for the Women’s Declaration of Sex-based rights.
Jan Rivers 4-7-2020
1 Can you say something about the situation on gender identity in your country – is there self ID etc?
Transgender ideology in medicine
Transgender medicine guidelines issued in 2018, were published on the Health Ministry website in 2019
The Guidelines for Transgender Medicine are more extreme (or progressive depending on viewpoint) that in most other places. The current guidelines were co-created with the transgender community; they advocate early social transition; they completely ignore diagnosis in favour of self-identification supported by affirmation including medical treatment and they support the (often young) people on their unique journey to the destination they choose. Pre-existing and untreated mental health conditions and the inability to verbalise are NO bar to treatment. The criteria for informed consent do not advise that puberty blockers are experimental nor about many of their known side effects such as mental health, bone density and brain development issues.
We know that the figures are increasing rapidly and my home town of Te Whanganui a Tara / Wellington is probably second only to Brighton in the UK in numbers. However there are no national statistics kept and we know that the transgender medicine services are highly devolved even to specific boutique services for young people. With a small population very few professional people (particularly those working in the health or caring sector or with teenagers at school) would not know of a family with a transgender child and teachers are observing the same ‘rapid onset’ and social contagion that has been observed elsewhere in the decision to transition. Just as elsewhere young people often arrive at clinics having already labelled themselves as trans and having schooled themselves from videos and peers about how to answer the inevitable questions so that the clinicians cannot easily deny treatment. There is a small community of detransitioners.
Self ID has not formally been passed into law. It was about to be passed as part of a technical rewrite of the registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Regisration bill, but a strong enough case was made that the key element of self-ID had escaped proper consultation (the new parts of the Bill were added only after the Select Committee process) that the Bill was – most unusually – deferred.
Speak Up for Women played a significant role in arguing for that deferral. But it has led to an understanding that many government departments appear to have introduced the policy as if it were law. Despite the letter of the law it’s interpretation appears to be effectively supporting self-id and this has happened completely without public consultation or a law change.
For example we have discovered that, as described above, a clinician is perfectly able to assess a person as having undergone gender change (become transgender) despite having had no medical or surgical treatment and no medical diagnosis. Indeed “affirmative only” is the approved approach according to Health Ministry guidelines. You are trans if you say you are. The deferral of the law change was accompanied by the creation of a working group of transgender people and parents whose intent on making the legal process much easier. But the exploration resulted in the finding that the Family Court requires neither surgery nor medication for a trans identity.
So the Family Court process has been made free and despite what it says on the website it appears that judges are told to interpret the law that says that the person seeking to change the sex marker in their birth certificate must have “undergone medical treatment usually regarded by experts as interpreted as conforming to the opposite sex” is actually granted with no treatment at all!
This OIA from the Ministry for Women it says that there are no medical or surgical criteria at all applied by the Family Court (page 4 – birth records) for self-id except identifying as the opposite sex and saying you will continue to identify as the opposite sex. So just like Kath Murray and Lucy Hunter Blackburn’s 2019 article about the situation in Scotland, women’s rights have been lost sight of in the unregulated introduction of self-id.
Drivers licences and passports can be altered by self-declaration since 2013. Again it appears that there was no public consultation or legislation. Public notification it appears only took place after the changes were in place.
Further examples of policy capture…
The Ministry for Women
We discovered in the last month that the Ministry for Women has adopted a self-identification definition for ‘woman’. We asked how this happened. The Official Information Act response informed that there was no policy work, no consultation and no specific date on which the policy change was made. There was no risk or impact assessment of the change. There appears not even to have been a notification to stakeholders through the organisation’s newsletters. Moreover the local Human Rights Act and international convention CEDAW were cited wrongly as the rationale for this. We also know that there was one occurence of the word transgender was in the 2018 – 2022 Statement of Intent and the subsequent annual report of 2019 in relation to the inclusion of transgender women (but not transmen) into pay equity research – but there appears to have been no notification of this through any of the Ministry’s or the Minister’s communication channels either.
Gender in the census and as a statistical standard across government
On 2 July 2020 ago it was announced in Parliament that Statistics NZ was is going to the final stages of consultation for a new standard for sex and gender identity in the census questionnaire as well as the use of gender and sex in data capture and reporting across government.
We propose that the ‘gender by default’ principle is adopted in an updated standard. This is an approach that defaults to the collection of gender data as opposed to sex at birth. Defaulting to a specified variable facilitates consistency of data collection. Collection of sex at birth information should be viewed as an exception where there is a specific need.
