Rainbow Path’s speech for the Trans Solidarity Protest in Tāmaki Makaurau

These are the words refugee members of Rainbow Path were planning to share at the Tāmaki Makaurau Trans Solidarity protest today. The speeches needed to be cut short, and the crowd of supporters stretched back way beyond the capacity of the sound system. So Rainbow Path is sharing these words via our blog and FB page instead.

Rainbow Path members and ally holding placards at Auckland Pride March, Feb 2023

Tena koutou katoa. Ngā mihi mahana kia koutou.

We are here today as members of Rainbow Path – a peer support and advocacy group for trans, intersex and queer asylum seekers and refugees living here in Aotearoa.

As asylum seekers, refugees and migrants of colour, we have all fled persecution overseas – we know what hate looks like. We understand on a very personal level that trans communities aren’t the only group being targeted by fascist extremism.

We have been forcibly displaced because it was unsafe to be trans or intersex in our country of origin, and many of us were also persecuted because of our ethnicity or religion, including for being Muslim.

It is important to us that today’s solidarity protest is empowering for trans activists and our communities. That we acknowledge all the work we do to support each other and to push for change, and that many have done before us. And that being here together helps build alliances for the hard work ahead – including all the activism it will take to get laws that actually protect us from hate crimes and hate speech.

It’s also important that we celebrate every hard-fought win – because it’s a victory not just for us, but also for trans activists facing the same coordinated, well-resourced, anti-trans extremist campaigns all over the world.

The new simpler process for amending your gender on a NZ birth certificate is one significant victory. It only happened because our communities fought very hard for it. The principles behind that fight are vital for us here and for trans people all around the world – they include self determination, bodily autonomy, and depathologisation.

  • We have the right to define our own gender. As international human rights law affirms – our gender is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.
  • We have the right to decide what, if any, medical steps we want to take to affirm our gender.
  • And we cannot be required to take any medical steps in order to amend our identity documents.

The new BDMRR Act is huge progress for people born here in Aotearoa – but it offers nothing for people born overseas.

Most of us come from countries where it is impossible for trans and intersex people to change our name or gender marker on our original passport. And that passport from our country of origin with outdated name, gender marker and photo is the only ID we have, to use for many years while living in Aotearoa.

It is only after we are granted residency that we can change our name here, which can take more than 5 years for trans asylum seekers. And for many migrants, it may never happen.

As people of colour, we are constantly asked to show our passport to prove who we are, our immigration status, and our eligibility to access services here. And when service providers see an ID that no longer matches our appearance, they immediately suspect we are trying to commit identity fraud.

As a result, it is extremely difficult or impossible for us to do everyday things, like opening a bank account, rent a home, accessing healthcare and medication, applying for a benefit, applying for a job, enrolling to study, or even just to pick up a courier parcel, or buy a drink at the supermarket if we are under age. We are often denied services and humiliated.

This is also extremely unsafe for us, because many of us are still at risk of abuse and discrimination from our family and our ethnic and religious communities here and overseas; racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic and queer phobic hate groups here; and state agencies from our country of origin, who could persecute our family back home.

Not having a safe and useable Identity Document means even after we have fled persecution and are living in Aotearoa, we still have to fear for our safety every time we show our ID, and struggle to prove who we are every time we access essential services. Imagine living your life like this for five or ten and more years. How is New Zealand upholding our fundamental human rights it has taken oath to protect?

Today we are reminding you that the fight for self-determination and the right to legal gender recognition is still not won for trans and intersex people living in Aotearoa but born overseas.

Rainbow Path has been pushing for an official New Zealand ID that has our correct photo, name and gender marker for the past five years. We need all of your support to keep up the pressure right now – so that something so vital to our daily life, wellbeing and safety is not crossed off the government’s list of “bread and butter”.

It means a lot today to see this solidarity. And maybe it took the obvious fascist links for people to make the connections between white supremacy, anti-trans extremism, and the relentless misinformation directed at our communities. Don’t forget those links. Because it’s impossible to address racism without addressing trans and queer phobia, and it’s impossible to address trans and queer phobia without addressing racism.

Support us when we push for legal protections for trans people – whether that’s an Identity Document that recognises who we are, or making sure we are explicitly included in the Human Rights Act and in hate speech and hate crime laws.

And keep fighting until those rights exist for all of us, including trans asylum seekers, refugees and migrants – We should never settle for legal protections that only apply to people born here.

Kia ora

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