Transgender rights activist Nevo Zisin in Bendigo to talk diversity, Safe Schools and marriage equality

In the future that Nevo Zisin imagines, there will be no such thing as "coming out". 

The 21-year-old transgender rights activist spoke at Bendigo Library on Monday afternoon, telling attendees about their experience as a person whose gender identity was non-binary, meaning they did not consider themselves exclusively male or female. 

Zisin, who also spent the day talking with Bendigo Senior Secondary College students, believed the traditional, binary view of gender made a sometimes scary world easier to navigate. 

“But I don't think we realise how many people we isolate with those doctrines,” they said.

"When the Baby Boomers who caused all of these issues are no longer part of the conversation, this world is going to look very different."

Creating a world in which no one made assumptions about another person's gender or sexuality was easier than some might think, according to Zisin, who argued people just needed to be viewed as individuals, not stereotypes. 

"Even if we live in this really binary world, I always say, 'not all men are the same, not all women are the same'," they said. 

"Everyone is a blend of masculinity and femininity; I've never met someone who is perfectly in one box."

An initiative of Vic Diversity, Zisin's visit to Bendigo coincided with the mail out of the federal government's marriage equality survey.

With letters beginning to arrive from tomorrow, Zisin was disgusted by what they called "state-sanctioned homophobia", and was particularly concerned about the effect the national vote would have on vulnerable young people. 

"I've been having such a tough time with it, and I'm a pretty strong adult... I can't imagine what it's like for kids."

But the topic of marriage equality was a hackneyed one for Zisin; even a change in the law might not reap real results for their community, a demographic that still confronted serious disadvantage.   

“We have way bigger issues: we have queer youth dying on the street, suicide rates within the trans community are higher than in almost any other (community) in the world,” they said. 

Asked about ways to mitigate harm upon same-sex attracted and gender diverse youth, Zisin praised the Safe Schools program, creditting the anti-bullying curriculum with saving their life.

Despite describing their school years as difficult, the time was made easier because of their school’s understanding.

Signing up to the Safe Schools Coalition was an necessity for most schools, Zisin said.  

The road ahead remained an uncertain one for Zisin; for someone who identified as queer, traditional milestones like marriage and parenthood were no longer certainties. 

"Our elders have been re-written out of history, so I don't even know what's come before me as a young queer," they said. 

That made being an activist a role Zisin felt obliged to take.

Vic Diversity organiser Susanna Flanagan said on Monday she hoped Zisin’s visit would be a salve for at-risk LGBTI youth looking for guidance.    

Her group focuses on people who are both living with a disability and identify as LGBTI, as well as families with members who were queer. 

“LGBTIQ people are aged zero and up,” Flanagan said.

“In Bendigo there’s the nightclub gay scene, there’s coffee afternoons, but we have to make sure [everyone] can access that community.”

The group’s events were also safe ones, she said, especially for parents trying to understand their children’s identity.

“The first contact, it is critical they have a positive interaction,” Flanagan said.

“We don’t want them to be exposed to that kind of vitriole and toxicity.”