by Daphna Whitmore
The Speak Up for Women public event on 26 February in Auckland marked a turning point. For several years a growing number of progressive people have been raising concerns about women’s rights being undermined by an aggressive transgender ideology that seeks to redefine women to include men who self-identify as women.
All attempts to open a discussion with parliamentarians around the Birth Deaths and Marriages Bill (BDMRR) that would allow people to change the sex on their birth certificate by simply filling out a form on line were met by censorship and silencing. “This is not up for discussion” is the slogan Green MP Jan Logie keeps rolling out. ‘Transphobe’ and ‘bigot’ were the slurs commonly used as a silencing tactics. While the Greens were nailing their colours to the mast of transgenderism there has been deafening silence from the other parties.
Speak Up for Women have run a grassroots campaign with a large network of people around the country. Many of Speak Up’s activists have protected their identities to avoid facing verbal abuse, social isolation, loss of employment and other forms of harassment.
After years of vilification those who have campaigned for women’s rights to be upheld have achieved a breakthrough and the government has agreed to put the change on hold to allow time for public submissions.
Trans activists tried to get the Speak Up event in Auckland closed and made repeated complaints to the venue owners (the City Council) and threatened to hold a protest demonstration. The Council did not give in to their demands, the venue booking was not revoked, and no demonstration eventuated.
A line-up of speakers presented intelligent, reasoned discussion on the rights of women and the rights of transgender people.
The event was opened by Speak Up’s spokesperson Ani O’Brien. She relayed the struggle involved in getting women recognised as stakeholders in this debate, and the slurs and attacks made against women. She conveyed widely held disappointment in the Green Party and recognition of NZ First MP Tracey Martin in finally acknowledging the need for consultation.
Labour MP Louisa Wall who has vigorously supported sex self-ID, and famously swore that she didn’t want “any f***ing TERFS” (a slur against gender-critical feminists) at Pride parade, was gracious enough to come to the meeting and speak. She conceded that the self-ID clause had been put into the Bill after submissions from the public had closed and that there had not been public consultation.
The keynote speaker of the night was Alison Heather, a professor in physiology at Otago University, specialising in sports. She explained the multiple effects of testosterone in male foetal development and that these hormonal effects do not diminish later in life. She noted that the Olympic Committee’s rule that transwomen athletes need to have testosterone levels under 10nmol/L – compared to women who typically have testosterone levels of under 1nmol/L – was unfair. Not only was testosterone of 10nmol/L for transwomen much higher than women’s levels, six months of lower testosterone saw no loss of muscle size or strength. It took several years before that changed, and still many physical advantages remained (I have outlined these in the article Trans ideology is bollocks; see also In defence of women’ sports).
Two speakers from the UK joined the meeting via video-link. The first was Rosa Freedman, a Professor in Law who specialises in Human Rights. Rosa outlined the basis of human rights principles and made very constructive suggestions for a way forward, such as separate female-sex spaces, and gender spaces – so women could chose whether to go to a female space or a trans/women space.
Barrister Julian Norman spoke on the importance of rights for women and girls. “Women have rights. That includes not having to explain themselves if they need access to single-sex services and spaces”.
During question time a real life situation showed why women must be central to this discussion. A woman making an ACC claim for sex abuse she suffered as a child who had requested a female assessor to deal with her case was instead assigned a transwoman, who was dressed in an overly sexualised way. She described her experience as traumatic and had emailed Louisa Wall about it. She asked the MP why she did not respond. The first question Louisa asked her was if she was one of her constituents and went on to say that transwomen have the right to employment, which of course they do, but not at the exclusion of same-sex provisions. This was after both lawyers had spoken about about how women should not have to explain why they had rights and that, in some situations, it was proportionate to exclude males to achieve a legitimate aim – for example, to preserve a female’s right to dignity and privacy.
There were interesting exchanges in discussions after the event. A woman from Portugal said they were too scared to challenge self-ID being rammed through there, and she was astounded that people reference her country as a good example with no negative consequences. It has only been 6 months since Portugal made the changes and no monitoring of consequences are taking place.
Since the announcement of a consultation process Jan Logie has claimed the deferment of the BDMRR Bill is “rolling back rights”. Speak Up’s campaign manager Jenny White pointed out on twitter:
“this framing about ‘rolling back rights’ is untrue and disingenuous. You and your party ran a bad political process to try to get these changes made without considering impacts for any other vulnerable people in society. Trying to blame other people for your poor process is irresponsible. A better approach would be to put your hand up and acknowledge the valid concerns SpeakUpForWomen raised and that the government has echoed in their entirety in withdrawing the bill.”
The Speak Up event was filmed and can be viewed here.