Where To From Here?

12 min readApr 2, 2023

The following is an extract from the PostingCast Episode 16 where we invited two trans men, a trans woman and a cis woman to talk about their experiences at the Kellie-Jane Keen-Minshull protest in Tamaki-makau-rau and other events in Pōneke and Ōtautahi. I would like to thank Jasmin Taylor for their help and support in transcribing the talk.

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Artie: The thing with a free speech, quote unquote, debate that really frustrates me, though is because it’s a lot more than just free speech, obviously, but the intricacies of what free speech and freedom of expression actually means for all of us because it’s not this like single homogenous bloc.

I always find that so interesting that the people who are you know, massive proponents of free speech, you know, like the guys in the media, who go on social media platforms and holler about it are always just sort of defending this one very specific perspective and one very specific opinion of trans people.

And the issue with this kind of hate obviously, is that it incites violence against us, justifies systematic oppression and interpersonal discrimination, of course, but it also sort of limits the kind of freedom of speech and expression that we can have as trans people.

When the discussion is so centered around whether or not we get the right to live, whether or not we get basic rights, like health care, like housing, like freedom from discrimination, because we’re forced to defend this because the debate is down to “we should have rights” as a necessary response to people insisting that we shouldn’t.

It restricts the things that we can actually talk about. We can’t talk about, you know, the intricacies and the beauty of trans life. We can’t really talk about, you know, trans joy and thriving as trans people. If it’s our very existence that’s up for debate.

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Cass: The Free Speech position has been very insidiously used for the right-wing for quite a while now. And I think it’s a very old kind of tone policing and like the return to civility, just kind of faux position that they use to try and control how people respond to our stories.

I think it’s very telling, and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, about how most minorities who have been repressed throughout history have this kind of stereotype of being aggressive and angry and loud. And they want to try and take it to this free speech place. To try and couch the fact that being angry, and being scared is a very appropriate response to having people challenge your existence in the way that you exist in the world.

Finlay: Yeah it’s a very useful argument, I guess. And I think it was it’s been very valuable to Free Speech Union. But their argument quickly shifted from “The best way to deal with this is out in the open, we should let her in so that people can challenge it. And we can see what happens… “ to “Oh wait, no, actually challenging it was wrong. She should have been allowed to be not challenged. I know that we said that this was what we were going to do and that was the right way to deal with it, bring it out into the sunlight.

And then when we respond in the way that, in theory, is the best way for us to respond suddenly “Oh, actually, free speech doesn’t include you telling someone to shut up” which, it does.

And it’s also, I feel like this was a tweet, but like, it doesn’t mean that someone can’t tell you to shut up, or that someone can’t tell you that you’re wrong, or you’re stupid. It means that the government can’t shut down and prevent you from speaking. Right? Like, it’s a very specific thing when we talk about free speech.

Yeah, it doesn’t mean freedom from criticism. And it’s a very weird interpretation of it. I guess it’s very useful if you don’t want to be criticised, and you’ve put a lot of money into creating something that you are calling a union because you know that it will piss people off.

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Hannah: I think there’s always this debate about all we should let things out into the sunlight to disinfect and it’s like, you realize that that kind of conversation is the infection you’re trying to disinfect.

When you disinfect, something, you get rid of it. Like, we already knew who she was and what she was saying, which is why we shouldn’t let her in, in the first place. But you know, they wanted to prove a point? The infection arrived, we disinfected it. That is honestly the perfect example of how free speech is supposed to work. But obviously, no one who uses free speech and that kind of bad faith argument actually means free speech. That we’re all supposed to play by the rhetorical rules because they’re the answers that they were making them up.

John: Was I do think a lot of nodding just then, literally everyone just nodded in sync like yes, that is true.

Hannah: I was disappointed that the government let in because it was made obvious from the judicial decision that they could have made a different call, their hands were not tied. They could have I believe I’m not saying this is because I have no way to know it. But I believe the reason they did let her in is they didn’t want to get all the noise about them shutting down free speech after the years of all the noise about freedom and COVID and all that sort of rhetoric and they were “like oh the last thing we want to hear as everyone like bad faith yelling about freedom. Let’s just let her in”

And the community can deal with it. Because I think that the government knew that we would. And I think that that’s actually a really terrible thing to do. Because as the fallout from it we’ve seen individual people from the crowds targeted by alt-right and tried to be identified and tried to be tracked down. We’ve seen the media have a field day, because as soon as the media, something I’ve observed in our New Zealand media, is as soon as the media feels like there’s a swing towards a popular position. They feel like they have to Devil’s Advocate every time.

And so I think that’s where we’re seeing a lot they saw so much support for trans rights and so much support in the crowd that they are like, right, we’re going to have to get the other side of this because they’re all about getting the other side of the story. And, I think that was that’s hurting the most vulnerable members of our community. And I think that was a completely unacceptable decision by the government.

Because basically, they again, push the people who are most vulnerable to protect themselves instead of like taking it on the chin as they should have. But, you know, again, that’s not something I’m no that is just my assumption based on what I can see from here and my little civilian perspective.

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Cassie: As beautiful as it is to say these kinds of communities come together and stand up for ourselves like we shouldn’t have to be doing that. It should just be as simple as shutting that conversation down before it happens. I wanted to spend Sunday going to watch John Wick and I couldn’t do that because I had to do this. And it was great to be there. And it was great to do that. But it’s, it’s the kind of thing that stops us from getting to experience as much trans joy as we want to, because we have to be fighting for our existence instead.

Artie: And it’s not just events like this either. It’s sort of like it’s an everyday struggle. It’s like, we don’t just face transphobia in the most obvious ways when someone comes to this country to you know, stand up on a little stage and talk like to try and spread hate speech.

