LATELY, South Australian mum Jane* has felt less safe and is afraid for her 12-year-old trans daughter.
“There’s some unpleasant things people are saying in the parliament about LGBTI people and Safe Schools… and that’s very hurtful” she said.
The Safe Schools Coalition supported Jane’s daughter throughout her transition while she was at school.
However, because her daughter isn’t ‘out’ as trans at school, Jane said it prevents her from being able to speak out publicly about the trans issues and the benefits of the Safe Schools program.
“I feel like our voices can’t be heard, we can’t go on TV and speak about the issues,” she said.
“That’s why it means so much when we do hear people in parliament speaking up for us.”
Jane is talking about the support for LGBTI issues from South Australian Senator Robert Simms.
In September 2015, Simms entered the Federal Senate as only one of four openly-gay senators and quickly became the Australian Greens’ spokesperson for LGBTI issues.
The 32-year-old told Star Observer he became politically active at university and decided to get into the game because he genuinely believes politics can change the lives of people for the better.
“There’s a lot of old, white straight men in the Senate,” he said.
“You do sometimes see homophobia in the parliament, there are some members of parliament that make really homophobic statements, we’ve seen that with the appalling attack on the Safe Schools program.
“I’ve had some homophobic vitriol directed at me in parliament… what people don’t often recognise it fires me, it reminds me of the work we still have to do.”
Despite entering the Senate only nine months ago, with changes to Senate voting laws and the double dissolution election, Simms is facing defeat at the polls.
He has the fight of his life on his hands as he battles for the last remaining South Australian Senate spot, which will come down to him and Family First’s Bob Day. Simms even set up a website dedicated to the campaign of beating the conservative.
“It’s a big challenge in South Australia… and really the choice couldn’t be starker between the two of us. It could be a case of Rob or Bob,” he said.
“Ultimately, if we lose that Senate seat, that could have big implications for progressive politics in this country, because it could see the balance of power shift to conservative forces in the parliament.
“And that could make all the difference between making marriage equality a reality.
Simms’ message to voters in South Australia is if they want a progressive parliament, to vote Greens on July 2.
“We can’t afford to lose that critical senate seat,” he said.
For Jane, the prospect of losing a champion of LGBTI rights in the parliament is daunting.
“It’s definitely meaningful to me, it will have a practical impact on my family,” she said.
“Just having someone standing up and speaking eloquently to support people who don’t have a voice is so important.
“My daughter’s at an age when she knows what’s being said in parliament, it’s important that she has adults who understand her… she gets excited when they speak up for her.”
*Jane is not her real name.