Trans, intersex and rainbow community organisations are very disappointed to hear there will be no progress before the election on a Bill that would make it easier for trans and intersex people to amend sex details listed on their birth certificates.
On Tuesday 23 June, the Minister of Internal Affairs confirmed in a media report that there would be no law change this Parliamentary term. Community members are also concerned that a report delivered to the Minister in February 2020 on reducing barriers under the current law is yet to be released.
In February 2019, the Minister of Internal Affairs announced that the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill was deferred. Almost six months later, on 1 August 2019, the Minister announced the appointment of a Working Group to provide her with advice on practical improvements to the current Family Court process.
The Working Group’s role included commissioning the Department of Internal Affairs to conduct interviews with trans and intersex people to hear how to improve people’s interactions with government services involved in the process for amending sex details recorded on birth certificates. Gender Minorities Aotearoa, F’INE, RainbowYOUTH, the Intersex Trust Aotearoa NZ (ITANZ) and other community organisations helped promote these confidential interviews and hosted some in community venues.
“People told us they gave up their time to be interviewed because they wanted to share the barriers they had faced so that the process would improve for other Pasifika people in the future”, said F’INE Director, Phylesha Brown-Acton.
In her media release announcing the Working Group, the Minister identified the financial, time, and dignity barriers trans and intersex people faced under the existing law.
“It is hugely concerning if the Minister has been reported accurately on Tuesday as saying “we don’t need to remove any barriers” and if the only solutions being considered are about providing education within the courts and to trans and intersex communities” said Frances Arns, Executive Director of RainbowYOUTH.
“Trans organisations and community groups have been creating and sharing information about the current Family Court process, both face to face and online, for a long time. And holding community legal clinics”, said Ahi Wi-Hongi, National Coordinator, Gender Minorites Aotearoa. “Education is important but, on its own, is not going to enable more than a small fraction of our community to be able to amend their birth certificates”.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Trans and Non-Binary Health Survey, Counting Ourselves, published in September 2019, found that 83% of participants had the incorrect gender listed on their birth certificate. The most common reason why trans people did not have identification documents with the correct gender marker was because they only had the option of choosing male or female.
“The lack of a non-binary option on birth certificates is an insurmountable barrier for many trans people and requires a law change”, said Counting Ourselves’ principal investigator and University of Waikato Senior Lecturer, Dr Jaimie Veale.
“The Working Group was asked to look at the specific experiences of trans children and their families and of intersex people who want to correct their birth certificate details, ”, said Tabby Besley, Managing Director, InsideOUT. “We need the Working Group’s findings and progress on the Bill to make schools safer for trans and intersex children and youth”.
“The current law requires evidence from medical experts and a court process. This creates a barrier to access for trans people who may not be able to afford a lawyer, especially trans young people”, said Qtopia 2IC, Jennifer Shields.
“Everyone wants trans and intersex young people to grow up among whānau and community who love them and recognise that they are who they say they are,” said Joey Macdonald, Training Lead for Te Ngākau Kahukura. “Young people’s right to an identity is described in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our current law presents unacceptable barriers to trans and intersex young people amending their official documents to match their identity.”
On 19 June 2020, the Human Rights Commission released Prism, a report and recommendations on human rights issues faced by trans, intersex, and other Rainbow communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“The Commission’s report concludes that the current law does not meet New Zealand’s international human rights obligations, because it does not protect trans and intersex people’s rights to self-determination, bodily integrity and non-discrimination”, said OUTLine’s co-chair Moira Clunie. “The passage of the Bill, with improvements recommended by the Commission, will better protect these rights and reflect concerns raised by trans and intersex communities”, said OUTLine co-chair Aych McArdle.
“Intersex people require the freedom of self-determination, bodily autonomy and recognition of their diversity, and this is an inherent right under international law”, said ITANZ Co-President, Dr Rogena Sterling. “Any legal and policy changes regarding official identity documentation must consider the diverse needs of the intersex community in Aotearoa.”
