We provided 1:1 peer support over 2,000 times, and there were over 600 visits to our Wellington drop in centre. Our website was visited over 101,000 times with 209,000 page views.
Our healthcare referral system was used over 6,000 times, and we received over 1,100 referrals from healthcare providers across the country. Our HRT guide was read over 5,000 times. We also trained over 500 healthcare workers, particularly in mental health and addictions.
Our Rainbow Housing NZ group grew by 500 members to 3,100+, Housing was an area which suffered greatly due to covid 19, so this year much of our work in this area was in supporting individuals to find housing.
We held a successful campaign to pass the BDMRR Bill for self determination/self ID on birth certificates. Our resources were read 15,600+ times, we distributed 100’s of pamphlets and posters, the community turned out amazing submissions, and the law was passed. Our guide to updating your birth certificate sex marker updates was also read 2,000+ times, and a member of our staff became a Justice of the Peace to witness birth certificate documents.
We facilitated connectedness for 2,100+ trans people, whānau, and supporters in our online Transgender and Intersex NZ group, our “trans 101” resource was read more than 42,000 times (15,000 more times than in 2020), and our main parents resource was read more than 1,000 times (double 2020).
We released 6 new healthy relationships and sexual violence prevention resources in 2021. We also began work with Intersex Aotearoa on a joint project – ARC (Anti-violence Resource Centre) which will launch in 2022. We worked on the government’s National strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, together with other members of the Rainbow Violence Prevention Network (RVPN).
Submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill
We support the intent of this Bill, however as it stands we believe it does not fulfill it’s intent to protect transgender populations from conversion practices. The following are our main (though not only) concerns.
Every year we hear the personal stories of a great number of transgender people who have experienced conversion practices in healthcare settings.
They are offered anti-depressants as an alternative to being trans, or told that are simply confused and need counseling, while being referred to a counselor who doesn’t “believe in” being transgender.
Conversion Practices Carried Out in a Healthcare Setting
The Bill states that:
The purpose of this Act is to—
1. prevent harm caused by conversion practices; and 2. promote respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender.
However, in its current state it defines conversion practices as not including conversion practices which are carried out in a healthcare setting. This allows healthcare providers to continue to engage in conversion practices with vulnerable patients, and effectively excludes transgender and intersex people from protection in the setting where they are most likely to experience conversion practices.
In clause 5, the Bill states:
Meaning of conversion practice
(1) In this Act, conversion practice means any practice that—
a) is directed towards an individual because of the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; and b) is performed with the intention of changing or suppressing the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
(2) However, conversion practice does not include—
a) a health service provided by a health practitioner in accordance with the practitioner’s scope of practice; or b) assisting an individual who is undergoing, or considering undergoing, a gender transition; or c) assisting an individual to express their gender identity; or d) providing acceptance, support, or understanding of an individual; or e) facilitating an individual’s coping skills, development, or identity exploration, or facilitating social support for the individual; or f) the expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
The Bill compares this to similar legislation in Australia, however, all the similar exemptions in the Victoria Act are prefaced by the requirement that the practice “is supportive of or affirms a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation”.
This exemption for conversion practices in healthcare settings is not something that was suggested in the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The RIA only suggested that conversion practices are not common in healthcare settings. While this may be true for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other sexuality minorities, it is complely contradictory to the available evidence on transgender and intersex populations, including the evidence cited by the RIA.
We need to ensure that this error is not carried through into the legislation and compounded.
Conversion Practices in Healthcare Settings Target Transgender People
The Counting Ourselves (2019) transgender research report found that more than one in six of all participants (17%) reported that a professional, “such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor”, had tried to stop them being trans or non-binary. A further 12% were not sure if this had happened to them. (p.38).
Researchers asked (p.37) “Have you had any of these things ever happen to you, as a trans or non-binary person, when you were trying to access healthcare? You were discouraged from exploring your gender…” This means that while trying to access healthcare, these transgender people were told that they should stop being transgender. This is conversion therapy, in a healthcare setting.
16% of trans people said yes, they had experienced this. 4% said they had experienced this in the last year. This means 16 out of every 100 transgender people face routine conversion therapy from doctors, therapists, and other professionals in a healthcare setting.
While healthcare practitioners must be able to make medical decisions in the best interest of their patients, that is not what conversion practices are. This Bill should not include exceptions for carrying out conversion practices in healthcare settings.
If we acknowledge that conversion practices are harmful and we want to protect rainbow people from them, we should not exclude transgender people from these protections by allowing their abuse in healthcare settings.
Nothing raised in the Regulatory Impact Assessment suggests that including conversion practices done by healthcare practitioners in the definition of conversion practices would create any issues or further risks.
