The Morrison Government’s Targeted Persecution of Transgender People

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Morrison Government

Morrison’s never attempted to conceal his prejudice against LGBTIQ people. He walked out during the marriage equality vote, he’s said inclusive teen sex education makes his “skin curl”, and just after he swiped the top job, he termed school counsellors who may assist trans kids “gender whispers”.

The prime minister’s Religious Discrimination Bill aimed to legalise discrimination against all minorities in the name of religion, but it was always implicitly understood that transgender people were chief amongst its targets.

This was confirmed when the attorney general Michaelia Cash attempted to cut a deal with progressive MPs in parliament, which involved the Liberals revoking existing laws permitting discrimination against gay kids, if the same measures regarding trans children remained.

But when the majority voted the bill could pass only on the proviso that all LGBTIQ kids could not be expelled from religious schools, the PM chucked the legislation out.

Of course, not all Liberals are transphobes, five MPs significantly crossed the floor, which led to this outcome. And Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman spoke out exceptionally against his party’s trans persecution.

As an entity, however, it’s obvious the Morrison government is persecuting trans people, “the most vulnerable people in our society”, as Zimmerman put it. And this was clearly on display again when Liberal Senator Claire Chandler produced an anti-trans sports bill, which the PM says is “terrific”.

Inciting trans hate

Introduced by Chandler on 10 February, the Sex Discrimination and Other Legislation Amendment (Save Women’s Sport) Bill 2022 broadly seeks to amend current laws so that transgender people are banned from participating in single-sex sports.

“This bill is the latest in a long string of assaults centred against the trans and gender diverse community,” explained Pride in Protest member Wei Thai-Haynes, “which has the key objective of sowing enough fear into the wider community to whip up votes ahead of the coming election.”

“If we really unpack this bill, it’s more concerned with the exclusion of trans people from participating in sport altogether, and, ultimately, in the community,” she told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “The aim is that trans people do not play sport or exist in the public eye for that matter.”

According to Thai-Haynes, Chandler has been persecuting trans people for some time now. The senator’s transphobic Liberal cronies passed her federal council motion last June to exclude trans women from women’s sporting facilities, health and domestic violence services and prisons.

Trans women are known to be at an exceptionally high risk of physical, sexual and domestic violence globally. The number of trans women murdered is disproportionately high compared to their numbers. And denying them services compounds their harms, as does placing them in male prisons.

“This legislation, should it pass, would be a massive disservice to the welfare of an already much scrutinised and attacked community,” Thai-Haynes added. “Exclusion from aspects of society, like sport, only goes to further a dehumanising and alienating narrative about trans lives and bodies.”

Erasing trans identity

Despite Chandler’s bill having implications for all transgender people, she’s specifically targets trans women by calling it the Save Women’s Sport Bill. And let’s face it, no one is legitimately concerned that women’s sport is under threat, besides that of unequal pay and underappreciation.

The amendments the bill makes to the Australian Sports Commission Act 1989 (Cth) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) are quite slight, but they provide the desired effect.

However, it’s the language in its explanatory memorandum that’s yet another example of attempting to erase trans identity.

In setting out why the laws are “necessary”, the document refers to excluding “males” from women’s sports, not trans women, and, in turn, “females” from men’s sports, not trans men.

This is purposefully done to deny the existence of transgender people, as no one, including Chandler and Morrison, seriously considers that there is a threat coming from cisgendered men attempting to enter into women’s sporting teams.

“The bill uses bio-essentialist terms to define ‘man’ and ‘woman’, which is language that comes straight out of the trans exclusionary playbook and conception of gender and sex,” Thai-Haynes made clear.

“And just as trans exclusionary rhetoric often does, the bill, and Chandler’s public rhetoric more broadly, skips over the existence of trans men entirely,” she continued.

The politics of hate

Transgender people have always been part of humanity. And while they can be subjected to discrimination and, at times, violence, not all cultures, or most Australians, have attempted to deny their existence, as the Morrison government does.

Thai-Haynes says she sees the current persecution of trans people as a means of stirring up divisiveness and panic within the community to garner support, whilst distracting voters from other more pressing issues.

Indeed, propagating prejudice and bigotry for his own benefit is a key political tactic that Morrison has always employed. In 2011, the PM, then in opposition, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on growing concerns over the Muslim community.

“It appears to me that the Morrison government is attempting to carbon copy the contours of the cultural war taking place in the US currently,” suggests Thai-Haynes, “as a means to galvanise the more bigoted voter base of the Liberal Party.”

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras board member pointed to a number of contentious, and perhaps illegal, bills currently before US state legislatures, including one that would class the medical treatment of trans kids as abuse, and another banning the mention of queer identities at schools.

“The Morrison government, and these other US state governments, are all cut from the same reactionary bigoted cloth, pushing for legislation that polls terribly in the wider community,” said Thai-Haynes in conclusion.

“It is clear that these political dinosaurs are on the wrong side of history, and it’s now up to us to collectively resist these attacks and to call for equality and inclusion of all minority communities.”

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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