Parliament is considering a law change to allow people to change their sex on their birth certificates by simply filling out a form. If the law is passed there will be no requirement to show any proof of living as the opposite sex. When people have raised concerns about the possibility that this could be abused by predatory males (demanding access to female changing rooms, public toilets, women’s refuges, being housed in women’s prisons etc) they have been attacked with slander, threats and slurs by some strident transactivists. The transactivist campaign has been grotesquely authoritarian, energetically censoring, de-platforming, and hounding those who even question the implications of these changes.
We reprint below an article by Renee Gerlich, a feminist, activist and writer, who has been raising concerns and calling for a proper consultation before any change is made that can impact the rights of women. The article was published on Scoop Media on May 28 this year, and then taken down some time later. Scoop editors Joe Cederwall and director Alastair Thompson had removed it without consulting Renee. She was never given any satisfactory explanation of why her article was censored (see here).
Green Party sex self-identification proposals are “transphobic”
by Renee Gerlich
The government is currently discussing submissions on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration (BDMRR) Bill. Preliminary hearings have made it appear that this bill largely affects cremation law and updates the existing BDMRR Act by digitising and making historic documents and family genealogy more accessible. Public submissions, however, overwhelmingly emphasise gender identity. The current BDMRR Act allows individuals to change the sex marker on identification papers, like birth certificates – many submitters want this process to be made easier.
Organisations from the Green Party to the Human Rights Commission, Young Labour, Rainbow Youth, the Law Society and “Parents and Caregivers of Transgender Children” want to see barriers removed from the process of changing the sex marker on one’s birth certificate. They want the BDMRR Act amended so that birth certificates can be modified without cost or court procedures. It is claimed that this would be in the interests of “documents with dignity” and “transgender rights”. I argue that while the falsification of historic documents and identification papers may appeal to some trans-identified individuals on a personal level, it is not in the interests of trans-identified people as a group. In fact, proposals that erase evidence of gender transition to conflate it with biological sex can easily be viewed as “transphobic”, to use the language of transactivism, since they involve a refusal to confront the realities of gender transition in favour of systematic invisibility.
Anyone promoting these amendments needs to think carefully about who exactly is served when evidence of gender transition is erased from the record.
Transactivists work hard to draw attention to the needs and harms that are particular to, or magnified among, trans-identified people. This involves drawing a distinction between those who are “transgender” and either feel they were born in the wrong body or simply “assigned” the wrong sex at birth – and those who don’t identify as a different sex to their birth sex. The latter are called “cis” people, and transactivists often lament living within a “cisnormative” society in which the majority of people do not understand the special needs of those who are trans-identified. All of the effort transactivists exert to create awareness of these distinctions is erased by those who suggest that identification papers be modified to remove evidence of gender transition. This amounts to the conflation of being “transgender” with being “cisgender”.
Those who identify as transwomen work hard to make clear the distinctions between themselves, and biological females. Neither group are served by the conflation of the two.
If organisations like the Green Party have their way, someone who was born biologically male, and then underwent hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery because they identify as a woman, will be able to change their documentation so that it appears they were born biologically female. This erases evidence of any gender transition having taken place. Some individuals may find this personally validating, and that is understandable – our personal choices most often do not account for social trends and patterns. But government, and legislation, must be socially responsible and must account for these. The falsification of documents will not help the government assess and cater to the needs of New Zealanders who are trans-identified. While it may make some people “feel good” to be able to change their identification papers to match their inner feelings, in reality, this will only invisibilise trans-identified people.
At a candlelight vigil for Zena Campbell, Green MP Jan Logie stated that “a lot more work needs to be done about violence towards New Zealand’s gender minorities.” Transactivists often lament being disproportionately targeted with bullying and violence, and while these claims do require more analysis and investigation, there is no doubt that transgenderism is closely associated with harm, dysphoria and with intense suffering. The 2012 New Zealand Adolescent Health Survey reported that depression rates for teenagers who identify as transgender are around 40 percent, with 20 percent attempting suicide. The falsification of historic documents, identification papers – and census records – is going to complicate and in many cases preclude proper evaluation of these harms and the prevent appropriate design and funding of services to address those harms.