It’s in our everyday lives too, we can’t really get away from it and I think that’s something that sometimes people don’t fully realize, because it’s not so obvious. When events like these happen it’s really easy to see because it’s tangible. You can see the event happening you can see all the reporting on it, but no one reports on the weird comments that your classmate makes and no one reports on the jokes that your roommates make and no one reports on on the tutor like treating you strangely.

This is all theoretical I should mention and I’m not calling anyone in my life out specifically because I’ve done my best to try and curate the people around me, because that kind of thing is just exhausting. And it’s a massive burden that a lot of us have to bear in our everyday lives. And I think this is a really good demonstration of that kind of harm that it can do.

But I just want people listening who maybe aren’t trans or onto clued up on what trans everyday reality is, is that these attacks in our existence aren’t just isolated to an event. It’s systematic, it’s so personal, and it’s part of what we experience every day.

Photo by Norbu GYACHUNG on Unsplash

John: What is it that would make things easier, outside of the government actually doing something about trans health care or putting gender into the Human Rights Act properly? What can grow from this big pile of shit that she dumped on the country?

Artie: Ultimately, what trans people want is we want to be happy, we want to thrive, we want to see our friends happy. We want to go about our everyday lives and feel safe. We want to have our basic human rights met and so anything that helps us to reach that goal of not having to face so much fucking bullshit on a daily basis would be what we need from other like other people who say they’re allies.

Ally is not something I don’t think that you can sort of passively call yourself. It’s an active process that you have to keep doing every day. And so just like, on the interpersonal level, if you hear someone like say some bullshit if you hear someone misgendered anyone, like, correct them on it, because it’s horrifying, it’s a risk. To trans people safety if we do like speak up about it, especially if it’s like a sort of weird transphobic joke or something like that. It makes us a target. It puts us in danger. And so if, you know, more allies would stand up for us. It keeps us out of danger and it makes things safer.

On an institutional level, like just more pressure, more like outward, visible support, right? Just things like being so visible about your support, being so vocal about your support if like people stay silent, then we’re allowing all of these like horrible like terfs and far-right people to dominate this narrative and pretend that they have the majority agreement.

And obviously, the debunking that is important, things you know, not letting the fucking terfs flood the submissions on bills that are being passed putting public pressure on politicians, on people who can make changes like through legislature, just things like that. Just being very vocal about your support.

Because like I said, Being trans can feel very, very isolating and especially isolating when no one stands with you and stands by you. But as we’ve seen from these protests, there are so many people who are willing to stand by us. So more of that in our daily lives. Remember, transphobia isn’t a one-time event like this it’s a structure. It’s a process that we all kind of have to go through.

Photo by Norbu GYACHUNG on Unsplash

Cassie: And I think similar, just kind of adding on to that and kind of my closing statement is, if you are someone who considers yourself to be a trans ally, I’d really like to see more people learning the kind of terf dog whistles that get used and not giving them a fucking inch.

I have seen way too many people falling for the trans people in sports and birthing people discussions. And I really need you to stop and think if those conversations are worth giving oxygen and attention to, or if they are being used to keep you in the middle ground of a conversation that shouldn’t have a middle ground and just listen to what trans people tell you about them.

Finlay: I think knowing history is always useful. And it’s always good. There’s a lot of particularly I guess when it comes to like queer history and how to talk about queer history and the LGB Alliance stuff about how like trying to separate trans people from the rest of the community.

Like that’s not how it was. And generally not a lot of what they say paints a version of the past that doesn’t really exist. And I think that’s useful or not, like, I think this was something that I found the other day, but New Zealand was known as the place to go and get particularly bottom surgery internationally in the 90s because we were more accepting because I think we had more surgeons. We certainly don’t have any now. I believe we have one.

There’s this idea of this being new of it’s the latest fad or whatever. There are definitely more probably out trans people than there have been and also more trans people in general. It’s difficult to say I suppose, because we don’t necessarily have the same language now, but um yeah, like, it’s not new. And there’s a lot of really cool historical stuff.

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Hannah: My final plug for the night is particularly for the parents out there listening. I want you to pay attention to what’s happening at your kids school. Because let me tell you, the people who aren’t necessarily not even necessarily the terfs, but the fundamentalist Christians. They have got a huge bee in their bonnet about health education and sex education.

And they are beginning to mobilize, they’re starting to write letters and starting to bother teachers and principals. Teachers and principals, particularly when it comes to things around health and sex, that’s terrifying conversation territory, because it’s potentially it’s so volatile and it gets every parent. Every parent gets naturally protective around those subjects.

So their natural reaction will be to try and give in, to try and placate this kind of attack because they don’t want any drama. And that absolutely cannot happen. We can’t allow that to happen. We can’t allow the next generation to lose their access to good health information, because a bunch of fundamentalist Christians decided to go ahead and start a letter-writing and in-person campaign to limit it. It’s just not acceptable.

And, you know, I watch the space a lot. So I can tell you it is happening. It will continue to happen, it will probably escalate. So please, please, if nothing else, just like watch those areas and speak up and be like, actually, we’re really pleased to have this or that’s fantastic.

Pay attention to who’s on your school board, all that kind of thing. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest areas and you can’t sort of let yourself be squeamish about it. You really have to go for it because the kids absolutely cannot speak up for themselves. They don’t have that ability to yet.

John: Thank you all for agreeing to come on. It’s been a very tough two weeks or so with everything that’s happened and it’s been so nice to get all of your perspectives on this event that has happened and will continue to happen. I mean, a lot of joy has been spoken about, both joy that you felt at these events, and the joy that you feel you’re denied by having to, again just stand up for just being a person in public.




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