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Opponents of transgender rights are the 'bizarre' ones:

Wed 16 Feb 2005 In: Comment

If the current National and ACT justice spokespeople aren't willing to examine evidence-based findings against gender identity discrimination, they shouldn't be there. It is predictable that Richard Worth and Stephen Franks should resort to laziness, given that Georgina Beyer's private members bill will soon be introduced to Parliament for its first reading. As I noted earlier, I support this legislation wholeheartedly. In 1993, lesbians, gay men and bisexuals were protected from anti-discrimination laws, and transsexuals have had to wait for over twelve years to join the rest of our communities. It's great that transgender sex workers have a decriminalised profession to work within, but unacceptable that many low-income and unskilled transwomen are forced to resort to sex work because there is no other way to earn the money to finance their transitioning. They are not protected from legal discrimination while transitioning , nor after they have had reassignment surgery. Worth has labelled the legislation 'bizarre.' If National's alleged justice spokesperson had taken the time to investigate the issue in depth, as he should do, he would have learnt that South Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. As chief Opposition justice spokesperson, he is supposed to undertake critical analysis of forthcoming legislation. If he isn't doing his job properly, he should be replaced. As for Stephen Franks, this is what one would expect from one of Parliament's most obnoxious social conservatives. For your information, Mr Franks, heterosexual New Zealanders are already protected under the Human Rights Act 1993, and have been for the last twelve years or so. Oh, that's right, he believes that subjective and sectarian religious belief should prevail over substantive evidence-based cases for anti-discrimination law inclusion. (I seriously doubt whether he has experienced discrimination due to his pronounced facial resemblance to the title revenant of Murnau's classic vampire film, Nosferatu, in any case. Or has someone scared him by brandishing garlic in Parliament's Bellamys?) What is the case for trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws? Discriminatory legislation wastes human capital, and Roberta Perkins documented that even skilled professional transwomen who transitioned were being forced into sex work due to the absence of antidiscrimination law protection when she surveyed occupational strategies and other life experience indicators for Australia's trans communities in 1994. In other words, transphobic discrimination wastes any public monies used to train the person in question, and impairs financial efficiency. When management makes employment decisions, merit and qualifications should be the chief attribute for their decision, and nothing else. Even worse, transphobic discrimination may increase risk of occupational situations that lead to sexual violation and rape. This is unconscionable. While decriminalisation of sex work has removed one source of occupational hazard for trans sex workers, venue managers are still able to discriminate against trans parlour workers. This means that many are left with no option, but street solicitation. While it is important not to exaggerate street soliciting risks, trans workers will have greater protection within the sex industry, as well as outside. It may have occurred to the United Future leadership that if trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws decrease the possibility of entry into the sex industry, then they should be supported. It'll be interesting to see how Murray Smith, Larry Baldock and Paul Adams respond to that one. Or whether dissident National or ACT votes look more like the Care of Children Act SOP vote on guardianship and abortion, or the Civil Unions Act readings. Fundamentalists haven't put up much of a struggle against trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws overseas. The Vatican has argued that one should stay in ones physiological gender of birth, regardless of consequences. Babette Francis (Australian antifeminist) babbled on about forced gender reassignment for intersexed infants, which is a completely different issue. Transgender rights activists agree that intersexed infants should not be subjected to forced surgical procedures of doubtful benefit due to anomalous genitalia. Indeed, they have been primary supporters of informed consent for parents of intersexed infants overseas. Don't ask Reformed Church 'phobe Garnet Milne about transgender rights. When he made a diatribe against Jacqui Grant over her statements about Brian Tamaki, he confused gay sexual orientation with transgender gender identity. Presumably, he shares the warped belief that even if one experiences psychological turmoil due to gender identity dysphoria, one must remain in one's gender of origin. Jacqui isn't a gay man now, she is a transgendered woman. She became one when she started to transition. As she has fostered numerous children after she transitioned, her parenting work deserves praise, not condemnation. As for the enemy within, gender identity discrimination has proven a divisive issue for lesbians, along generational lines. To many younger lesbians, Janice Raymond is an ignorant transphobic bigot, and they can be expected to raise considerable objections if their older counterparts quote this dated litany of inaccuracies and hyperbole within public debate. As one younger lesbian said to me about Georgina: "She's enough of a woman to have experienced sexual violence and survived it. She, and other transwomen, deserve our solidarity and sisterhood. She is one of the bravest women that I know." Moreover, takatapui will probably raise the issue that many transwomen are Maori or Pasifika in origin, and that fa'afafine and whakawahine have played historical roles in Polynesian societies. If the aforementioned anti-transgender older lesbians cite Raymond in this context, how can they ignore the fact that her misbegotten, faulty 'analysis' completely fails to consider colonialism and the effects of institutional racism on the lives of indigenous and Pasifika transwomen and transmen? Ideally, what would a model trans-inclusive antidiscrimination law look like. It would protect the privacy of transpeople during and after the transitioning process. It would recognise that gender clinics require that pre-operative transpeople insist that the potential surgical client must experience everyday life as their prospective reassigned gender before they undergo surgical procedures, so 'transvestites' must be protected under gender identity anti-discrimination laws for that purpose. Moreover, due to other medical problems, some transpeople cannot undergo reassignment surgery, so they need protection under proposed legislation as well. If they do decide on surgical reassignment, then they should be subject to best practise standards of medical care, although they can use the Health and Disability Code of Consumers Rights if New Zealand-based surgical procedures don't work. In M v H [1994], the Family Court (and later, Court of Appeal) accepted that gender identity consisted of a range of disparate chromosomal, genetic, psychological, physiological and other factors. For that reason, gender identity antidiscrimination laws need to have broad coverage. It's time that New Zealanders stopped being so self-congratulatory about being enlightened enough to elect a two-term constituency MP to Parliament, although Georgina deserves those personal accolades in abundance. If we could manage that world first, surely we can also become the first nation-state to introduce gender-identity based antidiscrimination laws? Strongly Recommended Reading: Patrick Califia-Rice: The Politics of Transgenderism: Cleis Press: 1998. Leslie Feinberg: Transgender Warriors: Boston: Beacon Press: 1995. Roberta Perkins et al (ed) Transgender Lifestyles and HIV/AIDS Risk: Macquarie University, Sydney: Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations: 1994. Riki Ann Wilchins: Read My Lips: Ithaca: Firebrand Books: 1997. [Feinberg and Wilchins provide excellent introductions to the history of US transgender rights activism for the rest of us.Califia and Feinberg are FTM, while Wilchins is a transwoman]. Craig Young - 16th February 2005    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 16th February 2005 - 12:00pm

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