21 February 2015: Gender Centre Stalwart, Paula Hartigan Dies
One of Paula's favourite sayings, heard often around the corridors of the Gender Centre "Contrary to popular belief, rumours of my demise are grossly exaggerated" ... unfortunately cannot be uttered with truth nor the good-hearted humour that it always was, for this time - your ultimate demise - saddens us terribly. Paula joined the Gender Centre when it was known as Tiresias House, in the unenviable position of Residential Support Worker a position she made her own, despite the many attempts by our sometimes wayward, mischievous clientele to undermine or 'put one over' on her – something they, of course, never succeeded in doing. One of life's great story-tellers, Paula's version of incidents long passed including the 'Tranny Wars' of the early 1990s, kept her fellow staff-members both amused and dismayed at how someone in her position could have withstood so much turmoil. Her stories of golfing triumphs at Massey Park and her punting success almost matching the multiple upon multiple dings she had in the Gender Centre car adding to her character and charm. Her generosity and humble nature a virtue, admired by all who crossed paths with Paula from the thousands of transgender and questioning clients she helped and mentored, her co-workers at the Gender Centre through the decades to her retirement in 2010 and her fellow volunteers on the board of many other N.G.O.s including Foley House and Badlands where she continued to keep an eye-out for transgender people in need. The end of an era – the Sydney transgender community has lost an irreplaceable elder in Paula Hartigan – we'll forever be in her debt.
18 October 2014: Gender Centre Relocates to Annandale
Just over six years since the Centre relocated from Morgan Street to Bent Streets, Petersham, the latest relocation to 41-43 Parramatta Road, Annandale took place. The move became necessary because the New South Wales State Government required the Bent Street premises for another service, meaning for the first time in the Gender Centre's history, we were forced onto the open rental market.
2 April 2014: High Court Rejects Outdated Notions of Gender
The High Court has delivered a landmark judgment that recognises sex other than male or female, representing a victory for growing numbers of gender diverse people across Australia. The decision is of profound importance, given that identity documents such as birth certificates were an important foundation for ensuring equal recognition before the law for gender diverse and intersex people. The High Court upheld the decision of the N.S.W. Court of Appeal that allowed Norrie, an androgynous person, to be recognized as a sex other than male or female. Norrie had originally sought to be identified as 'non-specific' rather than 'male' or 'female' on identity documents. N.S.W. Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages v Norrie  H.C.A. 11 (2 April 2014) .
20 March 2014: Landmark Victory for A.C.T. Trans* and Intersex Residents
Trans* and intersex residents of the A.C.T. can officially change the sex on their birth certificates without requiring reassignment surgery after a landmark win in the territory's parliament. The amendments to the Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, which passed without opposition, allow individuals to alter their birth certificate to identify as male, female or X, and all that is required is for a doctor or psychologist to certify they have received "appropriate clinical treatment" - which has not been defined so as to leave it open to the doctor or psychologist. The time limit for births to be registered in the A.C.T. has also been extended to six months under the approved amendments, giving parents time to decide how to register the sex of their child in cases when they are not clearly male or female.
August 2013: Vale Lesley Anne Findlay
It is with our deepest regret that we report the passing of Lesley Anne Findlay on Thursday 29th August 2013. Leslie was one of the hardest working, and most loyal members of the Sydney transgender community, her many years service to the Gender Centre's Management Committee and on the Board of the Seahorse Society of New South Wales are greatly appreciated and valued by those within our community who have benefited from her commitment and dedication to providing a safer and more enjoyable space for our community.
June 2012: Frank Walker Dies
Frank Walker, who died on the 12th June 2012 at the age of sixty-nine, entered politics when he won the seat of Georges River for the A.L.P. in the New South Wales State election of 1970. Six years later N.S.W. Premier Neville Wran appointed Frank Attorney-General, a position he held until 1983 when he accepted three ministries, Youth and Community Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Housing. He held these portfolios until he lost the seat of Georges River in the State election of 1988. In 1983 Frank called Roberta Perkins to his office having read about the plight of transsexual people in Sydney in her book The Drag Queen Scene. This meeting lead to a refuge in Petersham and funding being provided and so Tiresias House, now known as The Gender Centre, was born. Frank Walker M.P. was a true champion of transgender people.
December 2011: Carmen Rupe, Transgender Icon, Rest in Peace
Carmen Rupe has left us. Often referred to as a transgender icon on both sides of the Tasman, this remarkable woman died on 15th December 2011, following some months of ill-health following a fall earlier in the year. Cause of death was given as kidney failure. After a period of vigil during which she lay in state at Redfern's Te Warua Tapu Church a service was held on Wednesday 21st December, well attended by friends and admirers from the drag, Maori, straight and L.G.B.T.I communities.
