The interminable Auckland Pride wrangling has led many outside the harbour city to shake their heads in bewilderment and wonder what's happened to New Zealand's LGBTI community self-discipline and pluralism. It's not as if there aren't any unresolved legislative and other issues left on the horizon.
Let's deal with those in turn. It has now been over twenty five years since the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993 was last amended to include sexual orientation, disability and organisms within the body. Apart from the Crown Law Office opinion that 'read' gender identity into the existing ground of 'sex', and which seems to have been vindicated by the Dakota Hemmingson Employment Relations Act case against employment discrimination at an Auckland hairdressers several years ago, there has been no direct amendment of the Human Rights Act to include gender identity and other additional antidiscrimination criteria that may be warranted. It is time New Zealand moved on this front, given that there might not be such great perceptions of social exclusion from the transgender community should that finally occur. Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom have all long since done so. It is high time we followed suit.
The second item to be resolved is anti-bullying procedures within schools. It will not do simply to have generic antibullying procedures- that normalises specific forms of social exclusion and ostracism against specific constituencies, not LGBT youth alone. Any anti-bullying legislation and resultant school procedures should be enforceable and broadly based along multiple possible axes of discrimination and exclusion. Sexual harrassment is wrong, organised racist violence is wrong, religiously-based exclusion and discrimination is wrong, so is that targeted against child of refugees and asylum seekers, so is that against children with physical, psychological, behavioural, developmental, intellectual and other disabilities, against impoverished or beneficiary children, against those who are LGBTI and any other spurious reason. These procedures need to be specifically designated and there need to be expectations that they will be enforced. Moreover, the objective should be behavioural change that ends the bullying and not the suspension or expulsion of the bully in this context.
Finally, there is the issue of intersex infant surgery. Malta and Chile have gone down this road so far, but there is growing medical evidence that the practice traumatises the infants on which it is performed and is usually not performed for any serious physiological reason that pertains directly to infant survival or good health. Parents should receive informed consent about the risks and consequences of this surgical procedure and indeed, are entitled to receive it under the Code of Health and Disability Consumers Rights.
Pride is a ceremonial march. It is not the be-all and end-all of our collective lives. Let's put it behind us and deal with frankly more important issues of legislative reform and changes in professional practice.
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