Brenda - fighting for change

At the time of interview, Brenda and her wife were one of the few legally married, same sex couples in Australia. She undertook her journey of alignment more than 16 years ago, but remains married to her long term partner. They have now been married for 45 years.

Brenda is an activist and an advocate for the LGBTI community but it goes far beyond waving a flag or protest marches. She is the first transwoman chair of an Australian advisory committee and is also Chair of Transgender Victoria. She takes that role very seriously and tirelessly works towards transformative relationships with aged care facilities, particularly in the way they educate their staff. Organisations can receive a Rainbow Tick if they succeed in developing standard procedures that are inclusive and supportive of the LGBTI community. Brenda says,” it has to come from a commitment of the leaders of companies and institutions to want to be an inclusive space for the LGBTI community.”

I ask her why the 'Q' is often left out of the acronym and she tells me that many elders of the LGBTI community were coming out when queer was a derogatory term and they have not been able to see past the condescending use or judgmental labelling that the word entails. These days however the ‘Q’ can also stand for Questioning.

Since her retirement 9 years ago, Brenda has worked to ensure that the transgender diverse population are represented in the community so that they may feel safe, supported and free. She is saddened by the recent attacks against the LGBTI community at large, deeming the postal survey as unnecessary and demeaning for a progressive population. She is gravely concerned of the health and wellbeing of not only the LGBTI community but of our democracy. This is a challenge. She reminds me of the efforts of the current Victorian Government to stand by the marginal communities being targeted by opposition campaigns, directly funding support services for mental health.

The celebratory Coming Back Out Ball event that runs as part of Victorian Seniors Week, is turning Brenda’s message of inclusivity into reality, she says, “it’s a fantastic idea and an opportunity to make new connections in a supportive space with a diverse population, and to encourage those feeling isolated and vulnerable to join in and be themselves.” Brenda sees this ball as a way to make things better for the LGBTI community via a much needed confidence boost. There is a great sense of anticipation surrounding the ball, LGBTI elders (65+) can attend free so the event is accessible and unique. Despite the struggles Brenda has faced from a lifetime of discrimination, this an event of hope that helps to find a balance between the ongoing fight for change and the human right to kick up heels amongst friends.

- Brenda's story as told to Nat Power

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