July 2011: Farewell Rose Jackson
One of the Sydney gay scene's most loved theatre artists died peacefully early on Thursday morning 21st July 2011 at St Vincent's Hospice. Perhaps best known as the star performer at Capriccios, the first gay club to open in Oxford St in the early-nineteen-seventies, Rose's career as both a costumier and entertainer boasted many highlights.
June 2011: Weekly Evening Drop-In Ends
The long-standing Wednesday night drop-in have been part of the Gender Centre for almost as long as anyone can remember, but times change and as such there had been a growing feeling that there may be better ways to utilise our resources. The original intention for the drop-in was to provide a first-access experience for transgenders new to their transgendered situation, in a safe place where they could meet others in the informal atmosphere of a shared meal, and that as these people gained confidence they could move on. Over the years the character of the drop-ins had changed and in light of complaints received from some clients concerning the behaviour of others, and following the development of a situation where some users of the service criticise the quality of the free meals they were being given, the Wednesday night drop-in became a thing of the past.
May 2011: New Passport Awarded Without Reassignment Surgery
Marcele, a transsexual woman from the A.C.T. has won the right to a full, ten-year passport in her transitioned identity, without the need for undergoing sex realignment surgery first. After a battle lasting seven long months, she has received her updated Australian passport indicating her true gender-identity on her passport as female. Marcele was able to successfully expand on prior cases, fought and won by a large number of others in the transsexual community, and pointed out that nobody was qualified to make this decision: the Passport Office had no basic understanding of what the humanitarian guidelines really were because they eventually admitted there was "no policy document, guidelines or any other information in existence that expands on the meaning of the expression "rare and unique circumstances of a compelling humanitarian nature". Eventually after the preliminary hearing Passport Office conceded the case and it was settled with them issuing Marcele with my ten-year female passport.
March 2011: Transgender Anti-Violence Project Begins
The Transgender Anti-Violence Project is an initiative supported by the Gender Centre, the City of Sydney Council, Inner City Legal Centre and the N.S.W. Police. The aim of the exercise is not only to prevent violence against transgenders, but also to gather statistics concerning that violence. The Transgender Anti-Violence Project mission is to provide education, support, assistance referrals and advocacy for transgenders suffering all forms of violence based on gender-identity. Superintendent Donna Adney of the N.S.W. Police and members of the Steering Committee have been active in setting the framework for the project. One of the essential foundations for the project will be the creation of a data file of reports on transgender-oriented violence.
September 2010: Gaye Stubbs Resigns as Gender Centre Counsellor
Gay Stubbs resigned as the Gender Centre's Counsellor, having initially been employed by the Gender Centre in January 2006. Her place was taken by new counsellor, Anthony Carlino.
February 25th 2010: Gender " Not Specified"
norrie mAy-welby made world headlines by having hir recognised details certificate (issued to people born overseas) re-issued by the N.S.W. Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages with the gender marked "Not Specified". Born in Scotland and raised as male, norrie went through gender affirmation as a female in hir twenties but later realised that zie was neither male nor female, ceased hormone therapy and proclaimed hir intention to be unspecified as to gender. After obtaining medical support for this zie was issued with a gender "not specified" recognised details certificate setting an example for the many people like hir around the world. For a while it looked as if a significant change had been made in the way Australian bureaucrats look at gender, but within days the Attorney-General's Department intervened and forced the Registry to reverse its position and cancel the certificate, stating that "legal advice" had shown that the "sex not specified" annotation was illegal because the registrar "may only issue a recognised details certificate or a new birth certificate following a change of sex in either male or female gender." norrie has appealed to the Human Rights Commission
February 2010: Inaugural Transgender Film Festival
In February 2010 the Gender Centre in conjunction with Inner City Legal Centre presented the inaugural "Transgender Film Festival" at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts. The festival ran from late in the morning until around 9:00pm and the many featured the French movie "L'ordre des Mots" ("binding words"), a film addressing gender-identity issues head on by analysing the nature of oppression and repression faced by the trans and intersex communities in France. Also on the bill were "Screaming Queens", the story of the riots at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco in 1966, three years before the famous riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York. "Still Black", an alternative feature documentary on the lives of six black transmen; "She's a Boy I Knew" a gender bending feel-good film directed by a transsexual lesbian; "Unravelling Michelle" the gender-bending highs and lows of Michelle's male-to-female metamorphosis and "Trained in the Ways of Men", an eye-opening documentary about the tragic murder of Californian teenager Gwen Araujo and the subsequent court trials.