Conversion Practices in Healthcare Settings Target Diverse Sex Characteristics
The exclusion from the legislation of conversion practices that are directed/performed on the basis of sex characteristics is also unacceptable. While sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are currently protected in the wording of the Bill, the Bill as it stands would allow conversion practices that target people on the basis of their variations of sex characteristics, or that aim to change their sex characteristics. This affects almost all transgender people – whose sex characteristics are not typically associated with people of their gender.
Historically, conversion practices have almost always been targeted at people based on perceived mismatches between their sex characteristics and other aspects of their sexuality and gender. Sex characteristics have often been a specific target of coercive control. It is important that the definition of conversion practices in this Bill encompasses all types of conversion therapy.
It is not necessary to use a narrow framework here: most strong definitions of conversion practices, and indeed most human rights frameworks that intend to protect rainbow communities, such as the Yogyarkata Principles plus 10, and the PRISM report by the Human Rights Commission, do not exclude sex characteristics. This is especially relevant because the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill includes an amendment to the Human Rights Act, and therefore the definition of conversion practices in that Act will be based on the language in this Bill, should it become an Act.
If conversion practices on the basis of sex characteristics are not prohibited by this Bill, these harmful practices will continue in Aotearoa.
Nothing raised in the Regulatory Impact Assessment suggests that it would create any risks or issues to include conversion practices on the basis of sex characteristics, or aimed at changing sex characteristics, in the definition of conversion practices.
What Needs to Change
The RIA identified a risk that conversion practitioners may adapt their practice to get around the legislation, while still performing conversion practices. In our professional opinion, this risk applies in healthcare settings. Therefore, it is imperative that the definition of “conversion practices” is robust.
Conversion practices in healthcare settings must be included in this definition, along with the explicit addition of conversion practices on the basis of “sex characteristics” alongside “sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
Gender Minorities Aotearoa is offering a free online course, Supporting Transgender People. This course is designed to increase your knowledge of issues affecting transgender people in Aotearoa, and to build your confidence in speaking about these issues and supporting transgender people. It is a 101 course and suitable for people with any level of knowledge on transgender issues.
The course takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, and is broken into 3 sessions. You can stop at any time and continue later by logging in again. There are links to further reading at the end of some sections – these are optional and are not included in the time allocation.
This course is suitable for families, friends, supporters, and professional development. A certificate of completion is issued at the end of the course.
What each chapter covers
By the end of chapter 1. you will be able to:
1. Differentiate between gender, sex characteristics, and sex assigned at birth. 2. Explain the meaning of words like transgender, cisgender, and non-binary. 3. Talk about the difference between intersex and transgender.
By the end of chapter 2. you will be able to:
1. Understand how stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination interact. 2. Distinguish between discrimination in public life and private life. 3. Recognise the impact of discrimination across multiple areas of life. 4. Recognise physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social impacts of discrimination.
By the end of chapter 3. you will be able to:
1. Name protective factors which assist trans peoples well-being. 2. Identify ways to support trans people in your personal life. 3. Identify ways to support trans people in their public life. 4. Find more information.
Content warning: this course discusses stigma, discrimination, and violence experienced by transgender and intersex people. Some content may be distressing.
While transgender people make up about 1% of the general population, they make up at least 10% of the autistic population. Some studies suggest 23% or higher.
Studies also suggest that while autistic people make up around 5% of the general population, they make up 13% of the transgender population.
Autism diagnosis by gender
A 2018 study (linked below) shows autistic people’s responses across a range of issues, alongside responses from non-autistic people who have an autistic relative, and the responses of those who are neither autistic nor have autistic relatives (usually professionals who work with autistic people). It is not a representative study, but it is an enormous study by any research standards with over 11,000 respondents from across many different autism forums in several different countries.
1. Autistic respondents preferred the term “autistic person” (52%) rather than “person with autism” (12%). “Both” was selected by 28%, and “neither” was selected by 9%. In contrast, non-autistic respondents strongly preferred “person with autism”.
2. When asked if they identified as LGBT+, 7% of non-autistic respondents answered yes, while 38% of autistic respondents answered yes. 20% of respondents who said they might be autistic answered yes.
3. When asked if they were cisgender (not transgender), 17% of non autistic respondents replied no, while 23% of autistic respondents replied no.
4. There was a major correlation between being non-binary and being autistic.
5. Autistic respondents were more likely than non-autistic respondents to disagree with the statement “I have a religious faith”, and this was especially so for non-binary autistic respondents.
6. When asked if they agreed with the statement “I identify as liberal rather than conservative”, over 42% of autistic respondents strongly agreed, and over 20% agreed..
