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Trans people did "heavy lifting" Ellis says

Wed 17 Sep 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at NDHA

Kelly Ellis Labour candidate and TransAdvocates co-founder Kelly Ellis is rejecting the Green Party’s claims it did the “heavy lifting” on the issue of where trans prisoners are housed. The lawyer’s not happy the Greens’ rainbow policy pamphlet lists successfully lobbying for a change in prison policy to respect the rights of trans prisoners among the areas where it's been at the front line of advocacy for rainbow rights. "This was a non-partisan concerted effort where the goal was to persuade the National Government minister Anne Tolley that trans prisoners needed to be treated humanely,” Ellis says. She says she’s since had acknowledgement from Green MP Kevin Hague that trans people "did the bulk of the work". He says it was never the party’s intention to negate the work of trans people, but he remains proud of what the Greens have done in the area in Parliament. Ellis says the Greens have always been great allies. “It's important that the record is set straight because while we want to work with any party, we want to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear and not swamped by cis-people's,” the lawyer and TransAdvocate says. "My clients were grateful for the pressure that Jan Logie from the Greens brought to bear, but are equally grateful to Labour's Maryan Street who was also part of this effort.” Ellis believes the ones who did the really heavy lifting “were the clients getting bashed, raped, kept in solitary and deprived of medication in prison. They were the ones who had to carry this heavy burden,” adding “the last thing we need is the Greens trying to do a ‘white knight’ routine saying they did the heavy lifting”. She says she believes in giving credit where it's due and has made sure that people like those in the Equal Justice Project who built on her research got a mention, along with a judge she says stuck his neck out and gave a trans client a really good, fair hearing. Ellis says she personally put up with two complaints to the Law Society by those not happy with her work in the arena. “But in the end, it was mostly down to my clients who bore the burden of this. Sure, I travelled thousands of k’s, worked for years and exposed myself to a lot of hate in this small town as I fought this battle. But that's nothing compared with what the clients contributed. They paid with their bodies. They put them on the line.”      

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 17th September 2014 - 1:04pm

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