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Tuesday 12 April 2016


In-Trans-Sigent: The Key administration and Transgender Rights

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 20th May 2015

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How do LGBT New Zealanders get the general public to support transgender rights concerns?

Apart from conservative or essentialist lesbians and gay men, most lesbian, gay and bisexual New Zealanders support transgender rights as a kindred movement of political solidarity. Unless they have a family member or partner who has gender dysphoria or is transitioning, one suspects that many cisgender New Zealanders don't have any similar experience and acquaintance with transgender rights rhetoric and arguments, unless they're social liberals like Young Labour. Commendably, Young Labour raised the issue at a regional party conference, although Labour leader Andrew Little's response was tepid and Napier MP Stuart Nash questioned the relevance of proposed government subsidisation of reassignment surgery to Labour's "core" values of economic equality and social justice, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman arrogantly dismissed any such policy proposal as 'nutty." In a double blow, Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges clarified that there would still be no direct addition of gender identity to the Human Rights Act 1993 under the current National-led government. Thankfully, lesbian Labour MP Louisa Wall has said that the latter at least will occur during the tenure of a future Labour/Green coalition government.

Frankly, I find Coleman's stance arrogant, kneejerk and dismissive. Canada and the United States both fund reassignment surgery under their national health insurance programmes, to name but two other 'traditional allies' of New Zealand. As for Bridges and antidiscrimination legislation, all but one Australian jurisdiction from the federal to state and territory level directly include gender identity within their anti-discrimination laws. The United Kingdom directly includes gender identity within its Equalities Act 2010. Most Canadian provinces directly include gender identity within their antidiscrimination legislation, although the federal Conservative Canadian administration of Stephen Harper is hopelessly backward on this issue. Even India, Pakistan and Malta already directly include gender identity within their respective anti-discrimination legislation (although in the case of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there are questions about how well funded these hijra-inclusive anti-discrimination laws are, and how strongly they are enforced). We are starting to lag behind the rest of the Commonwealth over transgender equality due to the Key administration's facile stance on this issue.

As for the issue of subsidising reassignment surgery, one must wonder at this government's sense of priorities. In recent news items, Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully has been accused of assisting a Saudi businessman and importer of live animals to cirumvent New Zealand animal cruelty laws, with extensive expenditure to secure that result. Yet the same government cries poverty when it comes to Relationships Aotearoa and its domestic violence prevention counselling, and subsidising reassignment surgery? Oh, please! And is this a 'distraction' from Labour's key issues of fighting poverty, economic inequality and inadequate government housing policies?

No, it isn't. It is precisely because there is no statutory inclusion of gender identity in New Zealand anti-discrimination legislation that unemployment, economic marginality, homelessness and substance abuse are particularly relevant for Maori and Pacific whakawahine and fa'afafine particularly. I note that Labour Health spokesperson Annette King has slammed Jonathan Coleman's position on this issue on Facebook and I applaud her for doing so. In addition, gender dysphoria is a legitimate medical condition, yet remedial surgery is virtually inaccessible in New Zealand after the retirement of a reassignment surgeon in Auckland recently. If this legitimate medical condition is not adequately funded and access is denied, then overseas experience suggests suicide is one possible outcome. While some middle-class professional and economically secure transwomen make it to South East Asia to access remedial surgery, others resort to sex work to pay for it.

Why is the Key administration ignoring more compassionate and inclusive centre-right individuals such as Katherine O'Regan on transgender rights? Why is it apparently taking crib notes from Canada's Harper administration, similarly obstinate over the same issues? In Canada though, at least most of its provinces do have inclusive anti discrimination laws - but unlike Canada, New Zealand is a non-federal unitary state. Why is National pandering to the likes of Family First and other unrepresentative extremist Christian Right pressure groups over these concerns, especially when Family First's 'natural law' anti-transgender propaganda is so weak and feeble and discountable by evidence-based rebuttal?

Lesbian, gay and bisexual New Zealanders need to rally behind our transgender sisters and brothers, inform ourselves about transgender rights issues and press for inclusion within anti-discrimination laws and subsidised reassignment surgery. Our government's backwardness on this issue is a matter of National disgrace.

Recommended:
Jo Moir: "Sex Change Surgery Policy "Nutty"" Stuff.co.nz: 19.05.2015: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/68670002/labour-considers-free-gender-reassignment- surgery
"Jan Logie: Nutty talk causing more harm" GayNZ.com: 20.05.2015: http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/32/article_16857. php


Craig Young - 20th May 2015

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