Transgender folks of all ages face discrimination on the daily, but trans teens and young adults are some of the most at-risk people in the queer community. And a support group of gender non-conforming and trans teens in Sydney, Australia, is using a float in the 40th annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to show kids and teens that being trans and gender-nonconforming isn't just OK — it's worth celebrating.
The New South Wales Trans Youth Alliance is still a fledgling group, having been started on Facebook just four months ago by psychologist Kat Power, according to NewNowNext. Its member base mostly comprises teens who met through a queer youth camp, as well as their network of friends in the Sydney area, but organizers plan to reach out to more members, NewNowNext reported. For now, the group is focused on their float, for which members have designed signs with slogans like "Trans And Proud" and "Gender Freedom."
Power, whose son is trans, participated in the Mardi Gras float belonging to Sydney-based gender support organization The Gender Centre last year, and when she realized how happy seeing her son made fellow trans kids at the parade, she decided trans and gender-nonconforming teens should have a float exclusively for them.
The float is especially important for trans and gender-nonconforming teens whose parents don't support them. "The photos I’ve got of the kids, the laughter on their face," Power told BuzzFeed. "The love. You’re marginalised, and now you’re getting cheered."
Power started NSW Trans Youth Alliance and submitted the float application, but everything else about it — including its adorable "transburger" logo — is up to the group's teenage members. Part of the importance of the group, and of its participation in Mardi Gras, is the fact that many trans youth, alongside the difficulty of having family members potentially not be supportive, don't have access to adult-oriented parts of the queer community that could serve as support groups, BuzzFeed reported. "They don’t go to the bars, to [queer party events] Heaps Gay, they don’t do that," she said.
What they do have is each other. Power hopes the float will show not only other trans and gender-nonconforming kids at Mardi Gras, but also Alliance members, that they have strength, and are "supported and connected to the community," she told BuzzFeed.
She added, "It's hard enough just being a teenager, let alone being trans!"
18-year-old trans man Felix, who plans to march with the Alliance's float, told BuzzFeed the float is necessary because "[it’s] really fundamental that the youth become empowered." Empowerment is extra vital in times like these, when trans people recently saw themselves in negative ads meant to discourage Australians from voting to approve same-sex marriage. Felix told BuzzFeed the ads had negative impact on him and his trans peers. (Australians did vote to allow same-sex marriage in November 2017, and officially legalized it on Dec. 9, 2017.)
Felix will march because doing so is "a celebration for who I am," he told BuzzFeed. He also wants "to show I support everyone around me. You get to be really proud of yourself for this one day of the year, and everyone can be a part of it."
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras also plans to embrace trans adults with a Feb. 24 co-presentation organized with Trans Sydney Pride, where "a diverse range of transgender people will share their personal truth and inner world in an evening of storytelling."
While validation-focused events for trans people of all ages are necessary, it's especially important we reach out a hand to trans youths. Trans kids and teens often face criticism from families and a lack of support from their schools and communities — all of which contributes to the high rates of suicide and self-harm among trans youths. Groups like the NSW Trans Youth Alliance can be lifelines for struggling teens. Their float will be a celebration, but it will also be a message to trans youths, telling them they are not alone, that there are other folks like them, and that even if their families don't support them now, there are people who always will.