Do you know anyone who is either male or female? I mean, unambiguously male or female?
You know - of the male sex, or the female sex? I’m not talking about people with personality traits that are wholly ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, because no-one is a walking sex stereotype. I’m talking about physical sex. There are humans that produce ova and can bear offspring (‘females’) and there are also other humans who produce gametes that can fertilise female ova (‘males’).
It’s called ‘sexual reproduction’ and it’s how all humans reproduce.
So, do you know any of these people - of the male reproductive sex or the female reproductive sex?
Robin Banks, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner told me she doesn’t know anyone who is unambiguously male or female – in a meeting I had with her back in June this year.
Are you surprised? I was. After all, she is human - where did she come from if not from the body of a female person?
I have made a formal complaint of discrimination against Robin Banks and her staffer Leica Wagner, in light of conduct that occurred at that same meeting in June this year. Usually, such a complaint would be made through Equal Opportunity Tasmania (EOT) and the office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, but given the circumstances, the complaint has been made directly to the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Vanessa Goodwin, as the minister responsible for the administration of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1999 (TAS).
So, what is this complaint all about? Did I really make a complaint because she denied knowing anyone who is male or female?
No, there’s more to it than that. Let me explain.
In February this year Robin Banks called for public comment on the EOT Options Paper ‘The legal recognition of sex and gender diversity in Tasmania’, regarding her recommendations for reform of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
One of the recommendations in the Options Paper is to allow any person to ‘self-identify’ the sex marker on their birth certificate, regardless of whether or not they have undergone any cross-sex hormone treatment or sex-reassignment surgery, or even what is called ‘social transition’ – where a person changes their sex-pronouns and in some fashion presents themselves to the world as the opposite sex.
Upon reading Banks’ recommendations, all members of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), a women’s activist group of which I am a part, could immediately foresee several negative impacts on the rights of women and girls to privacy, safety and sex-equality.
As women who would be affected by these proposals we wished to make a comment on the Options Paper, but there were a number of things about the Options Paper that obscured the practical impact of the proposal. First, it contained contradictions in its use of the terms ‘sex’, ‘gender’ and ‘gender identity’ when compared to the definitions provided in the glossary section, as well as unsubstantiated claims regarding the proposed law’s consistency with anti-discrimination legislation.
The paper also made no mention of the impact of the proposed changes on women and girls.
So, WoLF emailed the contact person at EOT responsible for consulting with the public on the Options Paper, policy officer Leica Wagner.
Ms Wagner failed to directly and clearly answer what we thought were straightforward and reasonable questions, such as -
1. Have you used the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ synonymously in the Options Paper?
2. How are your recommendations consistent with the Anti-Discrimination Act, as claimed but not explained in the Options Paper?
3. How will EOT manage potential conflicts between the proposed changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act and the ability of women and girls to utilise exemptions under the Anti-Discrimination Act to exclude males from certain activities, services and spaces?
In response to the third question – Wagner did not even attempt to answer, but suggested we outline our concerns in a formal submission, which we did.
Our full submission is publicly available ( see http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/pr-article/mps-warned-over-leg-proposals-attack-on-womens-rights/ ) for anyone who wishes to read about our concerns in detail. In short, WoLF’s major concern is that if males are able to become legally indistinguishable from females, women and girls will have no legal right to establish female-only spaces and services, such as domestic violence shelters, sports teams or schools.
Girls will have to share change rooms with boys (who ‘identify as girls’).
Women will be locked up in prisons with men (who ‘identify as women’).
Neither women or men will have the right to request the services of a same-sex professional to take care of their intimate needs such as toileting, showering and dressing, should they need it.
There are dozens of other examples that need to be considered, but it is sufficient to note that these important rights under current Australian human rights laws could become void.
So, back to the meeting in June. I met with Banks and Wagner because our questions had remained unanswered and I thought it more likely to get a direct and honest response if I asked in person. WoLF’s interest in pursuing a response from Banks to our questions about the proposals was to clarify, in the public interest, the practical impact of her recommendations for law reform. Unfortunately, and due to unforeseen circumstances, I was the sole representative of WoLF attending this meeting, but I was unconcerned. I expected a civil discussion, not the hostility I encountered.
Banks and Wagner, it seems, were prepared for combat. They seemed intent on refuting every point I raised. As well as claiming she knows no-one who is unambiguously male or female, Banks also insisted that ‘violence against women is not discrimination’ while she and Wagner both repeatedly refuted the existence of sex-discrimination protections in Tasmania.
Perhaps they don’t know that the Sex-Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) applies in every state and territory in the country? Or did I miss Tasmania’s emancipation from Australia?
I wonder how Banks would respond to what the Australian Human Rights Commission, the public body responsible for taking complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act, says about Banks’ statement that ‘violence against women is not discrimination’ – because clearly, they disagree.
Not only did Banks and Wagner display at best, an ignorance of, and at worst, a disdain for, the concept of systemic sex discrimination – they engaged in sex-discriminatory conduct themselves, in my view.
Banks and Wagner attempted to discredit the input of WoLF on the basis that I am (in Banks’ view) a ‘cis-woman’. What Banks presumably meant by this term is that I am a person of the female sex, who ‘identifies as’ being of the female sex. In other words, I do not ‘identify as’ transgender.
For Banks, my views are not relevant because I am female and I know I am female.
