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Dakota Hemmingson's day in court

Fri 22 Apr 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

In breaking news, there has been an important preliminary development in Dakota Hemmingson's anti-transgender employment relations hearing, and the Ministry of Health has put out a document about reassignment surgery. Both will be covered in this article. Firstly, Dakota Hemmingson has had her employment discrimination case heard before the Employment Relations Authority. The hearing took place on 4-5 April and a determination was made on 21 April 2016. It is annoying that the Employment Relations Authority mis-gendered her as "Ahren," her pre-transition name, at the onset, but this decision has been awaited because it is the first direct test of the validity or otherwise of the Crown Law Opinion that 'reads' gender identity into the existing 'sex' category of the Human Rights Act 1993. So, what does it actually say? There was some confusion about who was Dakota's actual employer, (Mens Grooming Limited) MGL or Barker's Groom Room. Matt Swann, the owner of Barker's Groom Room/MGL, inherited his ownership position from his father, Basil Rutherford, and it is not to Mr Swann's credit that he did not seem aware of his responsibilities as Dakota's (former?) employer. Contrary to the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000, while working at Barker's Groom Room, Dakota was never provided with a written or printed employment agreement. There also seems to have been questionable record keeping practices related to Inland Revenue taxation records for the company according to Dakota's case file. This means that the Employment Relations Authority did have jurisdiction to find for Dakota Hemmingson in terms of her allegations of constructive dismissal and costs can be awarded to her. However, the implication is that there may be a further court case for her illegal constructive dismissal pending, so one wishes her luck if that is the case. The implication appears to be that statutory authority has been granted to the Crown Law Office opinion in this context, and that transgendered people are protected from employment discrimination under the Employment Relations Act and Human Rights Act, while transitioning at work. Congratulations, Dakota, you are a pioneer for transgender rights in this country and many transpeople will be grateful for your courage and determination in this context. Moreover, if this applies to employment discrimination, it may also apply to accomodation and service provider discrimination as well. The other development of note is the Ministry of Health's clarification document about access to gender reassignment surgery in New Zealand, issued in October 2014. The document sets forward Ministry expectations about standards of care and best practice from general practitioners, specialists and others. DSM-IV-TR/ICD-10 diagnoses of gender variance/dysphoria are made, with the assistance of a qualified psychologist. Comorbidity determination (alcohol and drug problems) and multidisciplinary teams are essential, as is counselling and early facial surgery for transwomen and chest surgery (mastectomies) for transmen. If requested, orchidectomies are then performed for transwomen and hysterectomies if transmen do not wish to be able to carry or give birth to children. At the time of writing, New Zealand transpeople had access to four hormonal treatment options- GnRH analogues ("blockers") for transgender pre-adolescents, oestrogens and androgen blockers for transwomen and testosterone for transmen. Monitoring and blood tests are essential to deal with side effects from transitioning. The document cites Vancouver's Transcend programme and WPATH's standards of care in this context. There are estimated to be several thousand transpeople in New Zealand. Providing best practice care is a source of anxiety for some doctors and nurses, explaining the neccessity of this document. Cultural differences also play a role, as Maori and Pasifika transwomen may recognise their gender variance earlier, experience relative inclusion within their communities of origin and not feel that they need genital surgery. The right to respect, privacy and appropriate standards of care in this context is paramount. "Passing" is not essential for beginning hormone treatment, and informed consent and comprehensive information about transitioning are mandatory in this contsxt as well. Safety issues need to be dealt with in this context, such as accomodation stability, alcohol and drug addiction comorbidities, any spousal or parental/family/whanau violence and medical issues like prior cardiovascular problems- and smoking, which can cause difficulties for transwomen in the reception of their oestrogen intake. Significantly, given that this is an official document, employment discrimination is described as illegal. For trans adolescents, puberty can be traumatic in the wrong body, explaining the neccessity for GnRH analogue medication- leuprorelin and goserelin for transmen and oestradiol for transwomen. Transwomen will also be prescribed androgen antagonists such as cyproterone and spironolactone. Surgery is a question of competence and is usually carried out overseas, in either Thailand or Australia. Recommended: Ahren Hemmingson (sic) versus Matthew Russell Alexander Swann trading as Barker's Groom Room and Men's Grooming Limited: Employment Relations Authority [2016] NZERA Auckland 120 5565264 Gender Reassignment Health Services for Trans People in New Zealand (Ministry of Health, October 2014): documents/publications/gender- reassignment-health-services- for-trans-people-in-nz- v3oct14.pdf Craig Young - 22nd April 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 22nd April 2016 - 2:48pm

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