Judy Virago feels proud as she highlights the important work of her trans whanau all over Aotearoa.

Most LGBTQIA+ folk born this side of 2000 grew up being told that “It Gets Better”. I’m a firm believer that even when things don’t get better, we get better at responding to difficulties. Pride was born from a riot initiated by trans women of colour who had enough of being oppressed and excluded. They fought back! So what does Trans Pride mean in 2022? 

For me, trans pride means taking strength from identity and community. It means rejecting rejection, acknowledging trans strength and joy as a genuine achievement, and celebrating our audaciously authentic selves. Trans people are incredibly resilient and resourceful. When those skills are harnessed collectively, we become an unstoppable force. When faced with immovable objects, we find a way around. Gender is fluid and so is our approach to social change. While some do the work of changing hearts and minds, others adapt and design more inclusive systems. Some do the work of harm prevention while others work to support those in crisis.  


What we don’t often hear about is just how much volunteering trans people do. Counting Ourselves survey found that one in five trans people were involved in voluntary work for specific trans community groups (20%) and wider takatāpui/LGBTIAQ+ organisations (21%). And the majority of people in the survey were proud to be trans! Volunteering saves lives because it fills the gaps left by the public and private sectors, and gives people a connection to community, purpose and fulfilment. But my heart glows brighter when we find a way to compensate our community heroes with a wage. Decades of volunteer activism and advocacy have led to increases in funding for rainbow services and created paid roles for trans folk.

2021 was a massive year for volunteer trans-action. Thousands of trans people (and allies) did the hard yards to get the conversion therapy ban across the line and to get self-identification of gender woven into the Births Deaths Marriages & Relationships Act. Allyson Hamblett is the unsung hero of the latter, having presented the petition to the government that led to these changes back in 2016. 

I have so many other trans heroes here in NZ. People like Ahi, Adeline and Kate at Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Sella at Rainbow Youth Outerspaces, Mary Haddock-Staniland (ambassador for Lifeline and Executive Realness royalty), Shaneel Lal who disrupts the status quo for growth and for good,  Phylesha Brown-Acton the effortlessly fabulous founder of F’INE Pasifika, Jack Byrne (Aotearoa’s Godfather of transgender human rights research and all-around policy guru), Dr Jamie Veale (director of the Transgender Health Research Lab, home of Counting Ourselves), Taine Polkinghorn, advisor at the Human Rights Commission, Angelo Libeau who helped found the Rainbow Violence Prevention Network, George Fowler (aka Hugo Grrrl) who has spent years creating paid opportunities for queer artists, Jevon Wright who helped found Naming NZ and Outerspaces, and my sister Jaye Glam who makes every event she volunteers at a safer place for all people just by living loud in full colour.

We need all different kinds of trans people bringing their talents out, role modelling their best for the rest of us. The diversity within our community is our superpower. We don’t always agree (our political viewpoints are as varied as our hormone levels) and that makes us stronger. Thanks to the generosity of time, willingness to collaborate, and a shared commitment to improving outcomes for our people, the trans community has a lot to be proud of this year.  We got a lot better.