The reason why many people promote the falsification of documentation as a solution, is that they prefer to deny the realities of gender transition in preference of making false claims about birth sex. This is grossly irresponsible, and also conflates the very two categories that transactivists always seek to distinguish: “trans” and “cis”. Indeed, if there is such a thing as “transphobia”, then this is what it looks like. The determined denial of, fear of, and refusal to confront the reality of gender transition. If any among us are “transphobic”, it is those who are calling for evidence of gender transition to be erased through the falsification of historic documents and identification papers.
The consequences of this “transphobia” will indeed be indefinite. While the accusation of “transphobia” is often used to point out so-called “micro-aggressions”, such as the knitting of pussy hats or baking of vulva-shaped cupcakes for a Womensfest – the refusal to acknowledge the reality of gender transition at a legislative level is much more systematic. The impacts of “transphobia” on this scale will indeed be dramatic, and indeed affect all women, as well as men.
For example: male suicide rates are significantly higher than female. It is quite possible that they are even higher among males who go through the pain, dysphoria and trauma of gender transition. If that is the case, but documents are falsified, suicide among this section of the population will be registered as neither male, nor “trans”, but female. As a result, female suicide rates will appear to increase. In other words, the problem will appear to be very different than it really is, and it will be difficult to get to the bottom of and address. Correlations between suicide and gender identity – either as it is experienced inherently, or as it is responded to socially – will be buried more deeply and harder to point to.
Reporting of male violence in general will becomine increasingly distorted. Already there have been numerous reports from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand of male violence as having been committed by a “female”. Given that many trans-identified people lament being on the receiving end of male violence, it is not in their interests – and certainly not in women’s – for male violence to be increasingly reported as perpetrated by females. This will distort our understandings of both the real situation and what we need to do about it.
It is also well documented by now that a large proportion of women who opt for gender transition are lesbian, and that there is a strong correlation with anorexia, another symptom of dysphoria. The falsification of documents will mean that “men” will slowly appear to be experiencing anorexia in greater numbers. A greater number of them will appear to have been sexually abused, too, since one in three women are sexually abused and abusers do not take identification into account.
Men will also, increasingly, have different reproductive requirements. This is something that Otago University students have been drawing attention to recently, covering campus in “Boys Bleed Too” stickers during Period Week (called Period Week because Women’s Week was too exclusive). Men, apparently, require sanitary products. Midwifery is beginning to be considered a men’s issue, as is abortion. This will mean that women will no longer be able to complain when it is men making decisions about the legal status of abortion, for instance, or the funding midwives. Women will no longer be able to complain about men making decisions on any issue previously understood as sex-based.
Women who still need sex-based protections despite their identification may be denied access. Females who identify as men still risk being targets for assault because of their sex – but should they have access to Women’s Refuge services? How does a Women’s Refuge respond to a woman who claims to be a male, born male, with a birth certificate confirming she is male? Will trans-identified women be turned away from Women’s Refuges and safehouses if they need them? Will we need Men’s Refuges – will they be safe there?
If they won’t be turned away – why? Is that because we know that they are really female – and if we do, why should we lie about that in legislation? Or do we simply believe that Women’s Refuges should cater to both sexes – and if so, why should women’s services, which are ever-underfunded, be so accommodating in a misogynist world?
Consider too, that self-identification has also not been shown to reduce male pattern violence. That means that males who identify as women are just as likely to commit violence against women as the general male population. Allowing these people into female-only spaces – schools, safehouses, prisons – means lumping women with the risk. Legislation that allows for the falsification of identification papers, therefore, puts women at risk and promotes the eviction of women from female-only spaces in favour of men who may or may not be perpetrators of violence against women.
The fact that these proposals are taking place without any kind of robust debate or discussion is misogynist, but it also gives the lie to any pretense at “trans inclusivity”. Promoting the erasure of evidence of gender transition does not promote inclusion of any kind, or an end to the male violence that trans-identified people also suffer from. As a proposed solution, falsifying identification papers is cowardly, ignorant and socially irresponsible.
No individual or social ill is remedied by a refusal to examine it honestly. The Green Party must back down on its promotion of dishonest legislative amendments. They are failing women by undermining of sex-based protections, and they are failing the trans-identified people they claim to represent, also.
For more articles by Renee Gerlich see her website https://reneejg.net/