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Georgina's anti-discrimination bill for transgenders

Wed 17 Nov 2004 In: Comment

Wairarapa Labour MP Georgina Beyer has a private member's bill in the ballot that will outlaw discrimination against trans New Zealanders. Quite frankly, it's high time that they were. It is now eleven years after the Human Rights Act 1993 was passed, and lesbians, gay men and bisexuals were protected from equivalent discrimination- as well as heterosexuals, but not transgender New Zealanders. Yes, New Zealand would be the first nation-state to outlaw transphobic discrimination, but so what? New South Wales, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Minnesota and San Franscisco all have inclusive state antidiscrimination laws or civic ordinances. Left or right, it is indisputable that transphobic discrimination needlessly squanders human capital. Roberta Perkins' "Transgender Lifestyles and HIV/AIDS Risk" is required reading from this perspective. In her Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations survey, Perkins found that trans Australians suffered severe income loss, regardless of their professional qualifications. To be effective, trans-inclusive antidiscrimination law would have to protect all trans New Zealanders at all stages of transitioning. Before some idiot says that transvestites shouldn't be included, they need to consider that transitioning transpeople need to establish confidence in their chosen redesignated gender identity, so they need to wear female or male clothes, and not face discrimination for being true to themselves. Should transitioning be accessible through medical subsidies? Yes. Should transgender New Zealands be able to expect optimal standards of surgical care while reassignment is occurring? Yes, although the office of the Health and Disability Commission can already be used for this avenue, if inadequate reassignment surgery has taken place in this country. Should we have a state-subsidised Gender Centre? Yes, trans New Zealanders should be able to receive optimal counselling support while they're transitioning. Should this legislation include people whose physiology rules out reassignment surgery due to cardiovascular or other problems? Absolutely. What ridiculous excuse will the Christian Right come up with to deny transgender New Zealanders their human rights? After all, transgender identity isn't exactly unknown in Pasifika societies, despite Brian Tamaki's ignorance about the matter. I've read one account of a case in which a male was subject to surgical incompetence which led to his involuntary castration, and was raised female, until he discovered his natal biological sex. Yes, but this guy wasn't a transperson. He was involuntarily subjected to surgical castration without his consent, unlike transpeople, who desperately want surgery to correct their dysphoric perceptions of wrong physiology. Certainly, he suffered. But I've personally known transpeople who have suffered terribly while they're transitioning, due to residential and occupational discrimination. Some have even tried suicide when their support isn't there. And anyway, the Christian Right should take a hard look at the Christian past. While intersexed people are in a different situation due to their ambiguous genitalia, the Catholic Church burnt them at the stake due to their anomalous bodies during the Middle Ages. At the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists AGM this month, Chris Carter said that New Zealand was an oasis of liberalism and inclusiveness in the Southwest Pacific, akin to Scandinavian societies in Western Europe. Precisely. New Zealand needs to take this step now, so that other societies will follow in our footsteps. Recommended Reading: Leslie Feinberg: Transgender Warriors: Boston: Beacon Press: 1995. Michel Foucault: Herculine Barbin: Being the Memoirs of A Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite: Pantheon: New York: 1980. Roberta Perkins et al: Transgender Lifestyles and HIV/AIDS Risk: Sydney: Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations: 1994. Roberta Perkins et al (ed) Sex Work and Sex Workers in Australia: University of New South Wales: Sydney: 1994. Craig Young - 17th November 2004    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 17th November 2004 - 12:00pm

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