In most cases a person’s gender – their social and personal identity – is most relevant for policy making and research rather than their sex at birth. Gender based analysis is used in a range of areas, from income equality to health and education.
On the same day our State Services Commission – which is the department that is supposed to promulgate good practice across the public sector – has just published its advice on the use of pronouns by public servants. There is reporting mechanism so staff can inform on any staff who are not supportive of this. It is hard to see that this will not have a chilling effect on public servants – including any who might want to argue that self-identified gender should not replace sex in the collection of statistics for example.
There are those in the public sector who are zealous in pursuing this for reasons that are likely to be related to compassion for and care of transgender people. But these people have likely not considered whether the language they are asking othes to use actually hides another reality. That by no means every feels that they have a gender identity. Nor would most people wish to control how they are spoken about out of earshot. But my personal belief is that there may be others who are cynically allowing the current government to be associated with stances that are broadly unacceptable – Too Woke – with the expectation that it will damage Labour and the Green party in the coming election.
Beneficiaries, Students and Superannuitants
As of December 2019 all Ministry of Social Development clients – claimants, people with disabilities, superannuitants, students can self identify using an 0800 number. Again there was no prior notification, no policy work, no risk mitigation. A Human Rights Commission official advised the Ministry “Don’t let this get into the media” and the only notification was made in a technical bulletin of the kind that makes changes to payment rules.
Language changes that disappear lesbians and gay people
Takatāpui – the only word in te reo Māori – the Māori language – that indirectly means lesbian or gay and it does it by being able to use the word which means ‘intimate companion of the same sex’. It was ‘rediscovered’ by one of the pre-eminent scholars of the Māori world Ngahuia Te Awekotuku in the 1970s and it has been collected in one of the early dictionaries. But by the early 2000s it had been co-opted to mean rainbow community / queer / transgender even though there are other words that mean these things. So even a word understood and used by less than ½ m people has to be submerged under the rubric of gender identity leaving gay and lesbian people bereft of the only specific word describing their relationships.
Speak Up for Women
As well as the deferral of the formal self-id legislation there have been some other notable defensive actions by Speak Up For Women. They were able to ensure that no anti-conversion therapy bill would be passed without a carve out for children and young people addressing gender identity issues. Although whether this will have an impact is uncertain – we already know that medical and counselling professionals are frequently suggesting to young people and their parents “Do you think you might be trans?” SUFW were able to retain the word ‘woman’ in the legislation decriminalising abortion which was recently altered. I did an in person submission to the committee. We also think that feminist responses to the Universal Periodic Review’s recommendations related to self-id were instrumental in those related to transgender women being noted but not being adopted. So when there is the opportunity for a democratic voice women have made a difference. However as with the Ministry for Women situtation, the Family Court changes on the criteria for self-id described above most of the decision making has not been democratic or open.
2. What made you realise transgenderism is a threat to women’s rights?
Interesting for a long time I thought. “It’s young women’s feminism”. Natural progression. intergenerational change. Long arc towards freedom & justice. That’s what they see need. And at the same time I couldn’t see where it was going or how it would improve the conditions of women or gay and lesbian people. I always wondered if post-moderinsm and queer theory was an intellectual and progress cul-de-sac.
My perspective has always been why would anyone throw away the reliable but incomplete maps and models provided by science and intellectual enquiry (from rather than saying this map that model with these limitations is still useful). The map/model might be Marxism or Buddhism’s Eight fold path or existentialist philosophy or a treaty or medical guidelines for treatment. (This applies even to the maps and models of indigenous world views, of those caught on the downside of colonialism, of capital, of sexual oppression and racism.) Especially when the models of post-modern enquiry have generally not been rigourously tested and they generally don’t allow for an analysis of power. There is always more – another view, another perspective that supplements the model).
The speficic incidents seem to always be appearing afresh and providing fresh impetus. For me they have included.
- The “glitter bombing” of Germain Greer in 2014 by young feminists in Auckland at a book launch.
- A young woman’s joyous retelling of this event at a union capacity building event.
- Wellington has a lesbian run – lending library. Friends left when the library allowed “trans lesbians”
- Renee Gerlich and Charlie Montague being monstered by NZ Twitter for holding up the “no puberty blockers for children” banner at 2018 Pride.
- Sara Ditum’s Six years in the gender wars.
- People changing their thinking in a way that appears to be driven by fear. (People of course can change their thinking when faced with new ideas. But what I have also seen I think is people silencing themselves or turning through 180 degrees to locate themselves safely in the ideology – to stop having arguments with their children for example or to fit in in their work in the health/education/social care sectors).