And while the female members of WoLF experienced derision, dismissal and ridicule for our contribution to comments on the Options Paper, Banks and Wagner expressed great interest in hearing from males who ‘identify as female’ and who possibly agreed with our perspective.
‘I’d love to hear from them’, said Wagner.
The bullying and attempts at intimidation were astounding, in my view.
Wagner referred to the views of WoLF as ‘bigoted and small-minded’. The Commissioner did not ask her staff member to desist with this name-calling but instead joined in, responding to my concerns for women’s safety with comments like, ‘What world do you live in?!’ and ‘Oh, this will be good’ as I attempted to raise issues with their proposals. Banks’ behaviour was consistent throughout the meeting. She refused to engage with the issues at hand, preferring instead to employ ridicule as a way of intimidating me.
I probably should not have been surprised about this – it is typical of proponents of the ‘gender identity’ narrative to seek to silence women rather than engage with their legitimate concerns.
See for example:
• ‘Censored by Transpolitics’ - https://bannedbytrans.wordpress.com/masterpost/
• ‘Women Speak Out – Press Conference’ - https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/women-speak-out-press-conference-thursday-june-16/
It is also typical of such proponents to deny the existence of research indicating that males who ‘identify as women’ commit the same rates of violent crime as the wider male population ( see http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016885 ) or, as Leica Wagner did at our meeting, claim there is not a single reported case of a male person who ‘identifies as female’ assaulting a woman in a sex-segregated space. Evidence to the contrary was sent to Banks at Wagner since our meeting as they claimed to be unaware of the hundreds of reported incidents, many of which can be found with a simple Google search.
See a list of reported cases compiled here - http://appropriately-inappropriate.tumblr.com/post/143065193655/the-tip-of-the-iceberg-please-add-to-this-list .
In our meeting I alerted Banks and Wagner to the phenomenon of the ‘Cotton Ceiling’.
The ‘Cotton’ of the Cotton Ceiling refers to the underwear of lesbian women. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may wish to skim over the following paragraph.
Some men who ‘identify as women’ and are sexually attracted to women consider themselves to be ‘lesbians’. They believe themselves to be ‘female’ in every sense of the word, and therefore it is unreasonable prejudice for lesbian women to reject them as potential sexual partners. They believe that in order to achieve full ‘trans equality’ they need to ‘break through’ the cotton ceiling. That’s right, they need to break through the underwear of lesbian women in order for their identities as ‘female’ and ‘lesbian’ to be fully affirmed and respected.
Thankfully, Banks and Wagner appeared horrified at this development in trans ideology. When I asked Banks for her response – she claimed to be hearing of it for the first time - she said she was ‘astounded’. And it truly is astounding - that homosexual women are being pressured into having sex with men wanting to ‘affirm their identities’ as women.
Just last week, I asked Corey Irlam, co-convener of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby whether he thought it was ‘transphobic’ for a lesbian to categorically reject males as potential sexual partners.
His response – ‘Whether it’s phobic to reject trans women is for others to judge’.
For others to judge?
When a Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says that it is ‘for others to judge’ whether being a same-sex attracted female can be ‘transphobic’, you really need to question whether women’s rights are put at risk by this ideology. Where are all the LGBTI ‘allies’? Apparently the ‘L’ doesn’t matter, or at the very least takes second place to the rights of the ‘T’.
Banks and Wagner denied that allowing males to become legally indistinguishable from females contributed to this culture of sexual harassment of same-sex attracted women. I am relieved Banks and Wagner seemed appalled by what is happening to lesbian women - but I think it’s intellectually dishonest to outright refute that the ideology informing their recommendations is aligned with the ideology creating this culture of harassment. It is after all, the logical conclusion of the mantra ‘transwomen are women’.
Banks demanded answers from me about my views on same-sex marriage, same-sex parents on birth certificates and the proposals to change the anti-discrimination act to allow for the defence of religious purposes. I told her I would not engage with those questions because it was not the purpose of our meeting and they were separate issues. ‘How are they separate?!, Banks and Wagner asked.
How are they the same?
This is another common trope of ‘gender identity’ proponents – to try to characterise all opposition to the idea that ‘gender identity’ is equivalent to ‘sex’ as coming from a position of political and social conservatism, or religious (read Christian) belief. Banks and Wagner, to me, readily put WoLF in the same camp as those who oppose legal protection for homosexuality or same-sex marriage.
Don’t they know it is possible for more than two views to exist on political issues. Maybe these so-called ‘progressives’ who are on the gender identity bandwagon will understand this -
‘Politics is not a binary’.
When debating men’s rights activists in the transgender movement, I don’t necessarily expect intellectual honesty or a thorough, honest analysis of the legal impact of law reform, or freedom from gas lighting and name-calling, or sincere engagement with the issue of women’s rights. I DO expect these things of an Anti-Discrimination Commissioner whose role it is to promote ‘acceptable attitudes, acts and practices relating to discrimination’ and make recommendations on matters relating to discrimination law.
Robin Banks reported to Vanessa Goodwin in June that she would likely have her final report complete by early to mid-July 2016.
There is no sign of it yet.
*Tessa Anne is a radical feminist activist, working the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) and the Nordic Model in Australia Coalition (NORMAC). In her spare time Tessa is completing a law degree at Macquarie University. Tessa loves dogs, libraries and every courageous woman and girl fighting against male domination.
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