Advocates are concerned that the introduction of Mark Latham’s ‘Trans Erasure Bill’ in NSW could see a spike in hateful rhetoric towards our most vulnerable young people. Mike Hitch reports.
The state’s peak body for trans and gender diverse people, The Gender Centre, and national LGBTQI advocacy group just.equal have teamed up to launch a new initiative against the ‘Trans Erasure Bill’ put forward by One Nation state MP, Mark Latham.
The bill, officially known as the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 would, if enacted, ban any recognition of Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) school students.
Furthermore, the bill allows for the dismissal of school staff for providing support to vulnerable young people around sexuality and gender issues, or for encouraging other students to treat TGD students with respect.
The Gender Centre and just.equal are encouraging NSW political leaders to learn more about the needs of TGD young people through the launch of a new webform, as well as a petition calling for NSW leaders to affirm TGD students, and disavow their ‘erasure’ from NSW schools.
Allies of TGD young people and their families are encouraged to use the webform to write to NSW political leaders and express concerns about the One Nation bill. All emails sent through the webform will also go to the parliamentary inquiry into the bill.
Gender Centre spokesperson Eloise Brook said One Nation’s proposed amendments would severely impact access to education, and leave TGD students vulnerable to bullying.
“By prohibiting the recognition of [TGD] students, the Education Legislation Amendment Bill would effectively restrict the ability of these students to attend school,” she told the Sentinel.
“The bill would have a profoundly negative impact on trans youth health. Transgender children would struggle to access education safely in a way that every other NSW student receives.
“It would give a green light to bullying, and would increase demand on the state’s already overstretched mental health system.”
Brook added that One Nation’s adamant support for ‘traditional family values’ clashes with the amendments outlined in the bill.
“The core idea of conservatism is to say that the family is central, that we keep the family together, and that the family is an institution that is worth cherishing and supporting,” she said.
“But these kinds of amendments that are being put forward don’t cherish the family. It doesn’t place the family first and doesn’t position the family as a central part of our society.
“The pressure that this bill places on young people, and their families, will have a very serious effect on the ability of families to hold together.”
Between 10 and 20 per cent of families seen by The Gender Centre deal with domestic violence, homelessness, or a mix of both due to the perception that TGD children are shameful for a family.
Latham made headlines earlier this year for also pushing his Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020, which would amend NSW anti-discrimination laws in the name of ‘religious freedoms.’
Latham’s separate Education Legislation Amendment Bill, introduced to NSW Parliament on August 5, aims to amend the Education Act 1990, the Teacher Accreditation Act 2004 and the Education Standards Authority Act 2013
The proposed amendments would force schools to make parents responsible for the “development and formation of moral and ethical standards and social and political values in their children”, and prohibit schools, teachers and training courses from “teaching gender fluidity”.
While the bill has received widespread backlash and criticism – and some pundits believe it’s unlikely to pass through NSW Parliament – there are concerns that it will further hateful rhetoric towards TGD people.
“These kinds of bills, these kinds of conversations, they filter out into the wider community, and they keep reinforcing values that will harm young people and those closest to them,” said Brook.
Meanwhile, April Holcomb, a leading activist from the grassroots NSW activist organisation, Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR), told the Sentinel that these bills are not concerned with free speech or “religious rights”.
“These people don’t really care about freedom. What they care about is trying to claw back some of the rights and the so-called ‘powers’ [to discriminate] that they had before,” she said.
“Decades of people championing LGBTI rights were able to make those ‘powers’ illegal, at least in public institutions and public life.
“So, I think this is just a backlash and an attempt to reinstate things that the majority of the population don’t support.”
The proposed amendments also outline that a parent could withdraw a child from any discussion of LGBTQI+ issues in school.
Holcomb opined that this would would greatly disrupt a child’s basic right to a well-rounded, safe education.
“Children of are not just the private property of their parents. They are individuals who have rights. And one of those rights is actually learning in a safe and accepting environment,” she said.
“So I don’t accept … that parents have the right to deprive their children of social education, because I don’t think children are property.
“I think it stems from that belief that the wife and children are the property of the man. And, the fact that there has been some progress in cutting against that means it’s those values that they’re trying to preserve. We’re seeing these attempts at ‘preservation’ across the world.”
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome AM said the bill was representative of attempts by right-wing politicians around the world to claw back the hard-won rights of TGD and LGBTQI people.
“This bill seems like an attempt to platform prejudice and discrimination against transgender and gender diverse people. So, I think it’s important that we respond to the bill with the facts, and with the truth,” he said.
“We want to send a message to other legislators who might be thinking about similar legislation that it’s unjust, and that we will stand together as a community against these kinds of bills.
“Legislation that attempts to allow discrimination is a nightmare. It takes the form of campaigns against school inclusion programs, and it also takes the form of campaigning against transgender equality and inclusion. I think it’s important that we reach out to LGBTI people not just across the country, but across the world.
“Latham is trying to drag the debate to the most extreme positions.”
Croome urged the allies of trans and gender diverse people to oppose the bill, by contacting NSW political leaders through the aforementioned webform at www.equal.org.au/affirm_trans_kids and by signing The Gender Centre/just.equal petition, located at https://action.allout.org/en/m/d916e828/.
“This bill is extremely dangerous, and we must take a stand against it now,” Croome said.
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