By Rachael Wong
Under Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Women, and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Shannon Fentiman’s new bill, a person will no longer be required to undergo sexual reassignment surgery to formally register a change of sex.
This means that men who ‘identify as women’, can change their legal sex with little more than some paper and a few strokes of a pen.
The implications for women and girls cannot be understated.
Such legislation (also known as a Self-ID law) will effectively allow men to self-identify into female-only activities, spaces and services, including sports, prisons, bathrooms, and refuges.
Some of these men may genuinely suffer from gender dysphoria and others may have ulterior motives for wanting to legally change their sex (the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls recently highlighted the potential for sexual predators to abuse such laws). In either case, women’s relative physical vulnerability and male patterns of criminality do not dissipate simply because of a piece of paper.
Concerns about dwindling, dedicated spaces for women and girls are not theoretical, and unfortunately, the examples are almost endless. Just recently, renowned author JK Rowling launched a women-only sexual violence support service in Edinburgh because there were none left that operated on a single-sex basis. This was shortly before the final vote on Scotland’s own controversial Self-ID law, which Rowling and other women’s advocates vehemently opposed.
It is not difficult to understand why women who have suffered abuse at the hands of men, may want to access a women-only service for their trauma. This should be particularly obvious for a Minister of both Women and Domestic Violence.
However, Fentiman has told women’s advocates, “I am advised that there is no evidence in Australia or internationally to suggest that trans women pose an increased danger to cisgender women.”
First, we are not ‘cisgender women’, just women. We are not a subset of our own sex class.
Second, that there is ‘no evidence’ is simply not true, and begs the question as to who exactly is providing such ‘advice’. In addition to research showing that ‘transwomen’ retain male patterns of criminality, examples of women being harmed by them in (what should be) women-only spaces abound. Just this year, we have heard stories of ‘transwomen’ raping women in women-only prisons, hospital wards and shelters.
That is not to say that all trans-identified males are rapists. They are clearly not. The reality, however, is that males are much more likely to be the perpetrators of sexual violence and females are far more likely to be victims. This does not change because the male perpetrator happens to be transgender. Gender identities do not rape women, male bodies do.
In addition to the erosion of sex-based rights for women and girls, the bill also erodes safeguards for children.
Most critically, the bill seeks to repeal s28 of the Anti-Discrimination Act, which provides that it is not unlawful to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in work involving the care or instruction of minors, in order to protect their wellbeing. As we’ve seen in places like the UK and Western Australia, this would see the removal of protections against trans-identified males working in organisations like Girl Guides and for example, sharing accommodation and changing facilities with young girls.
Section 40 of the bill also pits children against their parents and parents against one another by allowing children under 16 to change their registered sex with the permission of one parent only, or without any parental permission at all in certain circumstances. And as University of Queensland Emeritus Law Professor Patrick Parkinson notes in his submission on the bill:
“The legislation will also have an adverse impact on children and adolescents who have neurobiological disorders or are mentally very unwell, and who may embrace a transgender identification to gain notice or popularity. Legal registration as a sex other than their natal sex may concretise what would otherwise be a transient and relatively harmless identification beneath the broad transgender umbrella.”
“[The Queensland Government] is bringing this legislation forward at the very time when the serious harms to vulnerable children, adolescents and young adults that result from the ideas being advanced by a tiny minority of LGBTQ+ advocates are becoming increasingly clear. The legislation will exacerbate those harms.”
In addition to the harms posed to women and children, the legislation puts at risk the freedom of speech and conscience of all Queenslanders who may not be comfortable calling a man a woman and treating him as such.
Almost more concerning than the bill itself, has been the concerted effort to ignore and silence women who oppose the legislation, both by trans activists and Fentiman.
For example, women’s social app founder Sall Grover asked to meet with Fentiman after the Minister said she would be talking to all stakeholders. Despite Grover being both a woman who lives in Queensland and a woman who runs a business for women, Fentiman not only refused to meet with her, she also – incredibly – blocked her emails. Other women’s advocates and groups were similarly refused meetings. Even worse, submissions on the bill are due 11 January – when many people will be away on holiday.
An ABC interview with Grover about the Fentiman saga was also cancelled after trans activists accused the ABC of bias, and the host of ‘liking’ videos of trans porn (which he denies doing). Fabricated screenshots were also uncovered of Grover liking porn, indicating that it was all likely set up to sabotage the interview and silence her.
Fentiman has said that the bill “will bring Queensland into line with most other jurisdictions”. But given the way ‘consultation’ is unfolding in Queensland – were women in those jurisdictions really consulted? Is the erasure of sex and corresponding protections really what they wanted?
The bill elevates gender identity over biological reality, women’s and children’s safety, and common sense. It is extraordinarily disappointing that it has been introduced by a woman, the ‘Minister for Women’, no less.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia
**Make a submission on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill here**
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