Having failed to stop the BDMRR being passed, had their opposition to the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation, getting told where to go by the Human Rights Commission after they criticised their PRISM report — this week Aotearoa New Zealand’s transphobic movement opened up a new front. Schools.
This isn’t a surprise. The last twelve months has seen momentum build behind explicitly outlawing supporting trans youth and trans healthcare in many U.S states. Texas now has legislation that specifically criminalises parents supporting trans and non-binary children, classifying it as child abuse. In one horrendous case, the parent of a legal adult is being investigated for historical child abuse for supporting her son to be the adult they now are.
In Florida, there’s a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in which “the bill’s authors write that their aim is to prohibit “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.” But later, the actual bill states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.” Which if you’ve read some of my previous posts, is the descendant of the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act which eliminated all non-heterosexual representation from British schooling between 1988 and 2003.
Much of it has seen the U.S Far Right begin to speak of diversity and sexual health education as “Grooming”, with the clear intent of linking the LGBTQiA+ community with paedophilia, a retread of the 1980’s “Gay Agenda” smears from EXACTLY the same people and organisations. In fact much of the anti-trans movement is simply aggressive 80’s homophobia with the serial numbers filed off, being wielded by people who know exactly what they’re doing. If you look, you’ll see some of New Zealand’s anti-trans activists retweeting their work approvingly. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what they’re going to do next.
Coincidentally, just this week, the former founder of Speak Up For Women and the Free Speech Union, who is also Judith Collins’ former press secretary and currently Digital Director for Sean Plunket’s $3,000,000 Don’t Ask Where The Money’s From Platform, sent out an OIA to many schools in Aotearoa New Zealand requesting the following…
Personally, encumbering schools with an OIA of this nature as Omicron reaches its peak and almost every school is losing staff members to isolation or the virus and students learning is being disrupted more than at any point during the pandemic, isn’t something I would even consider if I’d been working in lobbying and political communications for the last five years or so. Then again, I’ve never worked for Judith Collins.
After some mild pushback from schools, which could possibly have contained the phrase “Are you serious, why are you doing this right now?” it became clearer that the OIA was focusing in on outside agencies who offer support for LGBTQiA+ and diversity training for schools. Given that in Aotearoa New Zealand, that usually comes from InsideOut.
So it’s pretty clear that what the request is looking for is which schools have been working with InsideOut, what materials they have been provided with and if the charity has received funding from the school. There were also the questions about how schools support gender diverse students, and the inevitable mention of toilets because I swear these people cannot get porcelain off their minds.
Once again we look overseas. Stonewall is the UK’s biggest LGBTQiA+ charity. Just over a decade ago it was often criticised for its absence in fighting for transgender rights, and its occasional promotion or celebration of outright transphobic people. They changed, and began to fight for trans rights — their campaign “Some people are gay, get over it!” also included “Trans women are women, get over it!”
This was fiercely opposed by the depressingly long list of British media transphobes, and anti-trans activists. In the years that followed, many of these people found themselves allied with anti LGBTQiA+ right-wing groups — both in the UK and in the US. The campaign against the Gender Recognition Act was brutal, the sight of the British media seemingly publishing a new transphobic article every week was horrendous. And the worst thing is, it worked.
Through legal challenges, the funding of which is as equally unknown as that of a NZ Right Wing media startup, the NHS’ gender diverse healthcare has ground to an absolute halt. We had the unedifying sight of the thankfully retiring Simon Bridges quoting the Bell v Tavistock case in Parliament, before the case was thrown out on appeal.
The establishment of the LGB Alliance, which barely conceals its dislike of the letters within its own name and outright targets trans people, will be familiar to those of us here — as a similar lobby group attempted to establish itself after Speak Up For Women were overwhelmingly opposed by the LGBTQiA+ community.
The UK Government has indicated it will not go forward with the GRA, it sacked its advisory panel who kept telling them they needed to pass the legislation, the English Human Rights Commission has been revealed to have been in direct communication with (and taking media advice from) transphobic activists and lobby groups.
