By ALLISON HORE
Protesters took over Taylor Square on Saturday to make a strong statement against a “transphobic” education bill tabled in NSW Parliament by One Nation’s Mark Latham.
The protest, organised by Community Action for Rainbow Rights, took on the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020, which activists say is less about giving rights to parents over their childrens’ education, and more about preventing transgender students and staff from being open about their gender identities.
If it passes, teachers, counsellors and other school staff could face dismissal if they offered support or advice to transgender and gender diverse students. It would also leave transgender members of staff unable to speak openly about their gender identity. Parents would be allowed to withdraw their children from any class where LGBTQI+ issues were discussed.
Speaking at the rally, transgender high school student Darcy said Mr. Latham’s bill was akin to “bullying.”
“This bill is pushing for the erasure of trans children and students, and it’s hard enough for all students as it is and it’s even harder to be a trans student,” Darcy said.
“We face bullying and isolation from our own peers, and now we have to face that from grown adults too.”
Thousands back petition
Hearing about the proposed bill Sam Guerra, a non-binary person and primary school educator, started a Change.org petition which quickly went viral. Sam said as an educator they hoped to provide the kind of support and assistance they did not receive throughout their schooling. However, the proposed bill would make this impossible.
“Our trans and gender diverse students already suffer. They don’t feel safe, and they haven’t for way too long,” Sam said.
“It is the responsibility of teachers and schools to create a safe space for all their students, no matter how they choose to identify. No law should interfere with that.”
At the rally, Sam delivered their petition, which attracted more than 112,000 signatures, to NSW Upper House member David Shoebridge. Greens MP Jenny Leong and Labor MLC Penny Sharpe also supported the petition, though, could not make it on the day of the protest.
“[Latham] has made it clear that he wants to make political capital from marginalising some of the most marginal in our community, and that is a shameful abuse of his position as an MP,” said Mr. Shoebridge.
Mr. Shoebridge said a number of education bodies and religious bodies which had come out in opposition to the bill, including the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, have not been allowed to make their case in front of Parliament.
For Sam Guerra, supporting and affirming students who come out to them would come before their job, if the bill were to pass.
“If I was ever put in a position where a student of mine confided in me about their confusion with their gender or their identity and the law prevented me from supporting them, I would not hesitate to put my job on the line to support this student,” Sam told the crowd.
Following the speeches, protesters marched from Taylor Square to NSW Parliament. Another rally against Mark Latham’s bill will be held on the 5th of June.