Opinion: Getting Back to Normal?

From Craig Young, 8 February 2019

So far, one could be forgiven for assuming that there had been negligible 'progress' on LGBT rights under the Ardern administration. Apart from the recent announcement on transgender rights, that isn't quite true.

Granted, it's highly probable that Pharmac would have authorised the subsidisation and greater distribution of PrEP even if National had won the 2017 election outright, given that as a pharmaceutical expenditure and purchasing regulator, it has the primary voice in New Zealand pharmaceutical policy. And it was Justice Minister Amy Adams who was responsible for the introduction of the historic homosexual offences legislation, which now allows older gay men who were convicted for what have been consensual legal gay sexual acts since the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 to apply to have their criminal records expunged so that they can perform civic responsibilities like serve on the boards of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), many of which require a background check.

Moving on from that, the Health Minister, David Clark, has removed the 'cap' from funding transgender reassignment surgery, although there is still no new cosmetic surgeon to perform actual reassignment surgery until one is permanently appointed. He has also acted to restore funding to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, although it is too soon to learn how the organisation will spend this windfall. These regulatory reforms place New Zealand's LGBT community where it was before the advent of the Key and English administrations. In this case, it isn't conservative Christians that are the significant obstacle to reform, it was the National Party's anti-tax and reduced central government spending dogmatism, which meant services had to be cut and new research could not be funded.

And so, finally, we come to the amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Amendment Act, opposed by Family First New Zealand (predictably) and "Speak Up for Women", an anti-transgender/gender-critical 'feminist' single issue group. SUW's grandstanding has angered the venerable national feminist service coalition the National Council of Women, which has emphatically rejected SUW's philosophy and is patching together a trans-inclusive feminist network. The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand has also disassociated itself from anti-transgender activism, concerned that anti-transgender 'feminists' seem to advocate alliances with anti-LGBT, anti-abortion and anti-feminist Christian Right organisations in Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Moreover, many Labour and Green feminist, lesbian and Maori female MPs disagree with anti-transgender ideology, as do many feminist journalists. Some feminist organisations do not support exclusion and discrimination against transwomen and allow their membership and participation. Still, as has been noted in a recent Spinoff article, the debate is heated.

And thus, we come to the present day. It is disappointing to see the arrival of anti-transgender 'feminist' activism in New Zealand, but excellent to see resolute and co-ordinated opposition from mainstream New Zealand feminist individuals and organisations. One hopes that the aforementioned 'feminists' do not extend this to opposing the proposed trans-inclusive amendment to the Human Rights Act.

Recommended:

Susan Strongman: "Sex self-identification debate a cesspool of harmful stereotypes" Radio New Zealand: 06.02.2019: www.radionz.co.nz/news/preview/381878/a-cesspool-of-harmful-stereotypes