Four pillars of Sydney’s LGBTIQA+ community celebrated important milestones with celebrations in November.
The Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service (GCLS) NSW celebrated 50 years since it was founded as a help line operated out of the home of Peter de Waal and Peter Bonsall-Boone in 1973.
GCLS merged with LGBTIQA+ youth service Twenty10 in 2012 – which is also celebrating its founding, alongside the Gender Centre, 40 years ago.
Twenty10 is also the NSW partner of QLife which is celebrating 10 years of service to community in 2023.
The Gender Centre held an event at its new home in the renovated Marrickville Hospital complex that was attended by a host of dignitaries including City of Sydney and Inner West councillors, Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, Health Minister Ryan Park, and Summer Hill MP Jo Haylen.
Gender Centre executive director Phinn Borg said that turnout showed the disconnect between how trans issues were often dealt with in the media and the lived experiences of trans people.
“Almost weekly there is an article in the Australian media asking if trans people are legitimate or asking should transgender children be supported,” Borg told QNews following the event.
“At the same time state and local governments, health districts and departments, hospitals, medical and mental health peak bodies around Australia are asking fundamentally different questions.”
“Eight out of ten trans and gender diverse people and young people who access support and services to transition in Australia go on to live their best lives.”
Borg said the goal now was to make that ten out of ten.
Qlife, GCLS and Twenty10 held their own celebration at the National Art School where Greenwich also spoke after a Welcome to Country by Nana Miss Koori.
Twenty10 founder Garrett Prestage was unable to attend but told the story over video of how that service and the Gender Centre had grown out of work that he and the late Roberta Perkins had begun in 1982.
“The media at the time were highlighting homeless youth as being vulnerable to exploitation, by which they meant prostitution … and drug abuse,” Prestage recalled.
“I wanted to develop a proper service run by and for young gays and lesbians that could outlast that media interest.”
“I set up a volunteer group that went out at night to give advice and referrals … Then I succeeded in getting funding through research into drug and alcohol use among young gay people.”
“We surveyed young gays and lesbians … about experiences of stigma, family rejection, homelessness and sex work as well as drugs and alcohol use The findings showed appalling levels of vulnerability,” Prestage said,
“My friend, the late and great Roberta Perkins was doing similar research among young trans people. She was finding similar if not even more alarming figures in her research.”
The pair used their findings to lobby the government and found an ally in Labor minister Frank Walker.
“We were fortunate to have a very progressive minister at the time and some allies in the department so with the media coverage giving them some political opportunity we got funding for two services,” Prestage said.
“Roberta was able to set up a refuge for young trans people called Tiresia’s House [that became The Gender Centre] … and I was granted department funding for Twenty10 which has grown into a very successful and much lauded organisation forty years later.”
“I take enormous pride in what that little volunteer group has come to be and it gives me enormous pleasure to know that young people of diverse sexualities now have a safe place to go and a strong organisation advocating for their interests.”
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