“Aotearoa should be a place where inclusive laws and practices uphold the mana and dignity of takatāpui and LGBTIQ / rainbow people and address the systemic issues that result in discrimination and violence against us,” says Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Chair of Tīwhanawhana Trust. “We call on the Government to make good on previous assurances of support to our whānau and communities including by supporting the human right of trans, non-binary and intersex people to self-define their identity.”
The human rights issues faced by trans and intersex communities are often invisible. Trans, intersex and rainbow community organisations strongly encourage all political parties to take these issues seriously this election and demonstrate how their policies and actions will meet the human rights obligations set out in the Human Rights Commission’s Prismreport.
The anti-trans campaign group ‘Speak up for Women’ is holding an event at Massey University, which promotes and advocates for the removal of human rights and legal protections from trans people. Trans people are a severely stigmatised, disadvantaged, and discriminated against population, that experiences some of the highest rates of violence including sexual violence in Aotearoa NZ. This is unacceptable.
Massey University is Rainbow Tick certified. This achievement confirms our commitment to the Rainbow community, and to provide a safe and inclusive environment for its members.
All staff and students need to feel comfortable being their whole-self, and to work and study without fear of harassment or discrimination. We’re committed to equal opportunities for all, regardless of your:
ethnic or national origin
employment or family status
Hosting a known anti-trans extremist group is in direct opposition to this commitment.
The activism of Speak up for Women is entirely based on removal of human rights for trans people, who suffer from extremely high rates of stigma, sexual violence, and discrimination across housing, healthcare, education, employment, access to goods and services, and all other areas of public life. This stigma, discrimination, and harassment results in minority stress and suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and deaths, at greatly elevated levels compared with the general population [Counting Ourselves, 2019].
Massey University must take action to prevent harm toward trans students, staff members, and members of society.
This week the High Court backed the Auckland Council’s decision to cancel a booking for far-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff saying that the right to free speech did not include the right to a platform, and that “These individuals who want to incite hatred against others are, in my view, not welcome here.”
Rainbow Tick Acting President Martin King said Massey University’s Rainbow Tick status would likely be reviewed if it allowed the anti-trans conference to go ahead.
Massey Wellington Students Association is calling for the event to be cancelled. It has penned a petition, saying ”By providing a platform for a hate group to speak on our campus, Massey University is putting ‘freedom of speech’ over the safety of its staff and students. This petition has gained over 1,300 signatures in just 5 hours. You can sign the petition here.
Counting Ourselves, a national report on transgender health, has just been released.
The survey had 1,178 participants, from all regions of Aotearoa, ranging from 14 to 83 years old.
The research, funded by the Health Research Council and with support from University of Waikato and Rule Foundation, found that trans people experience discrimination at more than double the rate of the general population, almost half of trans people had someone attempt to have sex with them against their will since age 13, and almost a third reported someone did have sex with them against their will since age 13. Participants reported high or very high levels of psychological distress at a rate nine times that of the general population. In the last 12 months, more than half had seriously considered suicide, and 12% had attempted suicide.
In the last 12 months, 13% of participants were asked unnecessary or invasive questions during a health visit
17% reported they had experienced reparative therapy (a professional had tried to stop them from being trans)[note: sometimes called “conversion therapy”]
36% avoided seeing a doctor to avoid being disrespected
Stigma, Discrimination, and Violence
67% had experienced discrimination at some point
44% had experienced discrimination in the last 12 months – this was more than double the rate for the general population (17%)
21% were bullied at school at least once a week, much higher than the general population (5%)
83% did not have the correct gender marker on their New Zealand birth certificate
32% reported someone had had sex with them against their will since they were 13
47% reported someone had attempted to have sex with them against their will since they were 13
Compared to the general population, participants were almost three times more likely to have put up with feeling cold (64%) and gone without fresh fruit or vegetables (51%) in order to reduce costs.
