenager was typically social suicide. However I never allowed myself to ponder in such dark places because I decided to hold on to things that were socially recognized and celebrated in my community such as upholding a good level of education or being an obedient child to my parents and elders. Because in Pacific families, or in my own rather, having a good pair of ears and working hands cancels out any idea that one could be different. Different because I preferred skirts over shorts or the more obvious boys over girls. I kind of laid low for the most part of my teenage years until I came to New Zealand. I began my journey of transitioning in the summer of 2010. This marked the beginning of my independence because I did it while living away from my parents and family. The only two people and group of people whose opinion counted. Without them I knew I would lose all sense of belonging. While living my life as a young trans woman I saw the world differently however, I believe ….not as different as how the world saw me. I attracted more stares, noticed more people mumbling underneath their breath and of course the shady head turns. I also encountered very unusual customer service which in “’most” cases would either get a person in trouble with their supervisors or worst, fired. It never dawned upon me that by being myself I was inviting forces of discrimination, prejudice and stigma. I constantly asked myself if this was what I wanted? My answer was always, ‘do I have a choice?’ I mean it was easy to give up and conform but what would I have left of myself, if I did? I guess we can all agree that I chose me, colorful, fabulous and positively outrageous. Throughout the years I began a Cook Island dance group with Pacific and contemporary flavours. To the outside world, it was no ordinary dance group, but to me, it was family. We were an all transgendered women dance team who’s purpose was to Empower Young Pacific Transgender Through Dance and also make some money, or so it seemed At first I guess we all wanted to come together and secretly try and out shine each other. There were times that someone would purposely stay out of beat or throw an extravagant forward split to gain more wows from the audience. I suppose there wasn’t enough shine to go around. Small cat fights would emerge and girls adopted a new saying “Each to their own” instead of “Unity and Togetherness”. Over time however I began to notice change. We were coming together to be together and not so worried on who danced where or who carried the solo performances. As the leader for 5 years this was ultimately my goal. To bring together a group of young transgender women as a family to laugh and cry, share and talk, eat and sleep and harness each other’s energy. It wasn’t always a smooth road but we endured and we got to be a part of high profile events here in Auckland, around New Zealand and even accepted a few international invitations. We are called the Diamonds of Paradise NZ. The challenges I face daily, can be similar to other individuals but our stories are not the same. I experienced many different forms of prejudice and discrimination. From being rejected because no one understood my gender to feeling anxious when going into the ladies bathroom because it made others feel very uncomfortable. Some days it was easy to simply brush it over my shoulder, and forget about it, move on. And then there were those other days, some dark, where I just felt worthless, hopeless and wanting to give up. It is easy for some of us to say that suicide is a selfish act, …but it’s another story if only you could wear my heels! Recently a fellow pacific trans woman committed suicide in Apia, Samoa. A tragic event which I immediately felt connected to. But even in the midst of grief and sorrow she was unjustly represented across the newspaper by the media. Even went as far as using terms like “young man” and “he” pronouns for a fallen trans woman, refusing to use her preferred name, and gender identity. I also have LGBTIQ friends who are victims of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, rape, prostitution, drugs and alcohol. It is society perceptions and ideologies who place us in these categories due to ignoring a simple act of actually getting to know someone. If people took time out of their day to get to know us, you will find that trans women are not all gay, because gender and sexuality are completely different things or that we are actually smart individuals whose goal isn’t to become the person who sits in front of a judge and be represented but to be the person representing; to become the lawyer or that do not all drown our sorrows with alcohol because a majority of us do not drink! So it is unfair for society to place these preconceived notions upon us. We are fortunate here in New Zealand to have freedom and equality we must look at how we can help others who desperately need it. Our neighboring Pacific nations who are still fighting the battles we fought 30 years ago. . In the Cook Islands we are still fighting to decriminalize homosexuality, our small group of active people pushing for change, our plea is still not heard by the Cook Islands government. Maybe because we change our government more times than most, I’m not sure. To raise awareness in the Cook Islands, our LGBTIQ organization Te Tiare Association held a pageant featuring the Cook Islands most beautiful Akava’ine to battle it out for the most coveted title and crown, The Miss Jewel Cook Islands. I was a part of that pageant and if it isn’t obvious enough, well I won. Most importantly though it was an event to raise awareness in our small island and the world that we exist, . It is also to let us know we have a right to the same equal rights as everyone else. One of our young activists for LGBTQ rights, Miss Valentino Wichman, who like Ms Fran Wilde, is at the forefront of seeing change in her country, pushing for the Cook Islands government to decriminalize homosexuality. She has just returned from London after receiving a Young Leaders award from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (the second) for her passion in firing up the engines of change. It’s a great start. But we still haven’t quite made it to the finish line I stand with you tonight to celebrate this great occasion, the challenge facing me as a young trans women is does the homosexual law reform extend enough protection for people like me? It’s a great start As I conclude my speech tonight I want to encourage us all especially to the generation who have enjoyed the benefits of those who fought to make change 30 years ago, to keep fighting the good fight, keep raising awareness and standing up for what we believe in, so that in 30 years’ time, another young person can stand where I am standing and speak on how their lives have changed for what you have done. Tonight I stand to thank you so much, for my ability to be who I am and for this opportunity to share with you all tonight. Thank you.     - 19th July 2016


First published: Tuesday, 19th July 2016 - 10:52am

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