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We’re ready, Sussan

Monday, 24th March, 2014

Local transgender woman Traci-Lee Powles was “dumbfounded” by Federal MP Sussan Ley’s opinion that the electorate was not ready for same sex marriage. Local transgender woman Traci-Lee Powles was “dumbfounded” by Federal MP Sussan Ley’s opinion that the electorate was not ready for same sex marriage.

By Erica Visser

 Federal MP Sussan Ley has insisted that same sex marriage was not a “high priority” for her electorate, but some local groups have hit back.

Ms Ley appeared on ABC television program Q & A last week, where she suggested that her electorate was not ready for the legalisation of same sex marriage.

She told the BDT that compared to other issues, marriage equality was not a “high priority.”

“When this issue comes up across Farrer, and that includes Broken Hill, the common response I hear is ‘who is making this issue a priority, and why?’

“There are numerous social and economic matters Federal Parliament can and is addressing, and for our communities in general same sex marriage is simply not a high priority.

“This does not mean that broad attitude won’t change in the future and if there is anyone who wants to contact me on this issue, my door is always open.”

Ms Ley did not say whether or not she would be willing to vote for marriage equality in the future.

“It is clear local attitudes towards homosexuality have changed dramatically and I think many people have modified their view over time,” she said.

“That said, I still meet young men and women in our smaller towns who feel harassed by outdated attitudes to their sexuality, so there remains more to be done in some areas to rub out this discrimination.”

When asked if she thought same sex marriage would be legalised in the future, Ms Ley said: “Our Government is certainly committed to ensuring those equal rights are upheld under the law.”

Far West Community Legal Centre (FWCLC) board member and transgender woman Traci-Lee Powles told the BDT she was “dumbfounded” after hearing Ms Ley’s comments.

“I actually think it’s the reverse of what she’s saying, we’re more ready than our (bigger) city counterparts,” Ms Powles said.

“Because we’re a small community, I’m out there on a daily basis, people see me walking around or at the shops.

“I don’t want to be high profile but I don’t have a choice. You could live in a big city and never come across a transgender person.”

Ms Powles said that the reaction from the Broken Hill community towards her gender transition had been overwhelmingly positive. 

“It just gets better and better and better,” she said.

“I was dumbfounded by Sussan’s response. I know Sussan personally and I’ve spoken with her about my acceptance.”

The “We Belong” promotion is an initiative started by various community groups, including the FWCLC and the Warra Warra Legal Service. 

Ms Ley had been invited to a number of GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex) events that were recently held in the city, FWCLC CEO Tracey Willow said.

“I feel like she’s ill-informed and I think we need to urge the community to talk to her about this matter,” Ms Willow said.

“This is a human rights issue so when will the right be recognised?”

Warra Warra Legal Service Manager Donna Kennedy said that being part of the GLBTI campaign had been a “fantastic thing” for the organisation.

“I know what it’s like to be marked and labelled when I walk down the street,” she said.

“I think most of the community agree with the idea of equal rights, it’ about acceptance.”

The groups now hope to band with fellow organisations in Albury and across the Farrer electorate in a bid to change Ms Ley’s stance of same sex marriage.

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