Distress and Suicide
71% reported high or very high psychological distress, compared with only 8% of the general population in Aotearoa New Zealand
56% had seriously thought about attempting suicide in the last 12 months
37% had attempted suicide at some point
12% had made a suicide attempt in the last 12 months
Participants who reported that someone had had sex with them against their will were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year (18%) than participants who did not report this (9%)
Participants who had experienced discrimination for being trans or non-binary were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year (16%) than participants who did not report this discrimination (8%)
Participants’ rate of cannabis use in the last year (38%) was more than three times higher than the general population (12%)
57% reported that most or all of their family supported them. Respondents supported by at least half of their family were almost half as likely to attempt suicide (9%).
62% were proud to be trans, 58% provided support to other trans people, and 56% felt connected with trans community.
BDMRR stands for Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration. This is an Act in New Zealand law which sets out the legal aspects and requirements pertaining to the registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships. This includes the legal requirements for birth certificates, including changing the name or gender marker on ones birth certificate, due to marriage, civil union, or being transgender, for example.
What does the BDMRR currently say about trans people changing their birth certificate?
Changing one’s name can be done by a simple statutory declaration, witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. However, the current BDMRRA provisions require medical evidence and a Family Court process in order to change the gender marker on one’s birth certificate.
What’s the problem with the current situation?
The required medical evidence and Family Court process can be difficult, and expensive. It is out of line with the current policy on passports and drivers licenses, which require a simple statutory declaration to change the gender marker on them. It is also out of step with international best practice for human rights.
This impacts most heavily on those who:
do not undertake medical steps as part of their transition (for financial, medical, religious, or other reasons)
do not know how to make a formal legal application to the Family Court and/or
cannot afford to pay a lawyer to apply on their behalf, which can be expensive, costing up to $3,000.
The current process can be lengthy, particularly for those takatāpui, trans and non-binary people waiting for medical evidence to be supplied from a GP, hormone specialist or surgeon. They may also not want a particular medical treatment, and may be pressured toward medical intervention in order to obtain accurate identification documents with their correct gender marker.
Why do trans people need to change their birth certificate gender marker, when getting a passport with their correct chosen gender marker is so easy?
A birth certificate is the only document that someone born here can never have taken away from them. In some significant life events, it is the sole document that will be accepted as proof of identity, rather than a passport or other identification. For example, the gender marker on a takatāpui, trans, or non-binary person’s birth certificate is used on their marriage or civil union certificate, on their child’s birth certificate, and on their death certificate.
What would the amendments in the Bill do?
replace a Family Court application with a statutory declaration process that enables takatāpui, trans or non-binary people to affirm and legally document their correct gender
remove any other eligibility requirements, such as the need for medical evidence
enable gender markers to be recognised as male, female, or as a third, non-binary gender, ensuring trans and non-binary people have the same right to legal recognition, and the legal protection that provides, as all non-trans people in New Zealand.
What are the benefits of this?
Meet international human rights standards
New Zealand’s policy for amending gender markers on passports, introduced in December 2012, is often cited as one of the best in the world. In contrast, the current BDMRR Act provisions for amending gender markers on birth certificates, developed 23 years ago, are outdated. They have not kept pace with international human rights standards, which set out each person’s right to legal recognition, regardless of age.
The current BDMRR Act does not meet the requirements set out in international case law or recommendations by United Nations bodies that monitor treaties that New Zealand has ratified.
Reduce costs and free up time
Moving from a Family Court process to a statutory declaration will reduce cost barriers for takatāpui, trans, and non-binary people, and their whānau, it would free up the court’s time, and it would reduce the administrative burden on the health professionals who are asked to supply medical evidence for each application.
Support kids to be in school
This would have a significant impact on children live in an area with an unsupportive school, and are currently forced to wear the wrong uniform and use the wrong bathrooms and are called by the wrong gender. These children currently experience extreme distress and often simply leave school regardless of their age.
Support adults to be in employment
It would significantly impact adults who currently have to out themselves to potential employers, and are often then outed to colleagues, resulting in continual uncomfortable questioning, curiosity, and in many cases workplace bullying to the extent that the trans person can no longer work.
