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Moral Unpanic

Mon 11 Jul 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

It isn't hard at all not to feel sorry for Family First's latest fiasco, which is the total and abject failure of their abortive moral panic against transgender school student use of gender appropriate toilets. Despite cheap attention grabbing stunts like a "research report" from imported US Focus on the Family activist Glen Stanton and a legal opinion from a fundamentalist lawyer, apart from the odd sound byte and media statement, Family First has completely failed to ignite mainstream New Zealand public opinion against gender appropriate transgender student ablutionary use. Mind you, Bob McCoskrie only seems to field sensationalist overseas tabloid media accounts of cisgender stalkers, thinks that if he ignores mainstream professional research and expertise about gender dysphoria it will simply 'go away', and has failed to recognise that there simply is no statistical or clinical evidence to substantiate the US Christian Right's hatemongering. Commendably, current Education Minister Hekia Parata seems to be completely ignoring McCoskrie's antics, and so are most principals and boards of trustees, it would seem. Instead, they are either quietly allowing access to gender appropriate facilities, as is the case with Stefani Muollo-Gray, or constructing gender neutral toilet facilities for individual use, so as not to stigmatise transgender students. Either way, McCoskrie's latest crusade is an abject, crushing failure. Before it becomes crushing and total boredom, he really should move on to other things. But, typically, he isn't. Hardly had the news broken about Stefani's victory at Marlborough Girls High, when McCoskrie resorted to yet another repetitious diatribe against mainstream management of gender dysphoria at schools. This was the result of 'ideology', he argued, not 'biology', he argues- even if his derivative anti-transgender campaign is itself based on natural law ideology as opposed to mainstream medical and scientific practice? What about changing rooms, camp cabins and sports team showers? Students have a 'fundamental right to bodily privacy'- yes, and in the case of the anti-transgender crusade in the United States, the privacy rights oftransgenderstudents have been repeatedly violated by anti-transgender Christian Right activists like the Pacific Justice Institute, Traditional Values Coalition and Family Research Council. And anyway, why doesn't Family First support medical confidentiality for young women in the context of abortion rights if that's the case? Taking a cue from the Pacific Justice Institute, he's offered a Student Physical Privacy Policy. Isn't this amusing? McCoskrie is being completely ignored because most mainstream media outlets realise that he's talking recently devised US Christian Right ideology, not mainstream research and evidence-based scientific and medical recommendations. Moreover, apart from his website, there are few mass circulation conservative Christian media outlets left to uncritically transmit his derivative US Christian Right propaganda. The failure of this anti-transgender moral panic should also be seen in the light of Dakota Hemmingson's recent victory against her discriminatory former employers at the Employment Relations Authority. Thanks to Dakota's courage and fortitude, and selflessness, it is now the case that Solicitor General Michael Cullen's Crown Law Office opinion is known to protect transitioning transpeople in the workplace. This raises some questions about the actual value of 'legal opinions' that do not recognise the significance of Dakota's Employment Relations Authority outcome. Clearly, the Crown Law Office opinion now has legal validity, so that means that it is probably also applicable to education access issues. If her Board of Trustees and Principal hadn't come to their senses, Stefani might have been able to go to the Human Rights Commission to adjudicate based on this precedent. As it is, this result also applies to other transgender students who face educational access discrimination and the Human Rights Commission is not 'breaking human rights law' when it defends transgender rights on this basis.The Crown Law Office opinion and Dakota's precedent in the arena of employment rights now also needs to be tested in other contexts, most obviously when it comes to accomodation and especially, emergency shelter accomodation. In the latter instance, there are disturbing anecdotal accounts of emergency shelter access refused to transwomen at risk, especially teenagers. This may be attributable to the religious backgrounds of some emergency shelter providers, or it may be due to simple ignorance. I am not denying that there is already a tremendous problem with housing access and shelter rights in New Zealand, due to mismanaged and incompetent government housing policy, whether one is transgender or cisgender, especially for Maori and Pasifika. Cisgender homeless women are at as much risk as their transgender sisters and I implore feminist service providers, social agencies and professionals who work in this area to deal with this question as an urgent priority. A change of government would be even better in this context, but in the interim period, as with the issue of employment rights and Dakota Hemmingson, and educational access and Stefani Mullo-Grey, someone needs to intervene. It is time that LGBTI New Zealanders declared that we have a stake and specific needs and interests in the context of New Zealand's current housing policy crisis, and do our part in finding collective solutions to improve the lot of those of our communities at risk and other vulnerable New Zealanders. Not recommended: "Gender ideology in girls schools harmful" Family First: 01.07.2016:http://www. gender-ideology-in-girls- schools-harmful "Marlborough Transgender Student's bathroom battle brings about change at girls school" Family First: 02.07.2016: nz/2016/07/marlborough- transgender-students-bathroom- battle-brings-about-change-at- girls-school/ "Human Rights Commission puts ideology above human rights law" Family First: 03.07.2016:https://www. human-rights-commission-puts- ideology-above-human-rights- law/ Recommended: In the Employment Relations Authority Auckland: Ahren Hemmingson versus Mathew Russell and Andrew Swan trading as Barker's Groom Room: [2016] NZERA 212 556564:https://www.dropbox. com/s/qb7i8ekepz29dt7/Dakota% 20Hemmingson%20Determination% 20.pdf?dl=0 Craig Young - 11th July 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 11th July 2016 - 9:25am

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