“Many autistic advocates prefer “identity-first” language (“autistic person” instead of [“person-first” language] “person with autism”). Our disability is part of us, and we don’t want to dance around it. And please — don’t call us “high functioning” or “low functioning.” If you don’t respect our language, you don’t respect us.” – AAPD
Studies have shown that autistic people are less likely to make decisions based on “what everyone else does” and are more likely to make decisions based on pragmatism. They often have a strong sense of fairness and social justice. This may partly explain the liberal (rather than conservative) tendency, and openness to exploring their gender and attractions in non-heteronormative ways.
Autistic young people
7. 84% of autistic respondents disagreed (74% strongly disagreed) with the statement “I am concerned about a link between vaccines and autism” while 62% of non-autistic respondents disagreed (47% strongly).
8. Most autistic respondents said their school didn’t know how to provide for them.
9. Almost half of the autistic respondents who struggled in school did not have an academic learning difficulty.
10. Most autistic respondents were strongly against ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy) for children.
11. Autistic respondents strongly believed that autism awareness focused too much on children.
While we don’t have data on autistic trans students in Aotearoa, we know that 23% of trans students experience weekly (or more frequent) bullying in schools, while this is experienced by just 5% of their cisgender counterparts. We also know that this bullying is often not addressed appropriately, and not dealt with effectively. There are schools which make it difficult for trans students to attend; including not providing bathrooms, insisting on inappropriate clothing (eg. wrong gender uniforms), and not making school content relevant for them (eg. sex education teaching only about cisgender boys and girls). We also know anecdotally that bullying and accessibility issues are common for autistic young people. We believe there is crossover here.
Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy on children is considered by many to be analogous with conversion therapy. It focuses on teaching autistic people to “not act autistic” through rewards and punishment. It has been alarmingly popular with non-autistic people for a long time, but autistic adults are now speaking out against it.
“The stated end goal of ABA is an autistic child who is ‘indistinguishable from their peers’—an autistic child who can pass as neurotypical. We don’t think that’s an acceptable goal. The end goal of all services, supports, interventions, and therapies an autistic child receives should be to support them in growing up into an autistic adult who is happy, healthy, and living a self-determined life.” – Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
12. 72% of autistic respondents would not take a “cure for autism” if one existed, and 14% said they would. Of non-verbal and selective mute autistic respondents, 75% said they would not take a “cure”, and 12% said they would. 69% of autistic respondents with learning difficulties said they would not take the “cure”, and 16% said they would.
13. 34% of non-autistic respondents said they would not give a “cure” to an autistic relative, and 41% said they would.
14. Respondents who had a positive association with autism – as represented by those who selected “awesomeness” as a characteristic of autism – were much more likely to be anti-cure, to say “autistic person”, and to be autistic (especially if they also had an autistic relative).
15. Almost three quarters of autistic respondents struggled with employment.
16. 75% of autistic respondents felt socially isolated.
Many non-autistic people believe that it would be better if autism didn’t exist. Autistic people disagree. Autistic lives are worth living, just like trans lives are worth living. Stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination are common, but it is these things – not autism – that autistic people would rather live without.
17. 60% of autistic respondents had an anxiety disorder, 42% had a Sensory Processing Disorder, 40% had depression, and 35% had ADHD, followed by digestive issues at 20%.
18. These conditions were consistently more common for non-binary autistic respondents (anxiety disorder 78%, depression 75%, ADHD 46%, digestive issues 40%). Non-binary autistic respondents had higher rates of Sensory Processing Disorders (56%) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (56%).
It is worth noting that male and female respondents were not separated by being transgender or cisgender, so it is possible that all transgender respondents had elevated rates of these conditions.
19. The most common effects of autism for non-binary autistic respondents were sensory issues (91%), anxiety (90%) and enthusiasm for special interests (90%).
Making environments accessible for autistic trans people means not only eliminating transphobia and providing appropriate bathrooms; but considering sensory needs, social stressors, and managing trauma triggers and responses.
20. Respondents were asked about empathy, and options included intense empathy, lack of empathy, both, and neither. Excluding the ‘both’ responses, 58% of autistic respondents ticked ‘intense empathy’, while only 11% ticked ‘lack of empathy’.
Including those who selected ‘both’, 67% had selected intense empathy. Responses were similar across non-verbal autistic respondents and autistic respondents with learning difficulties. Of the non-autistic respondents with an autistic relative, only 22% ticked intense empathy, while 27% ticked lack of empathy, and 47% selected ‘neither’.
Autistic respondents who are both non-verbal and have learning difficulties selected 60% intense empathy, 15% lack of empathy, 14% both, and 11% neither (a total of 74% intense empathy), while respondents who were non-autistic relatives of a non-verbal autistic person with a learning difficulty selected 51% neither, 32% lack of empathy, 13% intense empathy, and 3% both.