Basic privacy and quality of life
Passing the Bill would make an important practical difference for takatāpui, trans, and non-binary people’s daily lives. It would support the privacy of all trans people in other situations where showing a birth certificate is mandatory.
Would passing the bill affect everyone else?
Passing the Bill would have very little impact on non-transgender people. Passports currently use a simple statutory declaration for changing one’s gender marker to M, F, or X, and a passport can be used as proof of identity in most circumstances.
Have other countries passed similar Bills?
Yes. Several other countries have already passed similar legislation.
Ireland – Gender Recognition Bill (2015)
A person over the age of 18 can change their gender by way of a ‘statutory declaration’. A report published in 2017 found 297 trans people had been issued with gender recognition certificates since the bill was updated in 2015.
Malta – Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act (2015)
A person over the age of 16 can change their gender by way of a ‘statutory declaration’.
Norway – Legal Gender Amendment Act (2016)
Any person over the age of 16 can change their gender and name by submitting a short document to the local tax office. Young people between 6 and 16 can access the process if at least one parent consents to it.
Argentina – Gender Identity Law (2012)
A person of any age can change their name and gender if all legal guardians agree. If they don’t all agree, a judge can decide. Persons over the age of 18 can change their name and gender by submitting a document to the National Bureau of Vital Statistics. The law also gives adults access to sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy as a part of their public or private health care plans.
Portugal – Gender identity law (2018)
A person over the age of 16 can change their gender by making a statutory declaration. The legislation also makes it illegal to perform unnecessary surgery on intersex babies.
Belgium – Legal Gender Recognition Law (2017)
A person from the age of 16 can change their gender by submitting a document to the civil registry. The process includes a three-month waiting period.
The main issues which are sometimes raised, usually by anti-transgender extremists, are framed as concerns for women’s rights. These are based on two false assertions:
that transgender women are inherently men
that transgender women should be considered sexual predators unless proven otherwise, and recognising them as women will increase sexual violence
These positions are against every international human rights organisation, every international human rights treaty, The Human Rights Commission, the National Council of Women, and against transgender people’s experiences of themselves.
There is no credible evidence suggesting elevated levels of sexual violence as a result of similar legislation passing in other countries.
The anti-transgender arguments include
It will mean non-transgender women have less rights
Both international and local research shows that transgender women experience higher rates than non-transgender women of discrimination in education, housing, healthcare, employment, access to justice, legal documentation, higher rates of violence including sexual violence, higher rates of street harassment, and other indicators of a lack of privilege. This is not what male privilege looks like.
Male pattern violence
There is no credible evidence showing that trans women perpetrate violence toward non-transgender women at a higher rate than non-transgender women perpetrate violence against each other.
There are currently systems in place to minimise violence, including sexual violence, between prisoners housed together. The Department of Corrections has confirmed that it is prepared to make adjustments to the ways prisoners are housed to ensure the safest conditions possible for all prisoners if the Bill should pass.
Other countries with similar legislation have not reported any negative effect on women prisoners.
Women’s bathrooms/women’s refuges/women only spaces
These do not currently require birth certificates to enter.
Women’s refuges currently do allow transgender women and have done for many years. They have evidence based processes and protections in place to ensure all women who enter are kept safe, and to protect women who, for example, are fleeing violent relationships with other women who may seek to access them in a refuge by deception. No woman can enter a women’s refuge without legitimate need.
Other countries with similar legislation have not reported any rise is sexual violence in women’s spaces as a result of the legislation.
Men will pretend to be trans women in order to enter women’s spaces
There are almost no women’s spaces which require a birth certificate to enter. There are no reported cases of men in New Zealand gaining access to women’s spaces by using the simple statutory declaration process currently available for passports in order to ”game the system” and sexually assault women.
Single sex schools
In Aotearoa, we have many co-ed or mixed gender schools, and students are considered safe attending these. There are currently single gender schools which accept transgender students. International and New Zealand research suggests that it is transgender students who are at risk of bullying and violence in schools.
