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20 May 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Wimmera LGBTIQ advocacy groups virtually unified at the weekend to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia, IDAHOBIT.
The annual day is a chance to reflect on progress and raise awareness of the violence and discrimination LGBTIQ communities have faced worldwide.
Wimmera Pride Project secretary Renae Bartlett resonates with the IDAHOBIT message.
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She is a strong advocate for the LGBTIQ community and wanted to share a personal journey in hope of reaching out to anyone who might be struggling or feeling isolated because of their identity.
In December last year, Ms Bartlett helped her transgender son Zac ‘socially transition’.
Zac was assigned female at birth and uses male pronouns and lives as a boy.
Zac, 9, has ‘never wavered’ from his identity as a male.
Ms Bartlett said ever since the transition he had never been so confident.
“Since he did the transition in December, it’s like this weight has been lifted off him,” she said.
“He’s the bravest person I know because he has the confidence to be himself – even though society might think he should be a different way.”
Ms Bartlett said it became clear to her that Zac was transgender from a young age.
“As soon as he could talk he said he was a boy, there was no question, he’s never wavered from that,” she said.
“He only wanted to wear boys clothes, only wanted boys haircuts, only really wanted to do activities boys would traditionally do.
“I always said well ‘girls can do those things too’ and he said, ‘no you don’t understand, deep inside I’m a boy’.”
Ms Bartlett said support from Zac’s school, Horsham’s Ss Michael and John’s Primary School, was key in allowing him to feel accepted during his transition process.
“I have to say our school has been absolutely amazing,” she said.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the support they gave myself and Zac and the way they delivered the message to the other students was just so amazing and non-judgemental.
“I hear of other people having negative experiences, but I’ve had nothing but positivity in Horsham – this has been a wonderful place to raise Zac as he is.”
Ms Bartlett said her family’s support and understanding for Zac’s decision had helped him realise his ‘authentic self’.
“We accepted him unconditionally – there were no doubts, he was always really confident in who he was,” she said.
“There were times when Zac would cry himself to sleep and say ‘I can’t grow up to be a girl and grow up to have a woman’s body’.
“I explained to him that he could transition, that there were options available to him – after that he was much more comfortable, reassured and felt he had control over his future.”
Ms Bartlett said she hoped Zac’s story would encourage greater acceptance of people’s differences in the community.
“The best thing a parent can do is listen when a child says who they are and support them to live as their authentic self,” she said.
She welcomed more people to join Wimmera Pride Project.
“We invite people to get involved with us – you don’t have to identify as LGBTIQ to attend our events, in fact, the majority of our attendees on pride nights are allies because we play good music and put on a good party,” she laughed.
The entire May 20, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!