October 2009: Australian Passport Office Apologises to Stefanie Imbruglia
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has agreed to issue appropriate passports to sex and gender diverse people and change offensive terminology in its training material, to be more inclusive of diversity following the embarrassment and humiliation caused to Stefanie Imbruglia who was forced to travel to Thailand on a "male" passport following the conservative Howard Government's decision to rescind the twenty year-old practice of issuing one-year limited passports to people who travel overseas for affirmation surgery. Stefanie was successful in her action against D.F.A.T. and as a result they have agreed to a complete unreserved written apology to Stefanie, restoration of the right for people travelling overseas for sex realignment surgery to be given a passport in their appropriate sex and/or gender, recognise that some people who are intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgendered or any of the other sex and gender diverse identities may not be candidates for genital surgery and that as such still live in their preferred sex and/or gender roles and these people upon presentation of a letter from a medical professional would be able to obtain a permanent passport in the appropriate sex and/or gender and that people presenting with no sex or gender on their cardinal documents may be considered for a passport that does not state sex or gender. This clears the way for parents of intersex children who do not want to be forced into registering their children as male or female when that child may be neither or both. Some adults identify as neuter and wish their documents to reflect that status.
July 2008: Petersham Office Relocation
After 25 years based at Morgan Street, Petersham, the Gender Centre relocated to 7 Bent Street Petersham. The Bent Street property had previously been occupied as one of our refuge houses but actually provided a much improved location for the administration of the service as it provided much higher security with regard to client access and was overall a more professional location for the Gender Centre to operate. The Morgan Street property reverted to refuge accommodation, as it had been 25 years earlier when the Gender Centre was known as Tiresias House.
February 2008: Does The T Belong in L.G.B.T.?
The Gender Centre held a debate about whether the T belongs in L.G.B.T. at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. The evening was compered by former television and radio personality Julie McCrossin and the participants were Katrina Fox (freelance journalist), Mark Orr (President of ACON), Katelund Povey (owner of Jellyfish Furniture), Dr. Tracie O'Keefe (psychotherapist, author and editor), Roberta Perkins (founder of Tiresias House, now the Gender Centre) and Rachael Wallbank (lawyer and advocate). More than a hundred people attended, among the guests on the night were the Honourable Penny Sharpe (M.L.C.) and Superintendent Donna Adney from the Surry Hills Police Local Area Command.
September 2007: Grace Abrams Gains Female Passport While Married to Female Partner
In September 2005, Grace Abrams, who had already undergone sex reassignment surgery, married her partner, Fiona Power. Grace's birth certificate at the time recorded her sex as "male" and thus their marriage had taken place in accordance with current law that only two people of opposing sex were eligible to marry. In April 2006, Grace applied to have a passport issued however the Australian Passport Office and thus the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade declined her application on account of her inability to provide the amended birth certificate. As a married person, Grace was unable to change the sex recorded on her birth certificate on account of the provisions in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (N.S.W.). The Administrative Appeals Tribunal recognised that Grace was a person of the female gender, an Australian Citizen and that she had demonstrated a genuine need for a passport which noted her proper gender and that her inability to provide a birth certificate that records her female gender is not a valid ground for rejecting her passport application. Accordingly, she was entitled to be issued with a full validity Australian passport, as a female person.
April 2007: Thailand's Rainbow Sky Visits the Gender Centre
Rainbow Sky, the Thai equivalent to ACON visited Sydney for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and requested an information-sharing visit with the Gender Centre. Staff gave the 20 Rainbow Sky visitors an overview of the services that the Gender Centre provides to our clients as well as an explanation of the history of the Gender Centre. The visit provided an important opportunity for the Gender Centre to develop Asia-Pacific transgender networking and it was also a great opportunity for us to build partnerships at an international level. The day was a wonderful success.
January 2006: Gender Centre Passes Q.M.S. Accreditation
After several months of engagement with the Gender Centre's accreditation process, and a great deal of time and effort from staff and management committee the "Q.M.S.Accreditation Report" has been extremely favourable. The Gender Centre has achieved a resounding endorsement from the auditor. The report examined in detail the Gender Centre's responses and achievements in all of the twenty-two quality improvement council standards that were addressed. Seventeen of these standards were "core" standards and five were additional standards drawn from the "community services" module. Where relevant the reports on each of the standards were accompanied by recommendations on actions that we can undertake to further improve the quality of our operations. In all, only nine of the twenty-two standards were accompanied by recommendations and most of these were relatively straightforward and have been implemented.
