Today marks Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021 in Aotearoa

By Marena Mane

The Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs annually on 20 November and is observed around the world. It is a day set aside to mourn and honour those who have died as a result of violence and raises awareness of hate crimes against trans and gender diverse people.

The goal of transgender awareness week was to not only educate and enlighten people about transgender and gender non-binary persons, but also to offer a chance to discuss concerns related to their transition or identity, as well as to resolve difficulties that may arise within communities.

Taranaki-born Mary Haddock-Staniland of Tainui, who is a straight-talking, commercially astute, thought-leader with a passion for social change, says transgender awareness week offers hope to her.

“So many takatāpui and non-binary folk do not reach their full potential or enjoy fulfilling life because of the barriers that our society put in front of them, both knowingly and unknowingly,” she says.

  

Haddock-Staniland says that many individuals, like herself, have fought hard to overcome obstacles since their lives have been damaged as a result of how they have been treated, and she, like many others, might not have easily made it.

“So my hope is transgender awareness week is raising awareness for our community, the challenges we face, what people can do to help and, more importantly, what we have to offer the world.”

Takatāpui and non-binary people are no different from everyone else, and "we're an amazing group of people that want to add 'fabulocity' to any environment we're in," she says.

“Normalising takatāpui, non-binary whānau in your workplace, in your whānau and in your friendship circle, is important for all of us.”

Haddock-Staniland says she couldn't fully "verbalise or crystallise" how different her and her twin brother's paths would be growing up in the 1980s with a violent father who wasn't supportive of her being transgender, but for her mother being "a great champion" for her, and still is to this day.

“I think the takeaway here is that parents who are facing this in their backyard, you don't need to be an expert. You just have to accept, you just have to love and cherish. It's not rocket science.”

 

Haddock-Staniland says her journey is similar to that of many others, but that because of her break in the media she was able to support change that led to where she is now.

“It's the first of its kind in Aotearoa, New Zealand but it shouldn't be the last and I want to champion change, regardless of where I sit in the pendulum.”

According to Haddock-Staniland, acceptance of transgender and non-binary whānau has come a long way from people not being able to live fully involved lives and ultimately ending their lives early.

“We've got work to do. But we're a hell of a lot better than what we were 20 years ago,” she says.

“We don't want or need anything special but just to be treated exactly the same as everyone else. It's not that hard.”