Collection of data regarding women
The concern is said to be that data about women, for example the gender pay gap, will be skewed and become inaccurate if transgender women are consistently recorded as women.
Given that transgender people all together make up between 1% and 2% of the population, this is unlikely to have much bearing on data about women overall.
There has not been public consultation
The Bill has been through the same public consultation process as any other Bill, including submissions from the public. Many of the anti-transgender campaigners made submissions, as did members of their mostly UK based following. These were in opposition to the Human Rights Commission’s recommendations.
Ahi Wi-Hongi, National Coordinator, Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Dr Jaimie Veale, Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Waikato / Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and President Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa (PATHA), Tom Hamilton, Counselor, OUTLine NZ and project collaborator, re.frame, Jack Byrne, Research Officer, Aotearoa New Zealand Trans and Non-binary Health Survey, George Parker, Strategic Advisor, Women’s Health Action, Conor Twyford, Chief Executive / Kaiwhakahaere, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP, Richard Tankersley, the Uprising Trust, Christchurch and former Human Rights Commissioner, Rosslyn Noonan, former Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Dame Margaret Sparrow, Dame Catherine Healy, National Coordinator, New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, Professor Elizabeth McDonald MNZM, School of Law, University of Canterbury, Abbi Pritchard Jones, group administrator and facilitator of Genderbridge NZ, Tracee Nelley, President of Agender NZ, Phylesha Brown-Acton, Managing Director of F’INE, Soul Mehlhopt, Co-ordinator of Transcend, Manawatū, Michelle Smeaton, Secretary of Tranzaction, Christchurch, Sharyn Forsyth, Co-ordinator, NZ Parents and Caregivers of Transgender and Gender Diverse Children, Nick Winchester, Mentor / Founder, Kindred, Christchurch, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere and Kevin Haunui, Chair and Deputy Chair, Tīwhanawhana Trust, Duncan Matthews, Manager, OutLine NZ Inc., Frances Arns, Chief Executive, RainbowYOUTH, Tabby Besley, National Co-ordinator, InsideOUT, Jem Traylen, Trans Secretariat/Board Member, Rainbow Wellington, Jevon Wright, Treasurer, OuterSpaces Charitable Trust, Wellington, Amanda Ashley, Founder, Rodney Area Rainbow LGBTQ+, Warren Lindberg, Chief Executive Officer, Public Health Association of New Zealand, Sally Dellow, Allyson Hamblett, Claudia Mckay, Cathy Parker, Lynda Whitehead, Ally Wilson, Aych McArdle, Joey Macdonald, Griffin Nichol Madill, Laura O’Connell Rapira.
Who is arguing against the Bill?
There are a small number of anti-transgender campaigners, commonly referred to by the softer term ”TERFs” or ”Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.” The “Exclusionary” refers to excluding transgender people from human rights protections. They sometimes refer to themselves as ”gender critical feminists” and falsely claim that ”TERF” is a slur. An accurate history of the term TERF can be found here.
Some anti-transgender campaigners have formed an organised campaign against the human rights of transgender people, especially targeting transgender women, under the guise of ”Speaking Up For Women” against the Bill. They are joined by far-right (conservative extremist) groups and fundamentalist faith-based groups in opposing the Bill.
The anti-transgender campaign has involved creating a faux ”Lesbian Alliance” group online, to release statements against transgender women. One anti-trans campaigner dressed as a penis and harassed staff at a gym which allows trans women. Two momentarily crashed a Pride Parade in front of media cameras with a transphobic banner. They have also attempted to have the rainbow suicide prevention organisations for young people – RainbowYOUTH and InsideOUT – defunded. You can read more about their actions here.
The anti-transgender extremists are also known for campaigns against other minority group women. This includes attacking breastfeeding mothers in the ”Free the Nipple” movement, strawman tirades against legal protections for sex workers, and accusing Maori curators at the national museum Te Papa of being ”too colonized to understand” that Te Papa ”doesn’t have proper Maori exhibitions”. You can find some of these rants on this local anti-transgender blog here, if you can stomach it.
Is there any NZ media I can look at, what do other people think?
