Guest Post: TERFs, Transphobes, and “Haters”: How Labour and Green MPs are attacking democracy

A guest post by Kara Isaac:

When I started writing this, it didn’t have my name on it. Why? To protect my career, to protect my family, to try and protect myself from the online harassment, bullying, smears, and lies currently being spread by supporters of sex self-ID in New Zealand. Specifically, some Green and Labour MPs and the gender ideology activists that support them.

But that’s changed because I will no longer hide while Beth Johnson, Daphna Whitmore, Ro Edge, and other courageous women from Speak Up For Women (SUFW) and Save Women’s Sports Australasia continue be the targets of sexist and misogynistic attacks, mistruths, and defamatory comments, which they have endured for three years. Why? Because they think that sometimes biological sex matters in life and in law and that women and girls’ sex-based spaces, facilities, services, sports, and opportunities should be protected.

The Governance and Administration Select Committee is currently hearing oral submissions on the Inquiry into Supplementary Order Paper 59 on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill 

It sounds like the dullest of dull pieces of government business. It is anything but. This SOP will remove the current Family Court process for changing sex on a person’s birth certificate and instead allow any person to be able to change their sex by self-declaration, without any verification of their authenticity or legitimacy.

In 2019, the Select Committee tried to slip in sex self-ID after public consultation on the Bill had closed. That was stopped by Hon Tracey Martin after she received Crown Law advice that raised a number of policy and legal issues. This time, in their attempt to get sex self-ID through with the least possible attention, the Select Committee opened and closed consultation in less than three weeks (NZ standard 4-6 weeks, in the UK the consultation period on the equivalent legislation was four months). The entire public consultation period was while the country was in a COVID-19 lockdown. 

Despite this over 6,600 submissions were received and initial analysis is that approximately 70% of submitters are opposed to the sex self-ID proposals in the SOP.

Regardless of your views on sex self-ID, Labour and Green MPs are harming democracy

Select Committees are supposed to be a place where MPs across Parliament listen to members of the public and genuinely seek to make laws better, or at least understand peoples’ views on proposed legislation. It is often the only opportunity the public have to be included in the law making process. Information about appearing before a Select Committee on Parliament’s website states, Making an oral submission to a Select Committee at Parliament doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience, even if it’s your first time,” “Don’t feel nervous” and “Everyone here is really interested in what you have to say.”

On Wednesday, 23 September, Beth Johnson, on behalf of Speak Up for Women, presented on their written submission.

During her submission Deborah Russell and Rachel Boyack can be seen openly smirking and laughing. When it came to questions, Ms. Johnson wasn’t asked a single question about the content of SUFW’s submission or the concerns it raised. Instead Deborah Russell, Elizabeth Kerekere, and Rachel Boyack challenged SUFWs right to submit, asserted her submission was “transphobic”, and grilled Ms. Johnson about whether she knew about the Women’s Refuge transgender policy for reasons that remain unclear. 

This wasn’t a one-off. As people spoke to their submissions that entire day Deborah Russell, Elizabeth Kerekere, Rachel Boyack, and Louisa Wall gushed over and praised submitters who support of sex self-identification and lectured, patronized, belittled, and sneered at those who oppose it.  And then came this Facebook post…

Let’s unpack what Dr Kerekere says here:

  1. She infers that anyone opposing either the Conversion Therapy or BDMRR sex-self ID SOP wants people in the rainbow community to be hurt;
  2. She states that groups opposing sex self-ID are “anti-trans hate groups”;
  3. She then posts a link to an article about SUFW’s oral submission and a screenshot that clearly shows the name and photo of Beth Johnson, a private citizen, making her a target of harassment and abuse; and
  4. Says anyone who opposes sex self-ID are “haters” and “transphobic” who deny the humanity of trans people.

As per usual, Dr Kerekere talks about “misinformation and debunked research” but she has never, not once, provided a detailed rebuttal to support her claims. Instead she retreats back to simply representing any concerns that she doesn’t like as “transphobic” in an attempt to shut down discussion and debate, and intimidate others from engaging in democracy.

Not only is the use of her platform as an MP to bully members of the public breath taking but so is the cognitive dissonance given that in her own thesis she states on page 82 that: “There is not yet evidence that Maori had diverse gender identities or that takatapui played specific roles in pre-colonial times”. This post was followed up by Deborah Russell who, on Twitter a few days later, shared her view that people submitting to the Select Committee (presumably those saying things she didn’t like) should just f*ck off.

