RISE Exclusive Media Release (8th November 2019): Transgender RISE members condemn Darebin City Council for paying lipservice to the inclusivity of Trans people with their “Trans and Gender Diverse Swim Nights”

RISE: Refugee Survivors and eX-detainees’ Trans members strongly condemn Darebin City Council’s Trans and Gender Diverse Swim Nights initiative where allyship to Trans people is being used as a publicity stunt to benefit the council and a number of its staff, with minimal changes being implemented to ensure ALL Trans people can safely access these facilities throughout the year. The next Swim night is being held tomorrow, at Reservoir Leisure Centre on Saturday the 9th of November 2019.  Note: Darebin is a municipal region in Melbourne, Australia. 

The Reservoir Leisure Centre has allocated three shabby rooms as “Gender Neutral Change Spaces” (link to video of rooms below*). They have no shower or toilet facilities, no visible signage, and are awkwardly placed as an afterthought, isolated and far removed from the rest of the facilities. This is far from the so-called inclusive image projected by Darebin City Council and Reservoir Leisure Centre surrounding their “Trans and Gender Diverse Swim Nights”.  Hostile, transphobic designs such as this have a particularly serious impact on the wellbeing of Trans Asylum seekers and Refugees as many of us do not have Citizenship or Permanent residency, making us ineligible to most support services, programs and public facilities. The design of these facilities compromises our safety and integrity, making us feel more vulnerable, excluded and isolated from the community.

Inside a Gender Neutral
Change Space at Reservoir
Leisure Centre

Darebin City Council and many other local councils claim to be progressive and inclusive – declaring their council areas to be ‘Refugee Welcome Zones’ where they “Welcome Refugees”, and fly the “Pride Flag” while failing to address systemic issues such as this. Darebin City’s Trans and Gender Diverse Swim Nights are being held just a few times a year, yet, throughout the year it is unsafe for Trans people to access their leisure centres.

“These events are just being run to pay lip service to the ‘Queer Criteria’.”

Trans RISE member and asylum seeker X says.

“Regardless of how many Trans and rainbow flags you are trying to display; where they are displayed; their sizes; whether these flags are made from sticker paper, fabric or kettlebells; how many Queer and Trans events have you celebrated/commemorated etc. Your services are NOT safe for Trans people unless you are actively making proper changes to ensure they are safe and that it is safe for all oppressed people to work with your staff. Again, regardless of what you do to make you look ‘inclusive’ and ‘progressive’, your facility is NOT safe for Trans people unless it is truly safe. Further, we cannot emphasise enough that these forms of discrimination and exclusion will affect Trans Refugees and Asylum seekers far worse than most Trans people that are not from these backgrounds.”

Trans RISE member Y highlights.

We demand that Darebin City Council and ALL other councils in Melbourne, ensure ALL of their change/shower/toilet facilities in ALL of their buildings, including the Reservoir Leisure Centre be made gender neutral in the form of single stalled facilities, in a way that is safe for people from ALL cultures, backgrounds and identities to access.

* Video taken on 13th October 2019: Reservoir Leisure Centre “Gender Neutral Change Spaces” https://tinyurl.com/yxe2a8ns