Yes there is. These discuss the BDMRR and gender markers, from a variety of angles, including the views of key human rights advocates, sexual violence services, and others who support the Bill, and some from the key anti-transgender activists who are coordinating the campaign against the Bill.
NB: this post has been updated 23/02/2019 to add links number 1, 2, and 14
What can I do to help to help pass the Bill?
Get the facts
Understanding how a Bill becomes an Act (a part of the law) can help you to be well informed about what is happening at any stage of the process, and be empowered to act. This post explains the process in a way which is easy to understand for those without a legal background.
If you like to read, there are many feminist and legal theorists, academics, practitioners, and writers in Aotearoa, who are writing on these subjects. These include Sharyn Graham Davies, and Elisabeth McDonald.
You can contact Members of Parliament (MPs) at their offices in the parliamentary complex or at their out-of-Parliament or electorate offices in your area. This page tells you how to find contact details for MPs in your area, and how to address people in Parliament when you correspond with them.
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’ (TERFs) are attacking the human rights of transgender people, usually with a focus on transgender women, and sometimes with a focus on retransition (or “detransition”) for trans men.
These anti-trans fanatics say that letting trans women have equality would mean non-trans women have less rights. They also say organisations like RainbowYOUTH are using conversion practices to turn all the lesbians into trans men.
We’re going to take a look at some of their claims and actions, to see if anti-trans campaigners are really the feminists they claim to be, and find out how to spot an anti-trans campaign when you hear one.
“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.”
Women’s groups and feminist groups are pretty unanimously in support of transgender rights, and recognise that trans women are women. They also tend to campaign on issues such as the pay gap, reproductive rights, sexual violence, benefit rights, rights for single mums, rights for sex workers, nurses, caregivers, and in other industries with predominantly women workers.
What do anti-trans campaigners think?
Anti-trans campaign groups tend to only campaign against transgender rights. They may have campaigns about women in sport, schools, and healthcare – but all of these focus on stopping transgender people from accessing these things. They’re not usually interested in women’s rights in any broader way.
The anti-trans extremist movement, primarily voiced in 2019 by creative writing student and anti-trans anti-sex worker campaigner Renée Gerlich, insists 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.
They believe that almost all cisgender women agree with them, and furthermore claim that transgender people – who are 1% to 2% of the population – will “drown out” and “silence” cisgender women (who are around 50% of the population). They refuse to hear that most cisgender women really don’t share their anti-trans views. [photo evidence]
What are anti-trans campaigners doing?
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, Renée 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 (photos below). [photo evidence]
Are they an organised group, or just a handful of bigots?
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
September 6th 2019, anti-trans campaigners 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. Likewise, the print shop they had 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. This included the 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 male toilet. The speakers spoke over her and did not let her speak. They appeared to be confused and unsure how to answer, 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.
At least one trans woman endured an hour of listening to people say her existence is a threat to their safety. Meanwhile, one of the speakers tweeted about how great it was to have ”people who ID as trans” present to ”hear different ideas”. It was unclear to participants whether her aim was to manipulate and mislead public perception as to the purpose of the meeting, to incite hostility, or if she simply lacked basic self awareness. The latter seemed to participants the most unlikely.
2020: Speak up for women event, supported by New Conservative party and ACT party leader
SUFW attempted to hold a 2020 event at Massey university, but the Massey Wellington Students Association called for the event to be cancelled. It penned a petition, saying ”By providing a platform for a hate group to speak on our campus, Massey University is putting ‘freedom of speech’ over the safety of its staff and students. This petition gained over 1,300 signatures in the first 5 hours, and ultimately the event was cancelled.
They were, however, supported by New Conservative Party.
The event was later re-booked at parliament by ACT party leader David Seymour.
This video tells it better than we could.
We note that they threatened to sue the reporter over this video.
2021: STFU “national speaking tour”
2021 was a busy year for Speak up for Women and their supporters. We’ll touch on a couple of highlights.
