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Transgender rights: A call to solidarity

Thu 20 Feb 2014 In: Comment View at NDHA

Once again, Louisa Wall is forcing the pace on LGBT legislative reform- this time, it's amending the Human Rights Act to directly include gender identity discrimination as one of the prohibited grounds. I strongly endorse this call for long overdue reform on this front. It has been over twenty years now since New Zealand's Human Rights Act was last amended, to include sexual orientation and HIV status, amongst other additional criteria. During that time, the United Kingdom (1999), all Australian federal, state and territorial jurisdictions, and Canada is transitioning toward the same end, although the passage of Bill C-379, which will amend Canada's own Human Rights Act to also include gender identity discrimination, was disrupted when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued (cancelled) Senate operations over an unrelated matter. Granted, there is a Crown Law Office opinion, but as campaigning organisations like Transsexuals of New Zealand, Transadvocates, Agender and Gender Bridge have long told us as well, that is not a direct statutory amendment. It is extrajudicial and it may therefore be disregarded by the New Zealand judicial system as a consequence. At present, it theoretically "subsumes" gender identity under gender, which is one of the prohibited grounds. It's worth noting that Canadian transgender organisations had the same objections to a Crown Law Office opinion from their own federal judiciary, which neccessitated Bill C-279. The Human Rights Commission held a Transgender Inquiry which concluded in 2008 and since then, there has almost been inertia on this legislative front. "Almost," but not quite. For one must pay due tribute to the magnificent Kelly Ellis and her associates at the Equal Justice Project, who tirelessly campaigned to prevent horrific abuse and sexual violation of transgender prisoners housed in gender-inappropriate correctional facilities and were rewarded with policy change that insured safety in this context, at long last- but not before one transwoman narrated her own abhorrent experiences of violation in a male prison environment. Under consideration as a future Labour MP, Kelly could become New Zealand's first transgender Cabinet Minister- Attorney-General or Justice Minister? Probably. Allyson Hamblett has similarly campaigned tirelessly to end remaining anomalies within official documentation and Claudia MacKay has recently drawn public attention to the lack of public health funding for reassignment surgery in New Zealand, meaning that those transwomen and transmen who want reassignment surgery often have to travel to Australia or South-East Asia to have it done, despite the fact that gender dysphoria is listed as a clinical ground within the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual. It will be interesting to see how Justice Minister Judith Collins responds to Louisa's latest call. One hopes that the Prime Minister shows the same judicious common sense that he displayed over marriage equality and provides some degree of bipartistan support for any forthcoming transgender rights amendment to the Human Rights Act and any remaining cissexist legislation in New Zealand. As for our communities, I'm reminded of Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays, the straight solidarity group that assisted LGBT communities during the homosexual law reform era. Therefore, I suggest that cisgender trans-inclusive lesbians, gay men and bisexuals band together to support our trans sisters and brothers in their quest for equality. This should have happened long ago and we have failed them for far too long. It is time that ended. If Collins is unwilling to act on this issue, then perhaps we should elect a government which has already stated that it will. Strongly Recommended: Canadian LGBT legislative reform lobby group EGALE has this website for transgender rights reform. I suggest that any LGB readers carefully peruse its contents and inform themselves about necessary trans rights concerns.   Craig Young - 20th February 2014    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 20th February 2014 - 2:42pm

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