Autistic people are vastly more likely to feel intense empathy than a lack of empathy. But non-autistic relatives are likely to believe that they don’t feel intense empathy, and almost a third believe they lack empathy.
What it means
Autistic transgender people face unique challenges, and high levels of stigma and discrimination. Families, communities, and healthcare providers must be culturally competent and work to unlearn bias against autistic people, and recognise where this bias may affect the ways they interact with the autistic trans people they come into contact with.
GMA has a number of autistic transgender staff, and hears from many dozens of autistic trans people every year, who are struggling to access gender affirming healthcare at a disproportionate rate, and who are struggling with a lack of accessibility and safety in their schools, workplaces, and home environments.
It is common for autistic people to be denied gender affirming healthcare as their gender expression may not be binary, or because they may struggle to express or parents/clinicians may struggle to understand the autistic person’s complex ideas and understandings of gender. They may believe the autistic person is unable to fully understand the consequences of transition – most often due to difficulty with communication, rather than understanding. It is essential that a transgender diagnosis should not be withheld on the basis of a patient being autistic.
Further research is needed on autistic transgender experiences. GMA advocates for more research into autistic adults’ experiences, and for this to be developed by or in collaboration with autistic researchers and autistic populations, including those who are rainbow and transgender.
This resource explains some core concepts for making sure you have consent in sexual situations, as well as practical steps and examples. It is designed for transgender adults, and may not be suitable for younger viewers
You can scroll down to read the original online, or download the second edition PDF.
Consent means agreeing to something without feeling like you have to agree to it. At a glance, consenting to sex can be simple – someone asks you if you want to have sex and you say yes or no. But there are many factors which can make a person feel pressured to say yes. When a person says yes because they are pressured into it directly, this is sometimes called ‘coercion’. Coercion can be very direct and easy to see, or it could be more subtle. It may include forcing them, sulking, passive aggressive pressure, or saying ‘if you loved me you would…’.
Consent should never be coerced on purpose, and we also have a responsibility to try to make sure we don’t coerce consent by accident as well. We call this ‘good consent practises’.
Making sure you have good consent practices can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun.
There is a metaphor called the ‘Consent Castle’, where we liken starting a new relationship to building a castle. It goes like this:
When you meet someone you like, you might decide to build a castle together. In the beginning, you will need to talk a lot about what you both want from a castle, and make sure you’re on the same page. You might write some things down, draw some diagrams, share your ideas.
Next, when you start to build your castle, you will probably need to be extra careful – you might wear hard hats, steel toed boots, and check in with each other frequently. As time goes on and the castle takes shape, you will be able to relax and enjoy it more without having to talk about every step, and one day when the castle is finished, it will become a comfortable and familiar place where you can have fun together. Castles are always a work in progress – you might need to do some maintenance now and then, and if you want to change something or add another room you’ll probably need to put on your hard hats and overalls and plan it out carefully, but by planning and talking and working it out together in the beginning, you will have build a strong foundation for a mutually satisfying castle.
Before they first have sex with a new partner, some people like to have conversations about sex in a relaxed situation when sex isn’t about to happen immediately. If the conversation is not focused on ‘if/when we have sex’ but instead is about ‘when people have sex’, this can make it easier to bring up broader social pressures and other issues, likes and dislikes, emotions, expectations, and any other issues. This can give everyone involved an opportunity to talk about how they feel, and what they want from sex or a relationship, and from each other.
During sexual encounters, it’s important to check in – or ask how the other person is feeling or if they want to do a certain activity, or whether what you are doing feels good. The answer may be that they want you to do something a little differently, or that they want to try something else, or that they feel amazing. Communicating during sex can be fun and sexy, and it means that you will always know if your partner likes something or not.
Likewise, talking about it afterward can be really useful. Sometimes we did like something at the time, but later we realise it also gave us a cramp! Or made us feel insecure about part of our body. Or we think of something else that might be good to try next time. Talking about sex can be empowering, and it gives us lots of opportunities to make choices.
What about hookups and one night stands?
Practicing good consent is also possible for casual hookups. While you may not want to have long conversations with someone you’ve just met, getting into the habit of discussing sex before you start having it can mean that you both have better experiences.
For example, Andy tells Shay he sometimes feels like the gay dating scene expects everyone to do oral sex without condoms, and that’s hard for him as a trans man, because he wants to fit in but he also wants to protect his sexual health. Later when they’re hooking up, Shay has the opportunity to let Andy know it’s fine to use condoms, which makes Andy feel much more relaxed and valued as a person, and then he can make more of a free choice about whether to use a condom or not. Understanding each other more and being more relaxed also makes the whole experience more fun for both people.
Tip: asking for consent while physically initiating a sexual action can make the other person feel pressured into accepting. Get consent before you act.
More info on sex and sexuality for trans people
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