Christchurch libraries refused to host Speak up for Women
SUFW attempted to hold a national speaking tour, possibly more for publicity than anything else. However, their first stop was Christchurch, where locals weren’t having a bar of it, and the booking was canceled.
“The group has courted controversy since its inception in 2018 when it invited controversial Canadian blogger Meghan Murphy, who has been banned from Twitter for hate speak, to speak at its events.
“The group was formed in opposition to the Government’s proposal to allow people to self-identify their sex in the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. It planned to discuss aspects of the bill in Christchurch.
They further noted that “The group has also campaigned against the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sport.”
Nelson Councillor said the “guise of feminism” obscured SUFW’s true aims
Stuff reported that Nelson councillor Kate Fulton said she was embarrassed that Speak Up for Women had been allowed to speak on council premises, after they booked a council owned venue.
“She said she was concerned that the way the group presented its arguments “under the guise of feminism” obscured its true aims. “People don’t fully understand, so they see them as a women’s rights group, rather than a transphobic group”.
A number of formal complaints were received about their booking in Auckland
“Members of the community, council staff and the Rainbow Advisory Panel all raised concerns about the wellbeing of the LGBTQI+ community if the event went ahead as planned, the council’s Kevin Marriott said.
They also had a number of other unpleasant incidents, and were offered a dumpster to have their meeting in by another mayor. He later apologised, though we suspect it was legal advice rather than a change of heart.
Speak Up for Women supporter assaults transgender youth
Protesters against Speak up for Women were the majority at both their Dunedin and Wellington events, with thousands showing up in support of trans rights, while under 100 went to support SUFW.
One News reported:
In support of the gender diverse community, Wellington’s mayor Andy Foster, as well as two councillors – Teri O’Neill and Fleur Fitzsimons – have organised for the Michael Fowler Centre to be lit up each night for the rest of the week with the colours of the transgender flag.
Speak Up For Women has hit out at the move, claiming they’re using council resources to send a political message and Fitzsimons agrees.
“We’re absolutely using our venue to send a political message and it’s a message of inclusion and love to transgender people in Wellington and nobody should have any concern about that message and I don’t understand the opposition.”
Safety fears about the group and their supporters were again vindicated in July 2021, as ex-columnist and Speak Up For Women supporter Rachel Stewart threatened to strip and hunt a trans rights supporter.
“strip this wee f….. naked, let him loose in my back paddock, jump on the tray of the ute, and hunt him down with spotlights while whooping & hollering & drinking – Rachel Stewart.
Police suspended her firearms licence and confiscated her firearms.
“The police said threats of violence and exhibits of hatred were grounds for suspending her licence, and also noted a change of address that had not been notified.
“Police consider threatening any form of violence against a person and exhibiting any form of hatred, as well noncompliance [sic] with the Arms Act 1983 to be inconsistent with the criteria of a fit and proper person.”
“The new guidelines will ensure that the teaching of relationships and sexuality education in our schools will no longer be left to chance,” said Tracey Martin, the associate education minister.
But “Ani O’Brien, a spokesperson for Speak Up for Women, a group formed to oppose sex self-identification, accused the education ministry of an “attempt to appease the demands of gender ideology lobbyists”.
They also accused PPTA of “spreading misinformation” about them to teachers. This followed SUFW’s disinformation campaign, in which they contacted a number of schools to lobby against the rights of transgender children.
Speak up for Women attempts to blackmail transgender organisation into “debate”
In our BDMRR pamphlet, we featured a section on anti-trans campaign groups. It talked about anti-trans arguments being poorly researched, and directly contradictory to empirical evidence.
This was not about SUFW – it was about anti-trans campaigners more broadly. This is not a wheel they invented, anti-trans fanatics have been around for decades.
However, SUFW decided the shoe fitted and wrote an article about us and our pamphlet, claiming it was written about them. They affirmed that they do indeed agree with said anti-trans arguments. They also made spurious claims about our organisation. Funnily enough these claims were poorly researched and contradictory to the evidence.