January 2006: Centre Restructure
A decision was made to review how the Gender Centre was structured to provide services and what steps could be taken to improve the delivery of those services. After much discussion and planning a new model was developed that aimed to address identified problem areas in service provision. In particular it was agreed that a greater emphasis be placed on targeting positive outcomes for clients. By focusing on outcomes we have been able to develop a system of pathways that provide clients with structured access to programs and services within the Gender Centre, and through external referral, that optimise the likelihood of success. Since positive outcomes differ from one client to another the system is driven by the needs and goals identified by each client.
December 2005: Elizabeth Anne Riley Resigns as Counsellor
The Gender Centre's Counsellor, known to clients and staff as Elizabeth Anne (so as to not be confused with Gender Centre Manager, Elizabeth Riley), who had been employed with the Centre since 1999, resigned to begin her private practice in Macquarie Street. During her time at the Gender Centre, Elizabeth completed her Masters in Counselling, served on the Executive Committee of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association (C.A.P.A.) and attended the H.B.I.G.D.A. XVII Biennial Symposium in Ghent, Belgium. She was replaced by new counsellor, Gaye Stubbs.
May 2005: Polare Magazine Published Quarterly
Changes to our regularly published magazine "Polare" were inevitable following a reduction in funding. This funding reduction coupled with escalating postage and printing costs meant that changes the magazine's distribution had to occur. While a number of options were canvassed it seemed that the only viable one, in maintaining the quality of the magazine, was to reduce the frequency of its publication from bi-monthly to quarterly.
October 2004: Lee Brown Passes Away
Lee Anderson Brown died of cancer on 29th October, 2004. Lee was an admirable man, born intersexed, and with ambiguous genitalia, with all the uncertainty involved in those conditions, he overcame early confusion and worked for understanding and appropriate treatment for people, not only intersexed, but with all forms of gender diversity. Lee was an academic and his doctoral thesis concerned itself with transgendered and intersexed life.
June 2004: Mission Australia Granted Exemption from N.S.W. Anti-Discrimination Law
On 24th June 2004, the N.S.W. Attorney General granted Mission Australia an exemption under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (N.S.W.) to allow it to exclude non-recognised transgender women from three of its key services, A Woman's Place, Lou's Place and Women in Supported Housing. At a subsequent meeting, Mission Australia's representative informed Gender Centre Manager, Elizabeth Riley, that it was now their policy to exclude pre-operative transgender women from the affected accommodation services and that this position was non-negotiable. Her request to be furnished with a copy of their policy was also refused. The Gender Centre opposed the exemption, and continued its opposition through all available channels, on the grounds that it exposes the most vulnerable members of the community to an increased risk of homelessness and the myriad of risks associated with this.
April 2004: Re: Alex
"Re Alex" was a legal case decided in the Family Court of Australia on 13th April 2004. It examined the rights of a transgender thirteen-year-old to transition from female-to-male. The courts gave him the alias of "Alex" to ensure his protection and anonymity. At birth and at the time of the case, Alex was, in the eyes of the law, a girl however Alex had had a longstanding wish to undergo a transition. An application was made asking the Family Court to authorise medical treatment involving the administration of hormonal therapies to begin a sex-change procedure. In a landmark decision, Chief Justice Nicholson ruled in favour of allowing Alex to change gender and name written on birth certificate, to be administered hormone treatment until he reaches eighteen years-old. At eighteen Alex is free by law to make this decision without permission of the court, and to allow Alex to enrol in school under a male name.
September 2003: H.B.I.G.D.A. XVIII Biennial Symposium
Gender Centre Counsellor, Elizabeth Anne Riley attended the H.B.I.G.D.A. XVIII Biennial Symposium in Gent, Belgium between 10th-13th September 2003 where she presented her paper "Counselling Clients with Gender Dysphoria: An Ethical Approach". Other presenters included - Friedemann Pfaefflin (Germany), Vern Bullough (U.S.A.), Pamela Connolly (U.S.A.), Professor Louis Gooren (the Netherlands), Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis (the Netherlands), Ken Zucker (Canada), James P. Thomas (U.S.A.), Joris Hage (Netherlands), Stan Monstrey (Belgium), Dr. Preecha Tiewtranon (Thailand), Stephen Whittle (U.K.), Richard Green (U.K.), Tom Mazur (U.S.A.) and Kate Bornstein U.S.A.
June 2003: Community Identity Josephine Williams Dies
Josephine Williams, known to everyone as Josie, died on 29th June 2003. A memorial service was held for Josie at Redfern's Te Warua Tapu Church on 5th July, attended by many of her friends. Josie was a friend to all, and will be missed. The eulogy was delivered by Carmen, a close friend with many ties to Josie.