Dr Russell later tried to back pedal claiming that the tweet had been in reference to a specific submitter commenting on her turning off her camera one minute into their submission so she could stretch her back. But that clearly isn’t the case.

Politicians are quick to lament peoples’ lack of participation in democracy, be it voting in elections, being involved in political parties, or being part of the law-making process. Well why would they bother when some MPs hold people with views they don’t like with such public contempt? I know at least two women who submitted on this SOP who intended to submit in person that have now withdrawn because they do not feel up to facing the malice, condescension, and hostility that they know they will likely receive from these Labour and Green MPs. Another has asked her husband to do her submission on her behalf as she believes he will be treated better as a man than she will be. Sadly, she is correct. Every person that I have watched MPs treat with hostility and contempt has been female. 

It should not take bravery to participate in democracy. It should not take great courage to spend five minutes in front of a Select Committee and talk about a proposed law. And no citizen should ever have to fear an MP using their social media platform to name, attack, and bully them because they express an opposing view. 

The facts the Labour and the Green MPs don’t want people to know

There is already a process through the Family Court for people to change the sex on their birth certificate. This process balances the interests of people who have taken significant steps to live life as the opposite sex with safeguarding by requiring evidence from an independent third party.

Currently a person who wishes to change the sex on their birth certificate is not required to pay any fee, has access to a dedicated email address for support, does not need a lawyer, and does not need to appear in court. The one thing that is asked of them is evidence that they have taken medical and other steps (not necessarily surgery) to live as the opposite sex and intend to continue to do so.

I, and everyone else I know who opposes sex self-ID, support this process. What we do not support is any person, for any reason, being able to change their birth certificate to state they were born the opposite sex based on nothing more than their own self-declaration.

If you want to understand what the concerns with this SOP are, please read on. These are excerpts taken from my written submission. These are the people and the extreme ideology that Elizabeth Kerekere and her MP “allies” think deserve more priority and protection than women and girls.

SOP 59 will protect criminal offenders and distort public discourse and records

[Note: in the below I use sex-based pronouns for male sexual offenders – as they are male crimes]

In one of the most heinous crimes of recent times in New Zealand, Shane (Ashley) Winter kidnapped, tortured and murdered Dimetrius Pairama. Her torture included being stripped naked and having her genitals burned by a makeshift blow torch. The media repeatedly and consistently referred to Winter as a “woman” and “she” or “her” intentionally misleading the public to believe that this barbaric and horrific crime was committed by a woman and a man. In fact it was committed by two males, with Winter being the ringleader. 

And Winter is not the only male offender in New Zealand to claim that he “identifies” as a woman. There are also (among others), most consistently referred to in media reports as women and/or she/her:

  • David Lim, convicted of stupefying and sexually assaulting four young male patients. Since his conviction Lim has decided he identifies as female;
  • Alex Aleti Seu, who identifies as a woman, was convicted in 2017 of indecent assault and sexual violation. Seu used his “female” penis to sexually violate his victim to the point that he inflicted severe rectal injuries. Seu has had parole denied multiple times due to his very high risk of reoffending and sexual deviant lifestyle and sexual compulsivity;
  • Pierre John Parsons rendered a 12-year-old girl unconscious, stole her clothes for his own cross-dressing purposes, then raped her. He was recently caught with child sexual abuse material and blames his “gender issues” for much of his offending; and
  • Shelley Lee Williams has over 60 convictions. In 2019 Williams was granted parole “given the difficulties of the prison setting for her” as a result of identifying as transgender. Williams time on parole was short lived when after two months he went on a crime spree that included sexually assaulting a police officer.

Under this SOP, every single rapist (or any other male offender for that matter) in New Zealand would be entitled to change his sex to “female” on his birth certificate and be recognized as such. This would not be a change with no ramifications. Instead, it would result in Corrections being required to house them in a female prison as per their policy that states If staff have a copy of the birth certificate that specifies the prisoner’s sex, the prisoner must be placed in a prison that manages prisoners of the sex specified on the birth certificate [emphasis Corrections].

This legislation gives predatory males access to some of the most vulnerable women in New Zealand, as well as reduced security as there are no maximum security female prisons in New Zealand. This is because there are very few female prisoners who have been convicted of violent crimes. Instead, the overwhelming majority are known to have suffered from severe and significant male violence in their lives.

