Gender critical women who have always voted for left-wing parties are now finding themselves politically homeless as the parties they traditionally supported are shutting down debate on gender ideology. At the same time, the growing agitation over conflicts between newly-crafted transgender rights and long-established women’s rights is uniting women from across the political spectrum to stand up in unison to defend their common cause.
Previously left-voting gender critical women already know not to expect a fair hearing from the Greens. As Professor Bronwyn Winter remarked at a recent (highly protested) conference in Tasmania on the subject of “Gender Identity in Law”: “We know that the Greens are pretty much captured by gender ideology.” After a furore sparked by comments from Melbourne Greens Councillor Rohan Leppert a couple of weeks ago, there is now no room for doubt that Winter is correct.
The trouble started when comments made by Leppert in a Private Facebook group were leaked outside the group and began circulating on Twitter. As The Age reported:
The reaction on Twitter was swift. Cr Leppert, who is gay, was labelled transphobic. Some called for him to be expelled from the Greens.
An open letter signed by 300 members of the party, called on the Greens’ leadership to denounce Leppert’s views and Greens Leader Adam Bandt responded by reaffirming the Greens’ position: “trans rights are non-negotiable”.
That leaves women who take issue with the gender ideology on which “trans rights” relies – an ideology that denies the biological and social reality of sex and replaces it with an imagined construct of gender – out in the cold.
What can Leppert possibly have said to spark so much outrage?
It turns out that he expressed concern that Victoria’s Change and Suppression (Conversion Practices) Prohibition Act 2021 might have the effect of criminalising doctors and therapists who depart from the controversial “affirmation only” approach to gender-questioning youth. As Paul Sakkal, reporting for The Age, explains:
He cited the example of a friend who he said “escape[d]” the process of transitioning after realising they were more comfortable living as a lesbian woman.
‘Many others in my age bracket who experienced gender dysphoria when puberty hit before discovering that they were lesbians much later … all genuinely worry that girls in a similar situation today are being told they are trans,’ he wrote. ‘I don’t think women who raise concerns about those consequences are hateful.
‘I have not argued for denying medical treatment to all children… My concerns are with an affirmation ONLY approach, and criminalising the alternatives.
‘The law in Victoria may have been constructed in a way that will result in an excessive diagnosis of gender dysphoria and prescription of puberty blockers, HRT and surgery, increasing the phenomenon of de-transitioning in future.’
Women’s Forum Australia has commented on the problems arising with the psychology-free approach to gender transitioning for children here, here, here, here and here and Leppert’s analysis of the problems that will inevitably arise from Victoria’s new law is entirely correct.
Informal reports are already circulating of psychologists who say they now refuse to take on gender dysphoric patients. They fear, not unreasonably, that perfectly correct talk therapy might result in investigations, fines, loss of their professional license and even jail terms. Who can blame them for refusing to take the risk? Professor Patrick Parkinson has expressed the view that, rather than helping LGBTIQ+ individuals, this law is very likely to increase the number of suicides for this already-vulnerable population.
In this way, Victoria’s Parliament, which ostensibly intended to protect the interests of vulnerable LGBTIQ+ people, has delivered a law that marks certain subjects “off limits” even for private discussion, and therefore constrains LGBTIQ+ access to much-needed counselling services. This example only underscores the importance of open and robust discussion in crafting good law and public policy and the problems that arise when debate is suppressed. In the long term, bad law is infinitely more harmful than even heated debate.
Particularly since the same-sex marriage plebiscite, radical activists have been arguing that some topics are just too dangerous for public discussion. As Leppert found out, any policies that touch on “trans rights” have been prescribed as “off limits” and those boundaries are heavily policed:
“My point on Tuesday – that even discussing this issue is construed as hateful – was instantly proved by the hyperbole that followed…This isn’t about me, it’s about whether we can discuss a fast-changing policy area that affects individuals very deeply.”
Leppert rejected “the absurd allegations of bigotry, or [claims] that I support conversion therapy or oppression”, instead insisting that:
“I don’t believe that sex and gender is a special category of policy not allowed to be discussed. Gender affects all of us. Where there are perceived or real conflicts between sex-based and gender-based rights, it is the job of parties seeking legislative power to understand them.”
Apparently there are many among the Greens membership who agree with Leppert’s simple assertion that “we’ve got to find a way to discuss this stuff”. He has been overwhelmed with messages of support. How many of these members will find themselves, like Winter, politically homeless faced with a party leadership that refuses to hear their concerns? And why should traditionally left-voting women continue to vote for a political party that refuses to represent their interests, or even hear what they have to say?
What began for Leppert as a series of carefully-worded comments about the law ended with a plea for the freedom even to broach that particular topic. The suppression of speech also formed one of the central themes of the Gender Identity in Law conference. As Winter explained in her opening address:
“We are … facing the worst excesses of cancel culture, which has intimidated many into not speaking out or forces them to do so under cover of anonymity.”
The problem extends beyond the suppression of particular debates. Winter pointed out that even efforts to alert the political class and the population to the fact that there are issues to be debated is being frustrated by the suppression of free speech. If gender ideology is off limits today, what else might be off limits next week? And who decides?
Like gender, the issue of free speech affects us all.
It is this common ground that appears to be causing a shift in previous political allegiance and promoting a new unity among women and men, straight, gay or bisexual, religious and not religious and from all sides of politics who now agree on at least two things: the importance of recognising the social and biological reality of sex differences between men and women and the right to speak freely on political issues.
Perhaps gender ideology will prove the catalyst for uniting politically diverse women as no other issue has since the suffragettes campaigned for the vote. Thanks to them, modern women are assured that we still have one important way of making our voices heard and that is at the ballot box. As Winter advised those assembled in Hobart for her conference: “use your votes wisely next time”. It is good advice.
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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