When Alex Bayley opted to publicly speak about their lived experience as a member of the transgender community, they expected a host of nasty and demeaning comments.
In 2019, the LGBTQIA+ community should not have to face such hurtful and outwardly cruel comments just for speaking about themselves because frankly, their experience and hopes for a more inclusive society does not affect anybody else.
Mx Bayley had spoken with The Courier about the proposed changes to the way the gender diverse, transgender and intersex community in Victoria may soon be able to apply to have their gender changed on their birth certificates without the need for invasive and expensive gender affirmation surgery.
They bravely shared their own personal experience as a person who identifies as non-binary and how they hope the amendment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2019 would be passed.
Our team at The Courier spent the day monitoring the flood of comments on the post, which ranged from positivity about such a story being published to shocking death threats.
When the story was posted to The Courier's Facebook page, we were stunned by the insensitive and degrading comments that were being posted.
It is difficult to comprehend how people can so unashamedly put their names to such disgusting comments on a public forum.
Despite there also being a lot of genuine discussion and support - including Mx Bayley answering people's questions - we unfortunately had to remove it at the end of the day for fear that comments would continue without our being able to monitor them.
The transgender community should feel safe, as should everybody who lives in this country.
Historically, the transgender community has faced a litany of human rights abuses but significant strides forward have been made regarding legal gender recognition across the globe in recent years.
In 2017, during the same-sex marriage postal vote, Ballarat residents voted overwhelmingly in favour for marriage equality. The vote came in at 71 per cent voting yes, or 65,613 people.
Mx Bayley told The Courier it was not pleasant to see such comments about them from members of their own community, but it was not entirely unexpected.
They said the comments made them feel less safe and accepted in Ballarat, though there was also overwhelming support.
"I did expect it was part of the deal and that is something I took a chance on," Mx Bayley said.
Transgender people are people - we are members of the community. We are all through Ballarat and are your friends, your neighbours and your colleagues.Alex Bayley
"To the commenters, I would say to remember that the people you are talking about are people and members of the community. We are a small enough community that we do all know each other in some way or another."
Mx Bayley said there were three groups of people commenting negatively on the post.
Firstly, there were those who were purely ignorant and thoughtless.
The second was the "you're going to hell types" which Mx Bayley said stems from higher level institutional opinions in churches, such as a statement which the Pope released earlier this month, rejecting the notion of gender fluidity.
The third type of commenter, Mx Bayley said, were TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists).
"Trans exclusionary radical feminists say that trans women aren't women, they're men, and that their transgender identity is part of patriarchal oppression. They are doing it because they are men who want to gain access to women's spaces and cause harm to them," Mx Bayley explained.
"Not everybody who espouses those views necessarily identifies as a radical feminist but the way you can spot them is that their main argument is that trans rights cause harm to cis gender women."
Some of the common arguments, which were communicated on The Courier's post, were arguments about nurses being unsafe if transgender people's genders were changed on their birth certificates, health issues and harms caused to recipients if a transgender person donates their organs and harm caused to women's sport teams.
"None of this is documented to be the case," Mx Bayley said. "There are a lot of false arguments being given and they are extremely toxic."
They said the most concerning comments were those which were dehumanising by calling transgender people 'it' or 'a thing'.
When you believe somebody isn't really a person and dehumanise them, it means they can suffer all kinds of abuse and nobody will care so we have to stop that the moment it happens.Alex Bayley
A spokesperson for Beyond Blue said social media could be a useful tool for staying connected and finding groups of like-minded people but could also be a platform to spread negative comments with anonymity.
"These kids of comments can have harmful effects on the mental health of people at the receiving end and unfortunately the negative comments are often those we remember the most, distorting the reality of the situation and causing us to over analyse things," the spokesperson said.
*Alex Bayley wishes to be referred to with the pronouns they/ them and the title Mx.
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