Under current policy it would also result in any future crimes they commit being recorded as being committed by a woman, significantly distorting sex-based crime statistics. For example, as of December 2020 there were zero (0) females in prison for rape

For every male who is enabled by this SOP to state he is female and is subsequently convicted of rape or other sexual crimes or homicides, there will be an exponential increase in the number of “female” rapists, sexual offenders, and/or murderers in New Zealand. 

The public have a right to know the truth about crime, and accurate sentencing and reporting is necessary for a cohesive and functioning democracy.

International evidence already demonstrates the dangers of allowing self-ID

In the UK since the introduction of self-ID the prevalence of sexual abuse by “female” offenders has increased by 84%. The media reported the increase, but consistently failed to mention that these statistics, by virtue of self-ID, were now distorted by the inclusion of male sex offenders who “identify” as female.

Additionally, as in New Zealand, the UK media consistently now report violent sexual crimes perpetrated by men as being committed by women. As Nicole Williams of Fair Play for Women states, Obscuring male-pattern crime only benefits one group; and it’s never the victims… Why bother to collect data that can’t be used for its intended purpose or claims to be something it isn’t? Bad data is worse than having no data at all. Statistics should inform not confuse.

Other impacts of sex self-ID internationally are also consistently undermining the rights of women and girls to sex-segregated spaces and services. For example:

  • In September, Sophie Grace Chappell, a transgender activist campaigning for self ID law in the UK stated, in response to a question about the risk of women being murdered if males were allowed to self-ID into their spaces: “It wouldn’t matter if there was a slight spike because these things can be fixed.” Let me repeat that. According to one of the UK’s leading proponents for sex self-ID it wouldn’t matter if there was a slight spike in women being murdered as a result of legislating to allow males into their spaces because murdered women can somehow be fixed;
  • In August 2021, the Telegraph reported that it had analysed policies from over 20 NHS Trusts, and found that they have issued guidance specifying that patients can choose the ward, toilets, and shower that align with their “gender identity”. Those who complain have been labelled “transphobic.” One hospital group withdrew medical treatment from female patients who did not accept males being placed on women-only wards. A mental health trust has suggested that women who object should be put in seclusion and long-term segregation. Guidance also states that male sex offenders are to be placed on women-only wards if they choose and that, “risk should be managed”. Nurses who object have reportedly lost their jobs and staff are now too scared to raise safeguarding issues;
  • More recently in October a nurse in the UK warned that NHS trusts are “gaslighting” patients over the inclusion of transgender patients on single-sex wards. In one mental health trust, a male-born patient who identified as a woman had sexually assaulted patients on a female-only ward on two separate admissions, despite staff raising concerns. In NHS policies, women patients who ask for wards to be single-sex are described variously as transphobic service users, offenders, perpetrators or those who should be given trans education sessions to improve their attitudes. 
  • In 2021 California passed a law requiring that prison inmates be housed in the prison of the sex of their “choice” regardless of their crimes, including the rape and murder of women. Female inmates have been reported as being “terrified” and reported sleeping in shifts to try and protect themselves from male violent sexual offenders. Following the reported pregnancy of one inmate, prisons have now started distributing condoms as a response to the inevitable result of placing male rapists into female prisons;
  • In Scotland the male transgender CEO of a rape crisis refuge center stated during an interview that survivors of sexual violence may be bigots with “unacceptable beliefs” and should “rethink [their] relationship with prejudice” if they are uncomfortable in a women’s or rape crisis refuge alongside male individuals who self-identify as women; and
  • In the UK women’s refuges have lost funding from councils for declining to allow male-bodied people who self-identify as women into their spaces in order to preserve the emotional and physical safety of women and children who have suffered male violence.

And those are just a few of the many occurrences that proves how enshrining sex self-ID in policy, practice, and law prioritises male privilege and entitlement over female safety, dignity, fairness, privacy, and lived reality.

It is not “hateful” or “transphobic” to be concerned about the real-world impacts of legislating gender ideology into New Zealand law. It is not hateful to say that women and girls (females) are entitled to services, spaces, and facilities that exclude males (and the reverse), no matter how they identify. And no MP should ever use their position or platform to intimidate, belittle, or besmirch people trying to engage in our democratic process in good faith.

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