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Tuesday 14 April 2015

Comment: One Step Forward...

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 8th October 2013

Transgender rights appear to have become the frontline of LGBT political initiatives in this country, with several issues currently in progress. If it can be called "progress" in the case of the Manukau anti-sexworker bill, that is.

Unsurprisingly (or perhaps not), given dissension reportedly within the Local Government and Environment select committee, the Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill has been deferred for its second reading yet again, from 30th September to 23 March 2014.

Enough of this! I would suggest that any LGBT Labour supporters contact their local MPs and the parliamentary leadership and get them to pressure Labour's erstwhile  MP Ross Robertson to withdraw this legislation once and for all. If Maryan Street has had to withdraw the End of Life Choices Bill, then exactly the same thing should happen in this instance. And hopefully it will, if enough pressure is applied to Labour to get it to do so. That will only leave the obnoxious Asenati Lole-Taylor, but then happily, New Zealand First's parliamentary survival in 2014 is far from assured. 

On a much happier note, after a long period of joint pressure from Transsexuals of New Zealand, Queer Avengers, the Auckland University Equal Justice Project and the indefatigable Kelly Ellis, the Department of Corrections has finally agreed to adjust its transgender prisoner placement policy. From now on, transgender prisoners will be placed in gender-appropriate prison facilities, which will mean that transitioning MTF transsexual prisoners will no longer be housed in grossly inappropriate facilities that often resulted in sexual assault and violation. 

Unfortunately, that's only half the issue won, as the Equal Justice Project also wanted the Department to address the situation of transitioning prisoners and hormone access.  As EJP correctly notes, gender dysphoria is a medical condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. While current corrections policy allows ongoing transitioning prisoners to receive hormone treatment out of their own pocket, prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria while incarcerated cannot start to do so.

EJP argues for adjustment of this policy as well, with transitioning prisoners being publically funded, while newly diagnosed prisoners should be able to start transitioning. There may need to be stronger emphasis on what happens if access to hormonal treatment is denied in this context. Surely it is deeply suspect to deny essential medical treatment to prisoners under New Zealand human rights legislation, as well as within our assented international treaties on prisoners rights and human rights?

Finally, there's a third dilemma. The Auckland District Health Board has just advised its Trans Clinic, run by the Auckland Sexual Health Service, that it is to close, which will leave Auckland's transsexual community without direct access to clinical services for new diagnoses and transitioning in this context.

New Zealand's transgender rights groups are understandably angry at the ADHB's decision and are planning to take the issue to the Opposition's health spokespeople, the Human Rights Commission and Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, given that many poorer community members are unable to visit private gender clinics within Australia due to the expense of transitioning within the private health sector. 

This leaves us with several questions about current events. It's all very well to assume that merely because apart from comprehensive anti-bullying legislation and perennial concerns around HIV and STI prevention, lesbian and gay concerns have mostly been addressed in the legislative arena, we should abandon further intensive legislative and policy focus. Not until there is comprehensive recognition of the rights and needs of transgender New Zealanders within New Zealand law and public policy.

Craig Young - 8th October 2013

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