Wales and Scotland have devolved Government and are committed to passing the legislation — but have found themselves subject to the same campaigning, including the dispiriting sight of the EHRC criticising the Scottish Government which is like the NZ Human Rights Commission telling Australia what to do, and was received about as well.
This conflict is often depicted as one with equal powers, with the transphobic side decrying Big Pharma, George Soros and The Trans Lobby — which every single trans person will tell you provides absolutely nothing in the way of actual financial or political support (The Trans Lobby doesn’t exist, numerous smaller and often barely surviving charities do).
Meanwhile their side can afford national billboard campaigns, flying speakers in from around the world, expensive legal fights at the highest level of the UK and inches and inches of completely free and unbiased columns and articles in almost every mainstream newspaper in the UK. They can form new lobby groups which hold conferences, register as charities and apparently never rely on public donation drives — nobody’s running a marathon for the LGB Alliance, you know?
Is this what we want in Aotearoa New Zealand? We already saw the charity Rainbow Youth be described, completely straight faced, as a nefarious organisation that was “transing” teenagers during the BDMRR Select Committee. The fact that these arguments were treated as risible was comforting, but they were still made.
It seems that having lost on the BDMRR and Conversion Therapy, while employing tactics used by transphobic activists in Britain and the U.S, the anti-trans movement in Aotearoa New Zealand has not learned that what may have worked over there does not always work over here.
Attempting to spook schools into not using a charity organisation that does an incredible amount of work on far less money than it costs to put up a transphobic billboard cannot be tolerated. Attempting to portray LGBTQiA+ inclusive education as somehow corrupting or directing children and teenagers towards being queer is a dangerous attack on the whole community. Any teacher will tell you it’s hard enough to get children to learn curriculum subjects, the idea you could teach them how to be gay is absurd.
Equally absurd is the queasy ease with which some of Aotearoa’s anti-trans activists have assimilated the U.S attacks on the LGBTQiA+ community. Like their Stateside counterparts, they may claim to be doing it to protect children. Protecting them from what? Well, knowledge of the LGBTQiA+ community. Why is that bad? Oh, there’s that horrible recycled homophobia, it’s back again in transphobia form — but one which also will have the same effect on the entire community.
The fact that it’s the same people who have been so solidly and repeatedly rejected by the communities they occasionally pretend to represent does offer some comfort. However, the intent of this weeks OIA request does seem like anti-trans activists, having had their quite transparent transphobia fail to achieve the outcomes they wanted, they’re taking aim at the entire community that rejected them — by going after a charity.
Petty? Vindictive? Deeply distasteful? In my opinion, absolutely.
The LGBTQiA+ community and their allies have come together often in the last few years. It looks like we’re going to have to come together once more to patiently and clearly demonstrate that their prejudices cannot overcome our solidarity.
P.S: I note that the OIA requester has now published an article on their new media website criticising Inside Out for offering advice to schools on how to respond to her OIA request and hitting all the same anti-Stonewall beats as her friends in the UK: attacking any kind of govt support, naming people in charge and apparently dismissing their interests, directly linking it to Don’t Say Gay, their UK and US transphobic lobby group friends and the big dogwhistles “Critical Race Theory” and “Niche Ideologies” (thats Queer Rights everyone, with a soupcon of Cultural Marxism)
They’ve also mentioned the Ministry of Education advising teachers not to use Mum and Dad as a blanket term, which teachers have been doing for a long time because — not every child has a Mum or Dad at home. Grown-ups, adults at home — there’s plenty of ways to include all children when talking to all of them, and obviously you use Mum and Dad (or whatever is appropriate) when you speak to them individually.
Like, I didn’t expect everything I’d written above to be confirmed before I published — but it’s nice to see they are being open and honest about the right-wing culture war bullshit they’re a proud and loud advocate of now.