Those of us living in rainbow communities know all too well how powerful language can be.

Too many of us have experienced that uneasy feeling in our stomach when someone has used words to try and belittle us.

Language can also leave people feeling excluded in subtle ways – for instance, when somebody makes an assumption about your sexuality or gender.

It can be a powerful tool for good, acknowledging experiences across communities and sending strong message that we are included and valued.

It’s this power of language to include people which has led me to change my title from Victoria’s Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality to the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities – which better includes people with an intersex variation.

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 During Victorian Government consultations with intersex advocates in 2019, advocates told me they felt the ‘gender and sexuality’ in my title didn’t include them. Having an intersex variation is not a sexual or gender identity, it’s having variations of physical or biological traits. At least two in every 100 people are intersex, and they are as sexually and gender diverse as other people.

I’m proud of this change. In this role I have always advocated for the rights of people with an intersex variation, but now that is plain for all to see.

This title change doesn’t shift the nature of my work advocating for the rights of LGBTIQ+ Victorians and providing advice to the Victorian Government about our needs and priorities.

However, it does provide me with a marker to reflect on the progress weve made towards equality during the five years Ive spent in this role – the first of its kind in Australia – and the work that remains ahead.

We’ve had some great wins over those five years. We’ve had some great legislative reform, seen our community more supported than ever before, and I’m proud that we have had the opportunity to do so much with government. We’ve come a long way since our first advisory group.

Were also building the Victorian Pride Centre, an Australian-first home for LGBTIQ+ organisations and groups, and the community at large.

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 This coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has meant 2020 hasn’t turned out how any of us would have expected. These are difficult times, and for some LGBTIQ+ communities, this crisis has made pre-existing mental health and financial challenges much worse.

I’ve also been so impressed by how resilient our communities have been. LGBTIQ+ Victorians have found new ways to reach out and look after and include others. Ensuring our rainbow communities are properly supported during this time is crucial as we continue our long-running push for equality.

However, we aren’t finished yet, and Victoria’s first whole of government LGBTIQ+ strategy will map out the road ahead. strategy to make sure that LGBTIQ+ concerns are embedded in government practice.

The first round of public consultations for this strategy closed in August, and Im so grateful to everyone who took the time to have their say. They weren’t sure you could run a consultation during a pandemic, but you participated above and beyond expectations.

More than 750 people or groups wrote a submission, filled out a survey or participated in one of more than 30 targeted consultations held online – all of which I was privileged to attended.

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 There will be another opportunity for you to have your say on how the strategy is shaping up before its final release next year.

Beyond this strategy, I’m determined to continue ensuring LGBTIQ+ voices are heard across our state, as we grapple with the realities of the pandemic. Being Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities is a job I’m humbled to do.

In these strange times, I wish everyone safety, connection and pride. This period isn’t easy, but I know we are getting through it together.

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