On 24 June 2020, ILGA World Co-Secretary General Tuisina Ymania Brown spoke at the closing plenary of the Virtual Progress 2020 conference, Australia’s largest social change conference convening thousands of diverse advocates, campaigners, activists and changemakers from across the nonprofit sector.
She spoke in a session titled "All in for a feminist recovery", alongside Dr Jackie Huggins AM, Khara Jabola-Carolus (Hawaii), Noelene Nabulivou (Fiji) and Jo Schofield. Here you can read the text of her speech.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Yuggera nation and its people.
They are THE Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live and work today as a Pacific Island migrant, and I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
And I also extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this call today: I SEE YOU / I HEAR YOU / I STAND WITH YOU.
I am Tuisina Brown and my work is in the Pacific and globally through ILGA World and the International Trans Fund.
I am tasked with speaking about my own vision for how we rebuild in a way that centres feminist principles together with LGBTIQ+ rights, and trans rights, in our recovery.
I want to also warn that I will be mentioning some pretty strong themes so this is a trigger warning, including trans violence and suicide: if it gets too much, mute me, take some deep breaths and find your happy space or just sit it out.
I want to start by looking at where we are now in our history - we have an intersecting plethora of waves all crashing upon humanity - specifically here in Australia, our bushfires, hail and smoke from December followed by floods, then COVID-19, now BlackLivesMatter and IndigenousLives Matter uprisings against police brutality and demand for FirstNationJustice, bringing into play the urgency around asylum seekers and refugees, privacy and cybersecurity concerns as many of us work from home, the rights of the elderly claiming their rightful place being so susceptible to COVID-19, our disabled citizens and their rights being diminshed, and our environment and climate change as corporate greed continues to rape and pillage mother earth for the bottom line of a few.
And these have percipitated around the world, with the rise of the voices of indigenous people standing up for their rights, and the rise in accountability demands for corporations to be accountable for their human rights records.
Where do #TransLivesMatters fit in this already crowded bustop and crossroads of human rights? How do we raise our arguements, AND our voices so we can be heard, so we can effect change?
I am a trans faafafine from Samoa and there is a violence to our visibility as sistergirls, brother boys and trans persons here in Australia.
You ask us to be visible, we even commemorate it with a Trans Day of Visibility in March, but we do this knowing very well there is someone out there ready to end my life and take me away from my kids.
So I have spent the last 15 years of my life weaponising my trans visibility in order to progress trans faafafine issues in my beloved Samoa and here in Australia and globally.
But I digress to discuss a Pacific concept here, which I will circle back to as it links the all important "how to" question.
In the Pacific, the concept of weaving is a very powerful act. Predominantly orgranised and run by women, weaving has clothed us, kept us warm, put roofs over our heads, protected us from our wounds and predators, and have ensured our cultures survival long after our ancestors have been buried. Pacific Women have woven in order for us to survive.
Because intersectionality to me is ALL about weaving.
Weaving our futures together - grafting my future to yours.
Weaving my struggles to your struggles - when I succeed, we all succeed. When you succeed, you take us with you.
Faafafines on the ground organising in Samoa have for years woven their activism to women's groups in villages by supporting their endeavours: we have woven our positionality on human rights to a seat on the National Council of Human Rights under the Ombudsman's Office. So much that when there is an outcry about Faafafine / Faatama in Samoa, we are no longer out there fighting alone. Those who struggle along with us, fight along with us, and or even more important, STAND UP FOR US!
Coming back to my question of where do brotherboys, sistergirls, and trans lives fit in to this narrative in order to survive?
Well, we do what all others have done before us. We weave. We intersect. We graft. We evolve to merge our struggles with feminist movements and groups near us so we can advance our agendas. We roll up our wave to the other waves to create a tsunami of arguments and voices taking a stand for humanity.
You do that WE do that, and nothing will stop us from our struggles. Not even the motherland of colonialism and that author's attack on trans rights. Not even countries in the Pacific that thrive on heteropatriarchial values and see our transness as a disease and a weakness that needs to be reversed through conversion therapies. Not even police brutality will stand up against us.
Feminist led movements and struggles in Global South have always been supportive of trans rights. Why? Because THEY are our mothers, THEY are OUR life givers.
It is a FACT that in countries where you limit the freedoms of minority groups based on false narratives or for political gain, you're not only reinforcing the toxic masculinity of the patriarchy and the heteropatriarchy: you are also denying yourselves the opportunities to truly elevate your humanity from being a cis ally to that of a true family of sistergirls, and brotherboys under the one banner of HUMANITY.
My final call to action?
This siloing of our struggles, this sectioning off and boxing our realities, it's about control. It is how colonialism, patriarchy, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, gender binary supremacy can pick us off one by one, because alone, doing it ourselves, fighting and pushing back, I am here to tell you we will be here for another millenia and we have barely made any progress in a time continuum.
Their wealth, their superiority, their power, their glory is built off the backs of our collective oppression, even with our own lives as suicide based on mental anguish from LGBTIQ bullying is at an all time high.
Whilst they are sitting at the table top lying on your backs, our backs, do more. Only some of us have been given a seat at the table. But maybe we do not ask for a seat at the table.
Maybe we try something different. We find the strength. To straighten your back. And STAND UP.
You do that and its game over. No more table. No more seats. It's a new humanity based on Feminist Principles of giving, caring and nurturing life. Of doing no harm. Of engaging in transformative change. Of nothing for us unless it is by us. Of sharing and collaborating.
How do you find the strength to stand up?
Do what WOMEN have done for millenia! We weave. We merge. We intersect. We connect. We interlace. We rinse and REPEAT until we have one gigantic unseverable umbilical cord connecting us to the mother of us all - ONE HUMAN RACE - ONE PLANET - ONE HUMANITY.
Stay safe, Stay blessed, Stay in the fight, and lets find each other in this dark world and start weaving our futures together. The future we want. For the planet we have. So that we can all enjoy the humanity we deserve.