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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Does justice apply in NZ?

Posted in: Our Communities
By Diane Sparkes - 22nd December 2012

Not if you are transgender or transsexual, you make an error of judgement and fall foul of the Police, the Justice Department of Corrections and you are in real trouble even before you have been charged, let alone found guilty.

You are not treated like every other New Zealander, because when your name and the gender you were assigned at birth fail to match, a bell rings, and it rings on so many levels.

First off the arresting officer who checks who you are legally, will depending on his personal beliefs and understanding, together with the amount of training he will have received (often very little on transgender persons) your life might never be the same.

Research shows that this person has the potential to destroy you in so many ways, with verbal and physical abuse, intimidation, dominance and fear. And that is all before you are even charged.

The second you have been charged you will fall foul of the system, and for the most part the system is faceless but by no means any less intimidating, the system will have policies about which you will most likely know very little about. But those in the know will, and the policy's effect, will depend again on those interpreting them. Policies are often purposely interpreted in a black and white manner without considering the facts or situation, and why not, after all if things go wrong they can always say they were following the department policy. Something of little value when one has already been violated, abused or worse! While in the custody of an organisation also charged with your personal protection.

Strangely, depending on your chosen gender identity, how you will be treated will depend very much on who you present yourself as, presenting as a woman will evoke a far greater response than as a man. Presenting oneself as a woman before transition appears to somehow give certain people a belief that they have the right to demand to look or feel the genitals, even though they know it's against the individual's human rights. Most people who have been charged just go along with this indignity as the fear of offending the official outweighs their own rights.

Sadly, there are many in officialdom that take delight in referring to the transgender person as if they were still their gender assigned at birth, using the male name when speaking of a transgender woman. Or of constantly referring to her as he or even ‘it', in order to intimidate the person. Fact is that unless a transgender person has been known personally for a long time there is no excuse to address in any other way than that they present themselves as. Those that do are deliberately choosing to offend, verbally, out to those around them and belittle the individual.

Once trapped in the system, life will never be the same, not because you are a suspected offender but because you are transgender. Society knows very little of who you are, or what being transgender means, if they think they do it will most likely be wrong and if you have been charged with some offence you will be judged, ridiculed and become the butt of cruel jokes by those in whose custody you find yourself.

The idea that when this is all over normality might return when your day in court happens, don't be fooled by thinking you will have educated and understanding people around for you will be wrong. Unfortunately, Transphobia will be there with you in court, someone somewhere will judge you guilty in some way, not for what you have or have not done but because you are transgender. You are different in society's eyes so you become suspect.

Think you can appeal to ministerial sources, forget it, most don't know, don't want to know or see anything to do with the transgender issues of little importance at the moment, trouble is they mostly never become important. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission were asked to make recommendations on the issues faced by transgender people, this was completed in 2008, after significant government changes, Labour then National these recommendations still are to be implemented, just when might being transgender become important?

Meanwhile when a transgender person goes to prison, they are placed in a prison depending on your gender assigned at birth.(Current NZ corrections policy) Exceptions however allow those who are Transsexuals and have completed gender reassignment to go to a prison that matches their reassigned gender, with accent on completed. Issues still remain for Transsexuals when at the time of arrest their true gender has yet to be defined by the officials, for many who have not legally changed their gender status to that of their new body the risk of abuse is even greater. There are many reasons why they may have changed their bodies but do not hold legal confirmation of this and therefore legally remain; for example, male even though their bodies are fully female. Some reasons: - time taken by the court to process a gender change application, a person remains legally married and does not wish to divorce their partner, they were born overseas where changing the gender on their passport is difficult or not allowed.

Sadly the proof of your gender remains the responsibility of the transsexual individual, and not of the state who may insist that you are legally the opposite of how you present. There are cases where true transsexual females have been placed in male holding cells by some sadistic transphobic official, as a means of degrading the person.

Difficulty remains that short of lifting ones skirts, removing the knickers to prove you have female genitals, the whole process goes against the individual's human rights. Even that kind of proof may still not be enough for a really sick official, certainly complaints after the event can be made but that is little comfort when abuse may have already happened. It is important to note here that all this can happen before you even get to court.

It is also important to remember, especially if you identify as female, you belong to the most marginalised section of society, where you are discriminated against by society in education, housing, and employment just because of who you are. Because of a policy made up by those who fail to understand and just take the easy way out and stick to some unjust department policy, they will put you in prison with other male inmates, for them to have their way with you, to abuse you and maybe even kill you if they can.

Meanwhile the minister seeks to assure society they have everything under control, with the assurance that should something go wrong, they will deal with it, totally ignoring the progress made and the methods used on this issue by other countries. The question however remains, while they continue their normal life in a kind of head in the sand Transphobic manner, what about the inmates they are supposed to protect?

Unbelievably a recent suggestion has been made giving allowances if you get abused or whatever; something akin to a get out of jail free card, well not actually free but sooner if you accept that you might be abused and it is ok with you. But does that actually work if you are violated, seriously injured or even killed. I don't think so.

Really I fail to understand where these so called educated people come from, but I continually forget that they are in charge!

Transgender and Transsexual people are a significant section of society; many cannot be who they really are because they fear being unaccepted by society, so they hide. Fact: there are no conclusive statistics of the number of transgender/transsexual people in this world, how could there be when they have to hide in order to survive, and they see all too clearly the way that those who choose not to hide are treated by society.

Time has come for our so called normal in society to meaningfully support the unsupported!

Fact: Glen Cooper, the transgender woman who was just sent to a male prison in Whangarei, because she could not get home detention, as she did not have one!

Diane Sparkes - 22nd December 2012

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