By ALLISON HORE
As a pair of “transphobic” law reforms proposed by One Nation’s Mark Latham make their way through the NSW parliament, community groups are amping up their rally cries for the bills to be killed.
On Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Town Hall in Sydney to make their opposition heard and raise awareness about the threat the changes pose to trans and gender diverse people.
Teddy Cook, ACON’s Director of Community Health and creator of transgender health application TransHub, spoke at the rally. He said despite politicians treating gender diversity as a new phenomenon, it has existed in “every first nations culture on the planet.”
“I would say the rigid gender norms and the binary are the thing that’s a new fad,” he said.
“The thing that keeps trans people safe and strong, it’s really simple: access to affirmation, access to community, living free and equally in society. That’s it. And this education bill would seriously reduce access to these things which keep our trans kids protected and safe.”
Opponents to Mark Latham’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 say it less about parental freedoms, and more about silencing gender diverse students and staff. If it passes, teachers, counsellors and other school staff could face dismissal if they offered support or advice to transgender and gender diverse students.
“[The parental rights bill] is absolutely extraordinary, it tries to ban the teaching of gender fluidity in all schools in the state. And if a teacher attempts to do so, the teacher can be dismissed and banned from teaching,” explained Sydney barrister David Bernie, a member of the Committee of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
“You hear a lot, often from people like Latham, about ‘cancel culture’. Well this is the ultimate in censorship.”
Religious freedom: sword or shield?
The parental rights bill isn’t the only looming Latham legislation protesters are concerned about.
Protest organisers, Community Action for Rainbow Rights, say his “religious freedom” amendment to the NSW Discrimination Act would give schools, charities and private businesses the right to discriminate against LGBTQI+ people, women and minority religions if it was done under the guise of religious belief.
The amendment was backed by the majority of the NSW parliamentary committee who investigated it. Alex Greenwich, Jenny Leong and Paul Lynch all opposed the amendment.
According to a YouGov Galaxy poll conducted for the LGBTQI+ rights lobby group Just Equal in 2018, 82 percent of Australians oppose existing exemptions in NSW anti-discrimination laws which allow the expulsion of gay and lesbian students.
Speaking at the rally Reverend Josephine Inkpin, a transgender woman and minister at the Pitt Street Uniting Church said faith should be about “love, not exclusion.” She said while she supports the need for religions to be protected, Christians are not persecuted in Australia.
Revered Inkpin said the Uniting Church is one of a number of religious organisations who have stood up and spoken out against Latham’s amendment. Other Christian groups opposing the changes include The Society of Friends, the Metropolitan Community Church, Catholic organisation Acceptance and parts of the Anglican church.
“I urge other people of faith to stand up and join with us to make a difference,” Reverend Inkpin said.
“With my fellow LGBTQI+ people of faith I am particularly troubled about the bill which affects transgender people. We badly need attention to transgender needs, we need transgender people to be heard in our calls to be addressed.”
As both bills sit on the table in parliament, more NSW politicians are speaking out against them and promising to block them. The NSW Greens have been vocal opponents of Latham’s bills since their inception. And, speaking at the rally, Penny Sharpe, a senior member of the NSW Labor party, said Labor would also fight the education bill.
“We are going to do this with you, and we are going to do this until it’s over. Every child in this state deserves an education, every child in this state is precious. And we will stand up for every single one of them,” she said.
Community Action for Rainbow Rights said the turn out to Saturday’s rally was “brilliant” but said the fight isn’t over until both bills have been scrapped.
“The Liberals are determined to ram this bill through by the end of this year, and we have to stop them,” they said.