When your rally is supposed to be about freedom, it must be awkward when actual Nazis show up.
History shows Nazis were never big on freedom, at least not for the millions of people they murdered and the populations they subjugated. But that was precisely the position anti-transgender activists found themselves in this week, when their protest in Melbourne was “hijacked” by neo-Nazis who repeatedly performed the Nazi salute. The anti-trans activists said they were all about freedom of speech.
Anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull AKA Posie Parker.Credit:FFX
The speaker at the rally was a British anti-transgender activist called Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull. She was on a national tour and turned up in Canberra on Thursday, where protesters and counter-protesters clashed again, this time without Nazis.
Keen-Minshull is the founder of a British group called Standing for Women which opposes transgender people participating in sports that align with their gender identity, or using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. She believes transgender people should not legally be allowed to change their gender, and she even opposes drag performances, according to reports. She’s particularly concerned about drag performances in places where they might be viewed by children – a culture war directly imported from the United States, where some state legislatures have banned drag queens reading stories to kids in libraries. Regressive state governments in America say they are “protecting” children with these bans.
They are part of a wider Republican “war on woke” – proof, ultimately, that the contemporary mainstream American conservative movement is bankrupt of policy ideas.
Once, the Republicans had things to say about fiscal policy and family policy. Now they just ban life-saving abortion care and persecute one of society’s most vulnerable minorities – trans people.
One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham is outspoken about the gender fluidity he says is being “taught” to children in schools.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
This week it was reported that the only hospital in a northern Idaho town of 9000 people, is closing its labour clinic. In a statement, the hospital named Idaho’s “legal and political climate” as one of the reasons for the closure.
Idaho is a Republican state – it has outlawed abortion and made it possible to sue doctors who perform abortion care. In the words of the hospital’s statement, “the laws criminalise physicians for medical care nationally recognised as the standard of care”.
Consequently, obstetricians and gynaecologists are leaving the state because it’s too dangerous for them to deliver their services to women.
It is always depressing when elements of our politics attempt to import American culture wars.
In the case of wars on “wokeism”, they gain some traction here because they do speak to concerns people have about social change, particularly around ideas of gender identity. There is also anxiety about the omertas of social media, which people call “cancel culture”, but which I think of as a creeping form of social censorship that is insidious when it occurs because it is mostly self-imposed.
Illustration: Reg LynchCredit:
But the thing that really bothers me about the anti-trans activists is their claim to be speaking for women. The loudest voices amplifying this stuff tend to belong to right-wing men, who hitherto have shown little interest in the rights or freedoms of women. That tells us everything we need to know about their real agenda.
In the case of NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham, the emphasis is on parents, but the issue is still transgenderism. This week Latham spoke at a church meeting in south-west Sydney, and violent protests broke out outside the church, when LGBTIQ protesters were attacked by a mob of men, some of whom said they were there to assert their religious rights (others just seemed to be spoiling for a fight).
Latham is outspoken about the gender fluidity he says is being “taught” to children in schools. Previously he tried to introduce legislation compelling teachers not to support a student’s gender identity without parental consent. Such support might involve, for example, treating a child according to their gender identity in the classroom, in terms of names and pronouns.
This type of ban is another American import and, as pointed out by NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, it is unworkable. It’s also unethical and wrong.
If a kid from a conservative religious household talked about his atheism at school, should that be reported back to his folks? What about a Muslim girl who wants to wear a bikini to the swimming carnival against the wishes of her parents? It always worries me when parents assert their “rights” – as a general rule, I don’t believe we have “rights” over our children. We have responsibilities to them. Surely the most sacred of those responsibilities is to allow them self-expression, and safety in doing so.
Now that some of these anti-transgender people have literally associated themselves with Nazis, it becomes less and less possible to have a sensitive, respectful public conversation about, for example, the level of medical intervention desirable for young trans kids, or the concerns some women have around gender-neutral language like “chest-feeding” instead of “breastfeeding”.
Biological essentialism versus the sociological origins of gender is a live, and interesting debate within feminism, but at women’s festivals and in other feminism forums you won’t see both sides of that debate represented. This, in turn, only feeds the narrative of the hateful anti-trans crowd – that debate is being shut down and “you can’t say” certain things.
These are people who don’t care a fig about women in a political sense – people who would never lobby for abortion care, or for domestic violence funding, maternity leave or equal pay.
The fact that their rallying cry has become “let women speak” would be funny if it wasn’t so galling, not to mention disingenuous.
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