New Zealand women bravely speaking up to defend their sex-based rights have recently been described as a “hate group” and “anti-transgender” by some trans-activists. This reframing conflates women’s valid concerns with ‘hate’ and also implies a malicious intent on the part of women. Individual women have been targeted in vicious and defamatory personal attacks.

Given the proposed changes to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationship Registration Act (‘BDMRR’) (1995) that would enable the sex recorded on birth certificates to become a matter of self declaration, consideration needs to be paid to the rights of women and girls.

It is the 125th year of women’s Suffrage in New Zealand. Consequently it’s very disheartening that women are still being attacked for standing up for themselves and their rights. There is is a climate of personalised, dishonest, and misleading attacks on women who raise concerns about sex and gender related issues, in particular regarding transgender people. This only solidifies the importance of a better public understanding about the implications of sex and gender in the ‘BDMRR’ Act. You can find out more about this here.

To frame women who are concerned with the denial of biological reality as a “hate group” and “transphobic”, is deeply misguided. Currently, anyone who asks critical questions about the impact of gender identity politics on women is accused of hating transgender people. ‘Speak Up for Women’ and their supporters are not motivated by hate. There are many implications of the Bill on those that have historically been, and still are, oppressed on the basis of their sex – and that is of course, females.

Anyone who has concerns or even simple questions about gender issues is currently labelled a ‘TERF’. This stands for “Trans exclusionary radical feminist”.

Interestingly enough, you do not need to be feminist or even a radical feminist to be called this. All you need to do is make one simple query about gender, or say something that even slightly contradicts the party line of ‘transwomen are women’.

This is a very common phrase that is also seen online and scrawled over signs at protests. Surely if the conversation is about ‘equality’ and ‘inclusion,’ ‘transmen are men’ would be equally asserted in such a manner. If you set aside the emotive hyperbole for a moment, you can see that it is biological men and their supporters who are shouting at women, harassing us and telling us that we are not welcome in our own spaces.

This abusive term ‘TERF’ is becoming increasingly common. A supporter of ‘Speak Up for Women’ has signed the Letter to MPs page with:

“I have been abused and labelled TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) by trans activists for espousing my viewpoint.”

It is incredibly difficult to have a reasonable conversation about these issues when you are constantly met with such vitriolic hostility.

Biological men are now in lesbian spaces and calling themselves lesbians – this seems like something the general public may not be aware of. If you are a young lesbian today trying to navigate your same-sex attraction, you are now told biological men can literally be women and you should be open to having intimate relationships with these biological men. If you don’t agree with these terms, you are a bigot and transphobic for not accepting biological men into your dating pool. It is a cause for great confusion and alarm that this is all now considered normal in ‘queer’ groups and spaces. Self-ID will mean that this denial of reality cannot be questioned.

It is deeply concerning that many members of the public are uninformed about this issue and are therefore likely to be influenced by the loudest voices. Activists garner some amount of public support and rally otherwise well-meaning people into supporting law change that negatively impacts on women’s rights. Given that most of the public are unaware of this issue, the purpose of ‘Speak up for Women’ is to bring these issues to the surface of public conversation in New Zealand. It is fair and reasonable to expect to have a conversation about something so important that impacts our lives in numerous ways.

Everyone has the right to live their lives as the identity that they feel most comfortable with. But this does not negate that fact that biological sex exists, and that women’s long fought for rights and protections need to be upheld in law and in society. Biological women have needs that transgender people who identify as women do not have: reproductive rights, abortion rights, and other health issues pertaining to the female sex, such as cervical cancer, for example.

Biological men also still need to retain certain sex-specific requirements. There are health issues pertaining to the male sex that cannot be ignored by identifying out of one’s sex, such as prostate cancer. If one identifies as another gender, this of course does not negate the need for sex based health care. This then raises the question: what is materially legitimate, sex or gender?

It should not be deemed to be “transphobic” or “hateful” to be concerned about the specific needs and rights of everyone pertaining to their sex. Legal protections of such need to remain clear both in law, and in the minds of the public.

