Written submissions are now being processed on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, and the Inquiry into Supplementary Order Paper 59 on the Births Deaths Marriage Relationships Registration Bill (“BDMRR”). Oral submissions are also being heard on both Bills, by the Justice Committee, and the Governance and Administration Committee, respectively.

Our main work on these Bills has been to support transgender, rainbow, and broader communities, as well as agencies and organisations, to understand the issues for trans people and engage with the submission process.

Firstly, this has included working with researchers to grow the evidence base, so we can clearly see empirical data on what trans people’s lives are like. This has contributed to growing and improving the common understandings of the issues that trans people face under the current laws. We also developed a series of resources on the BDMRR – these have been read over 17,000 times.

Secondly, it involved developing robust recommendations in response to the Bill and SOP, and doing so collaboratively with other organisations – most notably with Rainbow Path, and as part of the Rainbow Support Collective (RSC). We provided our submissions publicly prior to the submission date so people could see where our focus was, and also linked to the Rainbow Path submission which we wholly support. Our BDMRR submission was read over 800 times, and our conversion submission was read more than 1,300 times.

Last of all, we aimed to make it simpler and less intimidating to carry out the administrative part. This included things like our guide to making a submission, letting people know that a short paragraph is absolutely valuable and doesn’t need to be technical, affirming that different perspectives are really useful and they may have thought of things we haven’t thought of, and sharing links to all the papers and where to submit.

You can see our submissions below.

Impression so far

We have watched several hours of oral submissions on each Bill, and been both thoroughly impressed and heartened by the range of submissions in support of these two Bills, and the thoughtful and thorough recommendations offered. The level of understanding of the issues has been phenomenal to see, and this is one of our favorite outcomes of this process.

Many trans people who have read or watched these submissions are feeling more understood and supported than they ever have, so we give our deepest gratitude to everyone who submitted in support of these Bills. No matter what happens, you have made a huge difference already.

We have also been impressed by members of the Select Committees, many of whom have displayed a high degree of care and asked considered questions with appropriate gravity for the issues at hand. We appreciate their engagement with the ways these issues affect the lives of rainbow people and their whanau, as well as their broader communities.

There are so many amazing submissions – both written and oral – that we would proudly stand behind. But in the interest of keeping it brief, we’re going to mention just a few favorite moments from the oral submissions. Videos of the oral submissions can be seen below.

Māori Women’s Welfare League

It came as no surprise to us that the Māori Women’s Welfare League – which has 175 branches and over 3,000 members – made an excellent submission in support of the BDMRR Bill, and confirmed that the league accepts trans women as women members and always has.

On the conversion Bill, Māori Women’s Welfare League president Prue Kapua said:

“it’s clear from the submissions both in support and opposed to this Bill that there is unanimity in the declaration that conversion practices are harmful and should be banned. There is significant research that supports such a prohibition.

“In our view, the definition in Clause 5 is clear that conversion practice involves specific action and that it must be directed toward an individual, with the purpose of changing or suppressing that individuals sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is disingenuous to try to halt the progress of this Bill; on the basis that parental discussions or religious sermons are caught within the definition in Clause 5.

We have all heard of examples of conversion practices which are aimed at correcting the broken or unacceptable individual, and use shame and coercion as part of the practice. However, should parents or religious people undertake a course of action aimed at suppressing or changing who a person is, they will be liable under this Bill, and that’s how it should be.

She also clarified that from a legal perspective, a practice is a course of action. This means that neither a parent expressing an opinion, nor omission, would be caught in the definition of a conversion practice – as in the case of a parent who is not assisting their child to get puberty blockers.

Kapua said that the Bill is very clear that a conversion practice has to be a practice, has to be directed at an individual, and has to be for the purpose of suppressing or changing that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

GMA would add that neglect, or failure to provide essential medical care to one’s child, is in fact covered under other legislation.

National Council of Women

Collectively through organisation members and individual members, the National Council of Women represents 450,000 members. Their existing policy supports equality for people of all genders, including non-binary and intersex people. They noted that they had surveyed their members, and received strong and unanimous support for the conversion Bill.

They also noted that the Bill will contribute to meeting New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and on the convention on the rights of the child.

NCWNZ said that many members wanted to remove Clause 5(2) – the clause which allows for conversion practices in healthcare settings. They acknowledged that most medical bodies have codes of ethics which condemn conversion practices, “however codes are not laws”.

“Research such as Counting Ourselves shows that up to 1 in 6 transgender and non-binary people have been subjected to conversion practices in a by a medical professional

“We consider that further work needs to be done by the Human Rights Commission working with the health sector to improve gender affirming care and to prevent conversion practices being performed on patients.

They also recommended that the government develop specific legislation to prevent surgeries on intersex children, to ensure their rights under the Human Rights Act and Bill of Rights – which they noted was also recommended by the CEDAW committee.

New Zealand Medical Association

People who have been subjected to conversion practices are twice as likely to attempt suicide, said Alistair Humphrey on behalf of the New Zealand Medical Association, which has over 5,000 members. NZMA said that conversion practices were always harmful, and should never be happening. They recommended replacing “serious harm” with “any harm”.

When asked about youth who are 12 or 13 years old accessing gender affirming healthcare without parental consent, Humphrey replied that the principals which are usually applied are Gillick Competence, and that there are guidelines in New Zealand produced by the NZ Medical Council which give a structured, objective framework for doctors to assess the capability of a young person to make an informed decision for themself.

Vestry Members of St Barnabas Anglican Church, Roseneath

Reverend Cath and other Vestry Members of St Barnabas Anglican Church, Roseneath made a great submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill.

“Praying for others […] is religious freedom. Praying that god would change that person’s identity is not religious freedom”.

Their submission affirmed that “praying for god’s will to be done” is covered by religious freedom, but assuming that they know better than god and trying to impose their own will on another is not covered by religious freedom.

Other faith based groups which made made powerful arguments in favor of the Bill included The Salvation Army, and St Andrews on The Terrace.

NZ Council for Civil Liberties

NZ Council for Civil Liberties said that the clause allowing conversion practices in a healthcare setting should be removed, or the Bill should have a caveat that treatments must have the intent to affirm and support – as in the Victoria Act.

NZ Council for Civil Liberties also said that the threat of prison may prevent disclosure by young people who don’t want to send their parent to prison, but simply want the conversion practices to stop. Kay Jones, speaking for NZCCL, submitted that survivors of conversion practices would likely be better served by alternative sentences; non-custodial penalties or fines rather than the proposed prison sentence. They also said that prison is ineffective at reform, and that mediation, resolution, and proper support to heal damaged relationships in families should be considered.

Equity New Zealand also spoke of similar recommendations, further recommending fines for institutions and their directors – not only the person who may have been employed to carry out conversion practices.

Written submissions

There are thousands of written submissions on these two Bills, many of which are fantastic and very worth reading.

We did a search of “Gender Minorities Aotearoa” to find our submission on the government website, and were surprised and very touched to see that around 120 submissions from individuals and organisations mentioned that they agreed with our recommendations. Many of them also had additional recommendations and made great arguments on other aspects of the Bills as well.

We are blown away; thank you so much for hearing us, and understanding, and taking action. There is nothing more powerful than a unified movement for social justice and human rights.

This signifies a really important moment for transgender rights in Aotearoa, and one that we will feel the impacts of long into the future.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou e te kaupapa whānau.