- Similarly I see scientists and medics buying into this. NZ’s Chief Scientist said when asked that “Sex is a spectrum – and so is gender.” This is really interesting to me. Is sex two discrete conditions or is it a spectrum of conditions?
I think the proper response by a scientist to such a question should be. “Now that is a really interesting question. Sex is both very simple – on one hand it takes and xy or an xx sperm to determine birth sex and on the other its also very complicated“. The scientist might also describe spectra – the spectrum of light, the features of humans that are normal curves such as distribution of height in humans or the periodic table. These natural phenonema have an inherent structure. But are two sexes and a handful of disorders of sexual development a spectrum in the same sense as the distrubution of height or the wavelenghts of light?
But increasingly the utterances of scientists are taking on an ideological cast. Its really unhelpful to conflate the complexity of the process of sex differentiation as if that means the outcome is complex and confusing for reasons that appear to be ideological. Implying complexity = spectrum is just not being a scientist IMHO. I’d be saying “Being a female or male has many elements and there are many potential developmental errors in sex just as there are with the human as a whole – spontaneous or inherited conditions like colour blindness, too many or too few digits. What is surprising given how complex sexual development is how infrequent the Disorders of Sexual Development conditions are relatively speaking. These conditions can be trivial or serious but they are rarely actual conditions of ‘intersex’. And conditions that are truly intersex in the sense of people who present a difficulty in determining whether they are male or female are vanishingly rare. 1.5 people in 10,000.
3. Who opposes gender identity politics in your country?
- Speak Up for Women – interesting mix of grassroots organising but advocacy, non-partisan, relationship building, women from across the political spectrum and from 17 to 80’s.
- Redline Marxist site – includes international news eg Nick Rogers testimony about violence against Brighton meeting at British Labour Party conference and other
- Broad Sheet used to be NZ’s feminist magazine. Now run anonymously – FaceBook Page, Commentary and discussion.
- Lesbian Rights Aotearoa – in recess
- Counting dead NZ women – in recess
- Women’s Liberation Aotearoa – left of centre, newly formed. No public face or impact yet except for Twitter. @wlaotearoa
- Family First – right of centre anti-gay, pro-trad family.
- New Conservative Party – petition to parliament stop trans teaching in schools 30,000 petition
- Wahine Toa (Warrior women) Rising (a group campaigning AGAINST legalised prostitution (NZ’s law is widely regarded as apparently liberal/progressive internationally). But for the women involved there are many downsides. There is no funding for exiting. Being part of a legal $$ transaction embeds legalised brutality as men feel they can claim for every bit of what they have legally paid for. The professional organisation – the Prostitutes Collective that is a very effective advocacy body in normalising “Sex work is work” and the head of the organisation was made a Dame in 2018 Honours List – the but appears that the collective does not always work well for the women themselves.
Lots of individuals
Georgina Blackmore (former) and Ani O’Brien (current) the spokeswomen for Speak up for Women
Rachel Stewart Journalist has had the only article that outlined in detail the likely impacts of self-id and the context.
Renee Gerlich feminist artist & writer of whom I think it was Jane Clare Jones who wrote “It was when I read Renee that I realised this ideology was international”.
Some good men.
James Robb – https://convincingreasons.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/do-women-exist-the-science-of-sex-the-politics-of-gender-and-the-materialist-and-dialectical-thinking-needed-to-distinguish-the-two/
No MPs or Minsters have spoken out. However we are aware that a number of them ‘get it’.
4. How do transgender policies affect international laws on women’s rights? Who is promoting these changes?
CEDAW being interpreted as covering transwomen because it separates out gender and sex related to women’s gender and women’s sex issues. Ministry for Women, NZ Human Rights Commission. In a memorable set of tweets Professor Rosa Freedman showed this was not the case.
Jogjakarta Principles are being written about they are a United Nations convention that is in force.
Convention on Children’s Rights is being used to support social and medical transition for children by the NZ Human Rights Commission
5. What is happening in schools? Are children being taught to be trans?
Yes, sort of. But a lot of the drive comes from children’s culture. And boards of trustees have the embargo because they hold the pen on the approach to health and sexual health in the curriculum. There has however been a lot of publicly funded investment in the creation of materials by advocacy organisations.
These organisations – particularly Rainbow Youth and Inside Out have become social enterprises. They have been funded by government to provide services for LGBT students and are profiting from teaching gender ideology to public servants.
However Labour are proposing to make the Min of Health guidance the only guidance available. Teachers are under pressure though. Teacher Union policy advocates transgender ideology. Social workers and counsellors too.