He waka eke noa – we all belong in this waka together. This whakatauki is about equality – about not leaving anyone behind.
As a progressive country, New Zealand prides itself on being world leaders in human rights – from votes for women, to decriminalisation of sex work, equal rights is a strong part of how kiwis see themselves.
But a small handful of anti-trans extremists, or ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists’ are attacking the human rights of transgender people, with a focus on transgender women.
These anti-trans fanatics say that letting trans women have equality would mean non-trans women have less rights. But lifting up the mana of trans women benefits all women, as every woman deserves equality.
Just as butch women, lesbian women, and women who are unable to bear children have been accused of being ”less than” women, so too is the right of transgender women to claim womanhood being advocated against. In fighting against transgender women’s right to exist and to be treated with basic human decency, the human rights of transgender women are being advocated against.
“Trans women’s rights are women’s rights – and ‘women’s rights are human rights’” said National Council of Women Chief Executive Gill Greer. “Like others, the National Council of Women supports the inclusion of trans women’s needs in all conversations about gender discrimination. In many cases, trans and gender diverse people are experiencing serious barriers that all feminists – and actually, all New Zealanders – should care about.”
ActionStation – a community of over 180,000 New Zealanders, issued the statement today which expressed that ”Trans women are so acutely oppressed, marginalised and dehumanised in our society. They experience some of the highest levels of sexual and physical violence in Aotearoa, and young trans people are five times more likely to attempt suicide.” [edit – see Counting Ourselves 2019 report].
We think these are great reasons to support equal rights for all genders.
Why a fundamentalist anti-trans group formed
The anti-trans extremist group has formed to oppose proposed amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationship Rights Act, which is currently being debated in Parliament.
The Bill proposes that it be made simpler for transgender people to change their birth certificate so that the gender marker matches with their experience. This would change from a complex and expensive court process to a simple administrative process, much like the current process to change the gender marker on one’s passport.
”By recommending a similar process to updating a passport or driver’s license, the Select Committee is bringing New Zealand in line with international human rights law and with the Government’s own Rainbow Policy,” said The Human Rights Commission of New Zealand
”These changes will have very little impact on the non-transgender community, as a passport can be used as proof of identity in most circumstances. They will have a very significant impact on the takatāpui, trans and non-binary people in those instances where a birth certificate must be shown,” said a joint statement in support of the Bill, co-signed by over 30 organisations and individuals.
Context: anti-trans extremists
The anti-trans extremists, voiced by a creative writing student and anti-trans anti-sex worker fanatic, insist that trans women are ”mostly” heterosexual European men. They claim that indigenous genders don’t really exist, and push a deeply flawed and transphobic ideology, with false information and discredited studies as their evidence. They claim that not being offered a platform to campaign against transgender human rights means that trans people have a major conspiracy of corporate backing, blackmail, and having every political party in our collective pocket.
Their activism against transgender human rights includes an open letter by Renee Gerlich which attempted to defund RainbowYOUTH and InsideOUT, New Zealand’s two biggest LGBTQI+ youth organisations. In the open letter, Renee advocated against transgender people’s access to health care, supportive social environments, and respect.
Renée Gerlich and Charlie Montague (who has also done public political work between 2016 and 2019 under the names Emily Dyer and Charlie Dyer), crashed the Auckland Pride parade to jump in front of the media earlier this year, with a banner which falsely implied lesbian youth were being forced to take hormones and become trans men. The media weren’t interested, but far right religious fundamentalist group Family First was only too happy to share their story – even featuring an article about them on it’s website, which may suggest more than just a shared ideology. Interesting, considering Family First opposes LGB adoption and ‘same sex’ marriage.
Just months later, one dressed up as a giant penis called ”Dick Surprise” to highlight her opinion of trans women, harassing staff at a gym which said it would welcome trans women. ”Dick Surprise” is a reference to ”trans panic defense” which is a legal tactic to excuse the murder of trans women, because the murderer was so ”surprised by a dick”.
In the following months, they printed stickers and posters which again posed as affirmative statements for lesbians, while attacking trans women – including trans women who are lesbians and their partners.
September 6th 2019 the anti-trans campaign group held a public talk, entitled ”Speak up for women”. Their chosen venue, Thistle Inn, turned out to be a fabulous ally to the trans community, and canceled their booking once they knew what the event was really about. The print shop they used also refused to print for them again, after realising the anti-trans agenda. However the meeting went ahead, with 25 attendees which included 7 in opposition to the hate group, along with 8 men and 10 women who appeared to be in support of it (including speakers Georgina Blackmore and Charlie Montague).
The meeting began with a personal statement from an anti-trans group in the UK being read aloud, thanking and encouraging the NZ based anti-trans group. Much of the support for the anti-trans group appears to be UK based, and Renee’s Twitter following is largely UK based.
During Q & A, a school teacher from the audience spoke in support of trans rights, and a trans woman questioned whether they wanted her to use the mens toilet. The speakers spoke over her and did not let her speak. They appeared to be confused and unsure how to answer, giving mixed messages and at one point asking the trans woman ”can I be a trans woman?”, and asserting that if she can’t be a trans woman then trans women are not women. Unfortunately it escaped her that she is also not a Maori woman, but it does not follow that Maori women are not women.
While at least one trans woman endured an hour of listening to people say her human rights are a threat to their safety, one speaker – whether manipulative or simply lacking any shred of self awareness – tweeted about how great it was to have ”people who ID as trans” present to ”hear different ideas”.
Feeling disgusted? So are we. Here are some ideas for what you can do
There is nothing more powerful than knowledge.
- Learn to recognise anti-transgender hate groups and their attempts to take away transgender human rights.
- Learn to recognise the misleading statements they make and coded language – the stickers are a great example of this, easily seen when viewed together.
- Learn the history and the facts – they say ”FEMALE suffragettes fought for women to be allowed safe spaces like womens prisons” – suffragists did not fight for prisons.
- Read our recommended amendments for birth certificate changes which are being debated in Parliament, then get behind the changes and help us make this dream a reality
- Find out how you can get involved and support GMA here, or check out our ”community support” section and support a local rainbow organisation near you.
- If you are trans, we want you to know that there are loads of people who do care. Please connect with other trans people, don’t be isolated. There are online and IRL community groups listed in the ”community support” section of our website, and you can follow our blog or social media for events and other ways to connect. Reach out, we need you.