The question of gender has become increasingly confusing, particularly for young people. Children are increasingly told if they do not conform to the gendered stereotypes of being a girl or a boy, that they may be the opposite sex or, similarly concerning, that they are neither a boy or a girl at all, which denies material reality. This only further complicates and confuses children in the stage of life where they are learning about their bodies, their sexual orientation, and the heavy pressures that are placed upon children from society to fit in.

All vulnerable groups should have the right to their own spaces amongst people that share a common denominator, and one of these is biological sex. Historically, women fought for the right to have single sex spaces. An example of this is the importance of women’s only refuge centres. These are places where women can feel free and safe amongst other women to be away from their abusers, to heal in a women’s only space with the guidance and support from other women. It is more than reasonable that society provides spaces and services for abused women wishing to be free from the sex that predominantly caused them the harm in the first place.

Similarly, transgender people should also have the right to such spaces, and, like every group, deserve rights and protections. But we require more public consultation, input, and knowledge regarding the solutions to issues of sex and gender so that they do not come at the cost of women’s rights.

Further, it is important that women and girls have the ability to set boundaries in their own spaces. For example, women should never be forced to share a prison cell, or a refuge with a male-bodied person because of self ID. Women need the ability to consent to this. Currently, some transgender prisoners are being held in women’s prisons in NZ.

Data obtained via an Official Information Act request (Department of Corrections response 18 October 2018) discloses that in 2017 13 inmates with a transgender alert were imprisoned in women’s prisons. That same year there were 4 instances of assaults on women inmates by inmates with a transgender alert. There were no instances of assault on transgender inmates within women’s prisons. Vulnerable women were not asked for their consent. Their right to set boundaries was secondary to male-bodied people’s feelings.

Those of us trying to raise public knowledge about this issue will not be intimidated by those wishing to bury our concerns regarding the right to a respectful conversation and consultation about sex, gender and the ‘BDMRR’ Bill with all parties affected. We will continue to ask for respectful and critical discussions regarding biological reality, women’s rights, and the specific needs of women and girls only same sex spaces in New Zealand. As such, Speak Up for Women’s Three Reasonable Demands need to be acted on immediately.

 

  1. Colour me surprised.
    Excellent breakdown of issues. And the Party Line ‘ describes it so well. 1984 hate speech new speech are one in the same thing.

    Reply

  2. 1. Cis, or biological women assault cis/bio women (including sexually) in prison all the time. Women’s prisons house women who unfortunately have committed sexual offences against women and girls outside of prison too. If you want better protections for women from assault in prison then why aren’t you putting your energy into lobbying Corrections to better protect women in prisons from ALL opportunity of assault by ANYONE?

    2. Since we’re talking reasonableness … Cases of male prisoners who are insincere about their transition and just want predatory access to women’s prisons (and yes I am aware of the Karen White case) are SO, SO rare that it does not seem either fair or reasonable to propose a blanket ban – effectively a collective punishment – on housing transwomen in women’s prisons. The law already provides for prisoners to have restricted freedoms (freedom of movement, assembly, privacy etc) so why aren’t you putting your energy into asking for some kind of minor amendment which allows a Corrections psychiatrist, or a trans advisory panel or something to assess prisoners *suspected of insincerity*, before they can change their birth certificate while behind bars? It’s such a bloody minor technicality and if you weren’t so fixated on all these other phantom problems with the Bill then you might have retained the credibility to achieve an amendment like this – which I doubt would find much opposition from the public. But you’ve alienated everyone now with your extremism.

    3. The real big major issue for our society continues to be toxic masculinity, as it is found primarily in cismen, but also in butch or transmasculine females such as myself. I do not know why you are blowing so hard on this house of straw when you have a house of bricks you could be focused on demolishing along the rest of us. It will only happen by raising masculine people differently. Raise boys and little butches not to idolise misogynist men! Raise us all not to hate or to fear that which is deemed feminine – no matter what kind of body it comes in. RAISE EVERYONE TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT CONSENT. Why are you wasting so much energy trying to invalidate trans experience and humiliate trans lives when you could be focused on these more important matters?? Arrrrgh. Thank you.

    Reply

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