Their claims included that we “have also accused [SUFW] of being funded by the international Christian conservative / alt-right. […] in fact it is Gender Minorities who receives international funds from lobby groups, not the other way around.
Sorry guys, false and false.
They then attempted to blackmail Gender Minorities Aotearoa into a “debate”, with flimsy legal threats. We note that they seem desperate to be validated by us through the legitimising effect of being our opponents. We have no interest in this group, besides providing this single article on anti-trans campaigns in NZ more broadly.
“Although our lawyers suggest there is grounds to claim damages for these defamatory statements […]. We invite you to a debate about the merits of sex self-identification. […] I’m sure we can find a media outlet to broadcast it.”
“Our materials which you are referencing do not mention your group, though you may consider yourselves implicated as “anti-trans campaign groups” if the shoe fits.
And they came back to assert:
“I have attached screenshots of your website” (this post) “GMA infer our group is supported by conservative Christian and far right movements. There is no truth to these claims. GMA wrongly connects Renee Gerlich to SUFW – she has in fact never been a member of our group.
Tsk tsk. Trouble in paradise.
Every claim we’ve made on this post is supported by photographic evidence, below. If it looks like Renee was involved, it’s likely there’s a reason for that. But they wanted us to clarify, so we’ve also added the 2020 and 2021 sections above, along with some extra photo evidence and more recent articles below, for clarity.
Which is also what we did when Charlie Montegue tried to take a harassment case against a member of staff who she had decided wrote this post.
Speak up for Women organisers named in “cult-like” grooming of vulnerable young lesbians
In a 2020 article, Beau Dyess wrote about having been a vulnerable young lesbian, who was recruited into anti-trans “gender critical” (TERF) activism. Beau called it “cult-like”, and named “Speak Up for Women NZ Organizer Ani O’Brien” and Charlie Montague (who was “working on Speak Up for Women”) as part of an extremely abusive cult-like grooming network of “international power lesbians”.
Beau now identifies as ex-gender-critical. You can read their articles which discuss anti-trans groups working with “rightwing fundamentalists” here, and one on prominent anti-trans campaigners being anti-lesbian here.
Speak up for Women advocate for making gender affirming care illegal
In their submission on the Conversion Practices Bill, Speak up for Women claimed that Rainbow Youth centres turn lesbians into transgender men, “a culture of unquestioning affirmation that exists in rainbow youth centres, where you walk into a support group, you get instantly affirmed, you get an introduction to an endocrinologist, you’re given a breast binder, you walk in a lesbian woman and walk out a trans man. These are conversion centres”.
They appeared to be advocating that supporting trans people to transition is a conversion practice, and should be illegal.
These are the clauses that clarify that gender affirming treatments are not conversion practices. Removal of these clauses would potentially classify gender affirming healthcare as conversion practices, and mean that doctors could be prosecuted for providing gender affirming healthcare.
Of course, no rainbow youth centres introduce young people to an endocrinologist, and the demand for gender affirming prosthetics such as binders far outweighs the financial abilities of any rainbow org in NZ, so none provide these routinely.
They also cited the ‘Bell vs Tavistock’ legal case in the UK, as proof that puberty blockers are dangerous. However, that case has been unanimously overturned. The Court of Appeal has stated that “the [original] claim for judicial review should have been dismissed” outright.
Additionally “[SUFW] recommend that an additional exemption clause be inserted into section 5.2 […] to protect alternative treatment pathways for gender dysphoria” and that “parents, wider whanau, and other professionals such as teachers” should be able to commit conversion practices more broadly (which would include conversion practices against lesbians).
What you can do
Firstly, and most importantly, if you are trans: we want you to know that anti-trans campaigners and TERFs are a very small group, and an unpopular one at that. Most sensible people believe in human rights. If you’re feeling isolated, please connect with other trans people. Get support here.
Learn to spot the misleading statements they make and coded language – designed to look benign to the average viewer while presenting an anti-trans message at a deeper level. The stickers below are a great example of this.
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, and furthermore the term “suffragettes” was only ever used in NZ to demean women who were suffragists.