Members of Queensland’s transgender community have honoured PFLAG legend and rainbow mum Shelley Argent’s years of LGBTIQ community activism with a special award.
The Australian Transgender Support Association Qld (ATSAQ) has run since 1990. ATSAQ President Gina Mather recently presented the “so very deserving” Shelley Argent with the group’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gina and ATSAQ Secretary Krissy Johnson met Shelley in 1998, a few years after Shelley’s son James came out as gay.
As well as fighting for gay and lesbian rights, Gina explained Shelley Argent’s leadership within PFLAG was also a big turning point for the transgender community.
“Shelley started her activism to achieve rights for her gay son,” Gina recalled.
“She was gobsmacked to find out that even though the gay community had some rights, we had absolutely none.
“They could kick us out of anywhere they wanted. On public transport, they could kick us off. In rental housing, they could turn trans people away.
“Shelley really brought the transgender community into PFLAG in a way they hadn’t before. She always said, ‘We are one community.’
“Shelley would refer people to us and always wanted to help as many people as possible.”
‘She supported us back then, and she supports us now’
Shelley Argent has also generously given financial support to ATSAQ and the trans community numerous times, Gina explained.
After the Newman Government closed a long-running Brisbane gender clinic, Shelley came up with thousands to start one at the then-Queensland AIDS Council.
“If it wasn’t for Shelley that wouldn’t have happened,” Gina said.
Shelley also supported ATSAQ at a time the group was forced to cancel their monthly social lunches for the trans community.
“Shelley noticed and asked us why the events had stopped,” Gina said.
“We told her we couldn’t afford it and didn’t have enough room after a recent move. But Shelley came through for us again.
“With her initiative and help, we got those events started again. She told us, ‘No, you’ve got to keep these events going. We’ve got to bring the community together.’
“After first starting the events 22 years ago, we’ve run them ever since.
“I can’t tell you how much help Shelley has given us.”
At a recent ATSAQ lunch, Gina and Krissy presented Shelley with the group’s lifetime achievement award.
They and a group of community members from across Queensland spoke to Shelley virtually.
“The award is an acknowledgement from our community to Shelley for supporting us at a time when we had no rights,” Gina explained.
“When we had none, Shelley said, ‘Well, you’re going to get them.’ We’ve worked with Shelley for many years.
“She went to Canberra all the time to meet with politicians. She has always invited and helped others join her to get things done. Shelley always called and asked, ‘What can we do?’
“She supported us back then, and she supports us now.”
Shelley Argent diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year
In March, Shelley Argent announced she was diagnosed with leukemia. In the months since Shelley has shared updates with her followers on her Facebook page.
Earlier this year, Shelley stepped down as PFLAG’s spokesperson after 22 years in the role. She said at the time it gave her some of her most rewarding life experiences.
“Along with many other passionate advocates, I helped achieve the goals and rights I wanted for my son and his community,” she said.
“I can’t begin to explain the love and joy I feel when I think of the wonderful people I met along that journey and who welcomed me into their community.”
In 2019, Shelley Argent told the story of her life in her book Just A Mum in 2019.
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