Title: (Still) Not Walking Away? Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 14th March 2016 - 11:42am1457908920 Article: 18060 Rights
Chagrined by the fact that many New Zealand schools appear to be ignoring his cheap publicity stunts against transgender child safety, Bob McCoskrie of Family First has produced a "legal opinion" attacking progressive school gender-inclusive policies. Let's have a look at this latest attention-grabbing episode and judge for ourselves. Family First Director Bob McCoskrie. Photo: CHRIS GORMAN/FAIRFAX NZ What prompted this latest display of transphobia? On Thursday March 10, it was announced that two Wellington schools had commendably gone inclusive and installed gender neutral bathrooms for any transgender pupils in attendance, given that they might otherwise be bullied, experience peer violence or experience verbal harrassment, abuse and intimidation from peers due to their gender identity. This is commendable and the schools should be applauded for providing an inclusive and safe learning environment and encouraging educational retention, as well as paying attention to issues of anti-trans bullying, abuse and intimidation. Several days later, this provoked the release of a 'legal opinion' from Family First's latest set of solicitors. Some of us with long memories may recall that Family First tried almost exactly the same antics in the context of marriage equality, which failed to register much. And three years after marriage equality, LGBTI couples aren't dressing in bad seventies polyester, donning wide lapelled safari suits, flared trousers, platform shoes and trying to masquerade as sartorially challenged fundamentalists, "forcing" obscure tiny fundamentalist sects to marry them. Most of us are perfectly happy with either inclusive religious institutions, or more often, registry offices and civil marriages, much like our straight counterparts. However, this is far more serious. McCoskrie's current antics threaten the safety, welfare, educational retention and progress of transgender children at mainstream New Zealand schools and they must be stopped. As with St. Matthews in the City and their corresponding legal opinion deployed in support of marriage equality, I understand that there will shortly be a pro-transgender legal opinion released to counter this. So, what does McCoskrie's latest diatribe say? The legal opinion purports to examine the Education Act, Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act and states that limiting toilet and changing room access to single gender occupants is conducive to the safety, wellbeing and health of students. True. However, no-one is talking about abolishing male and female designated changing rooms. Either there will be a third gender neutral option, or transgender children will be able to feel safer and more comfortable in the toilets and changing rooms of their redesignated gender. Should there be any problem with this, one suggests that parents and schools produce medical affadavits from qualified medical practitioners (pediatricians and developmental psychologists) that state that the transgender child is experiencing gender dysphoria and identifies as their redesignated gender according to medical indices. Therefore, they do not identify as the "opposite" gender in this context. And if anyone is "bullying" schools and other educational and child welfare organisations in this context, it is not Rainbow Youth, School's Out or other LGBT/trans-inclusive NGOs. As I noted in a recent Gaynz.Com Politics and Religion article, it is the US and Australian Christian Right that are trying to bully and pressure schools into abandoning their obligations to insure that all students are able to learn in a safe, hospitable and inclusive learning environment that is conducive to their full human development and educational progress. In the context of the United States, as I have previously mentioned, almost half of US Christian Right attacks on transgender child safety school policies have failed- probably due to public antipathy toward violation of transgender student privacy and outright harassment which have occurred at some targeted schools. It says much for the extremism of such desperate behaviour that such policies are rejected even in traditionally religious social conservative states such as Virginia and Mississippi, as well as more progressive states such as Washington state. In Australia, there is now an escalating public backlash against the attack on the Safe Schools Coalition, with mass protests against the witch-hunts occuring in Melbourne. Pandering to the Australian Christian Right like this also seems to be damaging Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's popularity ratings. The Human Rights Commission, AIDS Foundation and Rainbow Youth are not the only supporters of inclusive educational environments in this context. In the Australian context, the Safe Schools Coalition has the support of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, Australian Council of State School Associations, Australian Education Union, CPSU trade union, the University of Canberra, Belcannon Community Services, the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales, Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, Shoalhaven City Council, Youth Action, Forbes Shire Council, the New South Wales Teachers Federation, Charles Stuart University, Albury City Council, Relationships Australia, the Queensland Teachers Union, Open Doors Youth Service, the Mental Illness Fellowship of Queensland, Wesley Mission Brisbane (Uniting Church of Australia), the Association of Women Educators, Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Centre, the Mental Illness Fellowship of South Australia, YMCA of South Australia, Frankston City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire, Swan Hill District Health, Macedon Ranges Health, the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, Victorian Student Representative Council, UnitingCare West: True Colours, the State School Teachers Union of Western Australia, Western Australian Secondary Schools Executive Association, Edith Cowan University, South West Womens Health and Information Centre, South West Institute of Technology, Curtin University and the Youth Affairs Council Western Australia, as well as Australian LGBT organisations. As one can see from this impressive list of supporters, most mainstream Australian youth, religious, educational and other insitutions back LGBT student inclusiveness policies. Compare that to the narrow selection of Australian Christian Right pressure groups and social conservative fellow travellers that oppose the programme. As for the United States, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Bar Association, American Counselling Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and Child Welfare League all uphold the legitimacy of gender dysphoria diagnoses and their applicability to children and adolescents in this context. It is interesting to see that this list includes most of the major US pediatrics, developmental psychology and child welfare organisations. So "students have a right to bodily privacy," do they? That's interesting, considering that Family First is one of the most vehement supporters of Taranaki fundamentalist and anti-abortionist parent Hilary Kieft and her attack on the confidentiality of competent female minors under sixteen when it comes to abortion access. From one perspective, I agree - which is that transgender children and students be left to socially transition in privacy, without interference from ignorant fundamentalist Protestant and other bigots who are trying to force a sectarian religious anti-transgender public policy on those who do not share their particular subjective religious 'natural law' transphobic belief system in this context. Until they become adolescent and reach the age of consent, or their parent provides assent to begin transitioning when they and medical practitioners judge that the child is ready, transgender child privacy and safety should not be violated by frankly predatory religious organisations. It should also be noted that once again, its proposed "Student Physical Privacy Policy" is a copy of that developed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a US conservative Catholic pressure group. Given that Australian Cardinal Raymond Pell is currently being intensively questioned about the alleged neglect of pedophile abuse within Catholic dioceses under his mandate, the hypocrisy of this sector of the religious social conservative community is beyond belief. I urge any LGBT teachers, supportive parents, professionals and their associations, legislators and administrators to rely on evidence-based medical and scientific proof, unite and mobilise against Family First's sinister attack on transgender child youth health, welfare and safety. Recommended: "Wellington schools install neutral bathrooms to help transgender students" TVNZ News: 10.03.2016:https://www.tvnz. s/new-zealand/wellington- schools-install-neutral- bathrooms-help-transgender- students National Center for Transgender Equality: Action Center: action-center Safe Schools Coalition Australia: Supporters:http://www. our-sup porters/organisations Lambda Legal: What the Experts Say:http://www.lambdalegal. org/sites/default/files/g dtb_2013_15_position_policy. pdf Not Recommended: "No Boys (sic) in Girls Toilets and Changing Rooms" Family First: 14.03.2016:https://www. o-boys-in-girls-toilets-at- school-legal-opinion/ Craig Young - 14th March 2016    
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