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Trans-Versing the Gap(s)

Fri 24 Jun 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Although much LGBTI news focus has been overseas dealing with Orlando, Xalapa and the British and Australian elections, there is the enduring issue of transgender rights in New Zealand. Fortunately, there is progress to report on this front. Dakota (Vegas) Hemmingson had her day before the Employment Relations Authority, after she had been cleared to lodge her claim on the basis of unfair ("constructive") dismissal on the basis of her gender identity. The New Zealand Herald covered her story, as she stated that she had been forced to resign following her statement that she was transitioning, and was told that she would not meet the company's 'commercial profile.' Her employer Matt Swann denied that and said he was only concerned about the possibility she might encounter transphobic harrassment from hostile customers after she did so. Dakota says, however, that she was told that her transitioning would make clients "uncomfortable" at the subsequent meeting after she'd announced her decision to transition on the job. She then stated that she was told that if the transition 'didn't work out' that she could have her old job back again. Swann agreed that he then gave her a letter informing her that her employment at Mensworks and the Barkers Groom Room would end immediately, but then said that he'd 'probably' hadn't expressed himself very well in his defence. Happily, Dakota has found new employment with Rodney Wayne Glenfield, with male and female clients and had had no problems with abusive clients due to her transitioning gender identity in her new workplace. ERA tribunal member Rachel Lermer reserved her decision. Although Dakota awaits justice from the Employment Relations Authority, she wasn't the only transperson under the New Zealand media spotlight. Earlier this year, Marlborough Girls High School celebrated its first School Pride. Now comes news that Stefani Muollo-Grey (16), a transwoman student at Marlborough Girls High, has been called to several meetings with teachers because she used girls toilets. Stefani has started an online petition addressed to Education Minister Hekia Parata asking for her to intervene in the situation. She said that a member of staff had complained about her use of gender appropriate toilets and that the Dean had used gender inappropriate terms in referring to that. She was informed that there was an 'agreement' that she would use male toilets and ablutionary facilities only, of which Stefani said she was unaware. This policy was for 'everyone's' comfort and safety, according to the Dean. However, no student or their parent has voiced any objections to Stefani's presence at the school. Education Minister Hekia Parata seemed to imply that she was open to the idea of gender-neutral toilet facilities and that she had no objection to sharing such a public facility with a transwoman. This would have been a slap in the face to the tiresome and tragic Bob McCoskrie from Family First, who brandished his "legal opinion" from a conservative Christian lawyer and brayed that 'school toilets and showers' should be based on 'biology.' That's right, Bob, they should. Real biology, with real, mainstream scientific measurements, hypotheses and results, as opposed to recently invented conservative Catholic 'natural law' dogma devised by John Paul II's Vatican in 2000, in collaboration with conservative Catholic octogenerian transphobe Dr Paul McHugh. And guess what? Real science supports the existence of gender dysphoria at the level of human biology too. Happily, judging from Google's newspage, the feeder newspage Scoop was the only news agency that actually ran McCoskrie's transphobic rant outside his own benighted Christian Right website. And for an excellent rebuttal to the latest McCoskrie idiocy, note Mari Brighe's excellent 2014 citation of biological grounds for transgender identity. Finally, there's the question of subsidising reassignment surgery in New Zealand. Maria Claire has kindly obtained a health economics research paper that addresses just that issue, and I'd like to thank her for doing so. The Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission comissioned research on the implications of new progressive federal legislation that prohibited health insurer payout discrimination against reassignment surgery claims from transitioning transpeople. The piece carries out an excellent cost-benefit analysis that acknowledges that while reassignment surgery costs $US 10,000-20,000 per reassignment surgery, this surgery actually constitutes a long-term saving. The authors set it against the calculated costs of HIV exposure, depression, suicidal ideation, attempts or completion and drug abuse. Their conclusion was that compared to the multiplier costs of denial of public funding for reassignment surgery, funding it made more fiscal sense. The ball is now in the Key administration's court, it would seem. Recommended: Patrice Dougan: "Trans woman in shock over reaction"New Zealand Herald: 16.06.2016:http://m.nzherald. id=1  

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 24th June 2016 - 10:55am

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