Thursday, 10 April 2014

Interview with Sally Goldner

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Sally Goldner, an Australian drummer, singer, and stand-up comic, Executive Director for TransGender Victoria, treasurer of Bisexual Alliance Victoria, and treasurer of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, listed in The Age Top 100 Creative and Influential People in Melbourne in 2011. Hello Sally!
Sally: Great to be with you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sally: I’ve been physically alive since October 1965 but only spiritually alive since April 1995 which was when I finally received accurate information about trans. At that point, all the pieces of my life began to make sense. I realized my need to affirm my female identity permanently about 3 years later and in between those 2 ties, I got to the truth about my sexual orientation, which I now define as bi/pansexual – like most things, it’s an evolution. 
Monika: How did you start your artistic career?
Sally: I started out more with singing and then was invited to the spoken word. Stand-up and character comedy was something I wanted to do deep down and started in 2003, although it’s been on the backburner since about 2008 due to being busy with advocacy and personal reasons.

Sally's Story - Available via YouTube.

Monika: In addition, you present "Out of the Pan" on 3CR 855 AM, covering pansexual issues, pansexual meaning "knowing no boundaries of sex or gender", including transgender, bisexual and polyamorous issues…
Sally: I have found a niche in radio presenting – I just love it. I was on another station (JOY 94.9 FM) from 1998 to 2004 and have now been with 3 CR since 2005. I love hearing people’s stories and what makes people tick. There have been some amazing heartfelt interviews with people who open up in unexpected ways.
One that stands out is a performer. I thought I’d be interviewing the “character” – a strong, powerful woman - but all of a sudden I was interviewing the “real life person” – a vulnerable and totally different personality to on stage. I had to tear up my prepared questions and listen – with both ears and heart.
Another was an interview with a couple where one person affirmed their identity in an existing relationship. "We're starting out on this new adventure's built a deeper level of trust and respect for one another." This was just so incredibly authentic and moving…still brings up a few tears thinking about it now.

Monika: What is the current landscape for trans organizations and rights in Australia?
Sally: We are progressing reasonably well in relation to legal reform. All of Australia’s nine jurisdictions (6 states, 2 territories, and federal) have anti-discrimination protection and the most recent law (federal) covers the whole trans and gender diverse “kaleidoscope” and fills some of the gaps in the state and territory laws. The 8 states and territories govern birth certificates: name change is reasonably easy for trans people; 7 require surgery for change of marker and one, the Australian Capital Territory within the last month upgraded its laws to be based on affirmed identity.

Delivering a speech.

The federal government introduced sex and gender guidelines last year which, while only covering federal government agencies and departments, are being adopted by some state agencies and private and not-for-profit organizations.
Three challenges are the shortage of knowledgeable and sensitive health professionals, the costs for surgeries, and the severe shortage of funding for trans organizations. The latter is leading to a lot of burn-out. All the same, we are working on these issues and we are close to major breakthroughs.
Monika: In 2011 you appeared in the documentary titled Sally’s Story. Were you satisfied with the final product?
Sally: Very satisfied. It was so easy to work with producers Mark and Trina (of Budaya Productions). Mark, like me, is an introvert and Highly Sensitive Person and just tapped into what I wanted and needed to say. When I saw the first “draft” of what became the final cut of the documentary, there was only one shot I didn’t like and that was easy to fix. It’s a great record of my life to that point in time and provides a great resource.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Sally: There were two amazing local role models, Julie Peters and Kayleen White. Julie ran for political office in the 1990s. She did so with gentle humor, humility, grace, and intelligence. She also offered me the advice that the transition was just as important as the end result – enjoy the journey, as the saying goes. Kayleen, while not so public, offered great wisdom and spirituality, and when we were advocating for state anti-discrimination protection in 2000 was a great guide to me as I was a relative newcomer to advocacy at the time. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Sally: 2 aspects: parents/family and prejudice within the GLBTI community. While things are the best they have been at any time now with my family, it was very difficult to deal with the limited contact we had for 10 years from 1998-2008. The savior was largely someone who acted as a “bridge” to re-connect us, along with some spiritual work that helped too.
While I was fortunate to have two wonderful mentors along with Kayleen and Julie, Kenton Miller (gay male) and Janet Jukes (lesbian), I was really taken aback by transphobia, biphobia, and sexism from elements of gays and lesbians and other forms of prejudice that didn’t affect me directly, e.g. sizism, racism, ableism. I can grasp the “double standard” on an intellectual level but it took a long time to understand the feelings involved – and I’m probably still not quite there.

"Sally Goldner on gender stereotypes" via Her Words.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Australian society?
Sally: There is progress: along with the legal reforms we have moved significantly in 10-15 years on employment, although there is still work to be done. Attitudes have improved: for example, 85% of Australians support anti-discrimination protections for trans people.
The cost of surgery – say $A17, 500 (11,804 euros) is a major issue (and this can be worse for trans men with multiple surgeries). Trigger warning re violence: the rate of physical assault is 20-25%, 12 times the national average, although we believe it has at least stabilized and not getting worse. Christian and Jewish organizations are increasingly understanding of trans issues, which is also promising.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Sally: I think it is gaining traction. People are questioning very “binary” models of sex, gender identity, and gender expression of which trans is of course a part, which is great. I think we always need to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all human rights campaigns so when one becomes “flavor of the month” we can give leverage to others. 
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Sally: Australian politics at the moment, in my opinion, is in a very shallow place of spin over substance and that’s not for me. I gave the idea of standing as a candidate some thought prior to our September 2013 federal election but rejected it. Transgender Victoria, with which I’ve been involved since 1998, does have 5 broad priority areas as per diversity in health (released in late 2012). So we’re not involved in campaigns as such; rather we have goals that we break down into smaller pieces and try to achieve.

With (then) Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, (May 2013).

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Sally: I have thought about writing memoirs, time, and supporting myself financially while I do that have prevented it from happening so far.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Sally: Transgender Victoria has two exciting projects underway. One is a grant to produce material assisting cisgender allies and the other is a two-year program to provide training to aged care services around Victoria (the state within Australia where I live; other organizations have similar programs in other states).
This gives us great scope to build links to rural areas where support for trans (and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and intersex for that matter) is often less than cities and inner metropolitan areas. Further, the material would be easily transferrable to those working in say, housing or working with youth. It gives us a great chance to break down transphobia (and homophobia and biphobia) and increase understanding with all the benefits that result.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Sally: I totally acknowledge that pain and isolation having been there for 29 years myself. All the same, there is usually some sort of support somewhere, even if it can be hard to find at first. It might be necessary to take what seems like an indirect path to get to the right support e.g. finding a gay and lesbian group that can then connect you to a trans group. But just taking one step can be the start of a journey to a better place.
Monika: Sally, thank you for the interview!
Sally: A pleasure – and I’d welcome people to please contact me via Facebook or or on twitter@salgoldsaidso.

To purchase or watch Sally’s Story contact Sally via Facebook.
Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender 

All the photos: courtesy of Sally Goldner.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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