A research report from The Disinformation Project has documented the merging of disinformation communities in Aotearoa, and shift from Covid 19 to transgender hate.
The report, ‘Transgressive transitions’, documents the merging of conspiracy theorist communities which produce disinformation in Aotearoa. The ‘disinformation communities’ include anti-vaxx, Covid 19 denialist, white supremacist, fundamentalist faith based, and anti-trans communities.
It found that the disinformation community which formed around Covid 19 recently shifted it’s focus to the transgender community. This shift happened in ‘near real time’ as a visit occurred from UK anti-trans campaigner Posie Parker (Kelly-Jay Keen-Minshull). Parker is also known for her links with white supremacy and neo-nazis. Parker visited Aotearoa in March 2023.
The report defines ‘disinformation’ as :
“false information created with the intention of harming a person, group, or organisation, or even a company”
The report documented an unprecedented increase in extremist, far-right disinformation online in Aotearoa, as the disinformation communities merged and refocused on transgender hate.
The report notes several important concepts, which trans communities have attempted to highlight over the past few decades:
The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has described the international ‘gender critical movement’ as genocidal: “the gender critical movement simultaneously denies that transgender identity is real and seeks to eradicate it completely from society.”
The reports goes on to say:
We note specifically the continued and targeted use of the language of genocidality […]
Through the repeated use of dehumanising language … we are studying the strategic shift of social perceptions, values, and attitudes, which is a dangerous speech hallmark. The violative language engenders and normalises the notion that targets must be killed, and often, urgently.
This is what we’ve been telling the government for years, if you want to counter terrorism, this is the direction you need to look in.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport has released an excellent report entitled ‘Transgender Women Athletes and Elite Sport: A Scientific Review’.
Along with the full report, you can download an executive summary, and a research summary and recommendations.
Key Biomedical Findings
Biological data are severely limited, and often methodologically flawed.
There is limited evidence regarding the impact of testosterone suppression (through, for example, gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgical gonad removal) on transgender women athletes’ performance.
Available evidence indicates trans women who have undergone testosterone suppression have no clear biological advantages over cis women in elite sport.
Key Sociocultural Findings
Biomedical studies are overvalued in sports policies in comparison to social sciences studies.
Policies that impact trans women’s participation in elite sport are the continuation of a long history of exclusion of women from competitive sport – an exclusion that resulted in the introduction of a ‘women’s’ category of sport in the first place.
Many trans “inclusion” sport policies use arbitrary bounds that are not evidence based.
Cissexism, transphobia, transmisogyny and overlapping systems of oppression need to be recognized and addressed for trans women to participate in elite sport.
Today Sport NZ released “Guiding Principles – for the inclusion of transgender people in community sport.”
We’re really happy to see that they did a great job of hearing what sports players, governing bodies, and transgender people want, and affirming that everyone should be able to play community sports.
It’s great to see clarity that trans people can play as their affirmed gender, and that there doesn’t need to be any extra barriers to this.
“Sport New Zealand Ihi Aotearoa (Sport NZ) has developed these guiding principles to support the inclusion of transgender people in community sports. The principles are designed to help all community sporting codes and sports organisations (such as clubs, schools and other sporting bodies) to foster an environment where transgender people are welcome, accepted and comfortable to enjoy community sport.” – Sport NZ
Feeling myself is a sexuality workbook about discovering what feels good to you. It looks at managing dysphoria, exploring sensory experiences, types of touch, and the thoughts, feelings, and fantasies which you like or dislike.
It is from our online course The transgender guide to sex and relationships. It is designed for transgender adults, and may not be suitable for younger viewers.
Despite the global pandemic, we had a very successful year across all five of these areas.
We provided 1:1 peer support over 1,300 times, and there were over 500 visits to our Wellington drop in centre. Our website was visited over 61,000 times with 118,000 views.
We made over 4,100 health referrals, and received over 500 referrals from healthcare providers across 9 DHBs. We held a 3DHB community update, and produced 2 health resources.
Our Rainbow Housing NZ group grew to 2,600+ members, we met with the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, and we published a housing report from our research into homelessness and housing instability in Wellington. We sent Counting Ourselves to key figures at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development – which then named trans people as a priority group.
Our guide to birth certificate sex marker updates was read over 1,400 times, and we assisted a number of people in making applications. We were also on the BDMRR working group for the Minister of Internal Affairs.
We facilitated connectedness for 1,700 trans people, whānau, and supporters in our online Transgender and Intersex NZ group, we held or significantly participated in 15 community events, our “trans 101” resource was read more than 27,000 times, and our parents resource was read more than 300 times.
Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.
The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender. The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14. A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender. The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.
Issues for trans people
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year. 1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans. 46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords. Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population. 20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year. Sex education does not include trans people’s existence. 55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students. 17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting. 1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected. 23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students. The median income is half the median income for the general population. 71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years. 67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing. Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents. 64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students. 72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager. 36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population* 82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor. Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students
* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups
Mental health and well being
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students. 71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population. Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population. 26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students. 57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students. For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain. 79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.
Resilience and protective factors
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree. Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide. 85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this.. Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes. Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children. 58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people. 90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing. 62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students. Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism. Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor. Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing. Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.
How to ally
Supporting a trans person you know
How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com
Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.
Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.
Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.
Landlords: rent to them.
Partners: respect and care for them.
Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.
School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.
Supporting the trans rights movement
Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].
Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.
At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.
Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.
In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.
Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.
Scrap biological essentialism..
Examine your biases.
Talk to friends and family about trans rights.
Stand up against transphobia when you see it.
Remember intent =/= impact.
Find out more
Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com
Sources for statistics
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)
Counting Ourselves (2019).
Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).