This piece has been generously offered from Jez Pez’s personal Facebook account, where he disclosed for the first time publicly about his experience of extreme sexual and physical violence. The aim of this piece is to create a safe and supportive culture for survivors to be able to speak up about experiences of violence that has caused great trauma. By no means, does this personal account take away from the devastatingly high levels of violence experienced by trans women/femmes and trans/women femmes of colour all over the world. Jez, in collaboration with other trans community researchers is working on an Australian national research project on the sexual health of trans and gender diverse people, of which there will soon be some data released about the high levels of sexualised violence experienced by Australians. Jez would like to pay respect and honour all trans and gender diverse people across the world who are constantly subjected to unacceptable human rights violations and all forms of violence.
This is the first time I’ve ever spoken publicly about this and only those very close to me know about it.
Today is Trans Day of Remembrance and I started to reflect on the people I know we have lost as a result of transphobic violence and abuse, either through a single act of fatal violence or through ongoing continuous incremental acts of violence that eventually culminates into a suicide.
What really got me today, was the unknown. That there are trans and gender diverse people who aren’t here anymore and we don’t know what they went through, why they are gone or even if they were living as trans and because of that, we can’t honour them.
I know the pain and suffering many people experience in our communities, I participate in our communities, I witness it and I work in this space. I recognize how debilitating it is to spend your energy on getting through basic functioning and survival, to get through the day and that the systems built around us make it unnecessarily harder.
That’s when I thought more today about the level of trauma our communities live with and how challenging it can be to manage our trauma, whilst also trying to fight to improve our lives.
Whilst the systems around us don’t even count us all, or even recognize us or our experiences, we remain and fight for visibility. Whilst a politically aggressive climate seeks to undermine our existence, we remain and fight for validity.
We fight for the right and freedom to speak for ourselves so that we can be the ones leading the reform that is overdue in our society. Sometimes doing this work creates risk, because we are pushing for change.
People and systems can buckle under the fantastic and necessary pressure we create because they are resistant to change and are angry at us for being bold, for being ourselves and for being happy in that state.
I know numerous trans and gender diverse activists who have experienced violence as a result of being visible or undertaking work that aims to break and remould constructions that exclude and harm us.
That work can sometimes be traumatic and we have built networks around us to nurture and heal us when we need it. I needed it more than ever in the last year and I want to thank the small group of people around me who provided me with sanctuary, support and safety whilst I recovered from a life threatening act of violence from when I was overseas on my Churchill Fellowship.
Just over a year ago, I was brutally attacked and it’s changed me as a person.
The nature and details of the attack will only really ever be fully understood by me alone and it won’t be helpful for me or others to talk about them. I have decided that to focus on those elements right now is not useful.
And even though I had gotten to a point during the attack where I truly thought that it was going to be my ultimate end, I did not give up.
I don’t know how I did it, but I pulled all of my life knowledge and skills and channelled it into one moment in time to survive.
But it changed me and I was exhausted. I can imagine it has been the same for tens of thousands of others who have experienced something similar.
During my recovery, I became acutely aware that I was a person working with traumatized communities, in spaces where trauma was occurring, whilst also trying to manage my own trauma.
This wasn’t an ideal situation as I was repeatedly disappointed by a range of scenarios and people, where there was a lack of competency and ability to respond to the change of circumstances.
This is what we need to be talking about. How can we develop a trauma informed community that understands the impact of trauma, but also how it can heighten and elevate our skills at identifying threats and risks and ultimately aims to not retraumatize people?
There is a lot of wisdom among us and the more people working together, means we can be stronger against our threats.
I’m very lucky that I had the resources internally and externally to overcome what happened and today I am thinking about the many people who don’t and are still living with trauma and it’s impacts.
I’m also thinking of the people we don’t know we have lost because we weren’t able to hold them and their immediate worlds weren’t even able to even see them.
Rest in Power to those we lost. To those still here, full power to you, thank you for your work and let’s take care of each other.
Jez Pez is an Australian trans activist. He became Australia’s first trans Churchill Fellow and was recently named the Victorian LGBTI Person of the Year at the 2018 Globe Community Awards.