Letter to Hobart City Councillors sent today, September 16 2019.
Hello Hobart City Councillors.
I would like to congratulate and thank those of you who voted to allow the group ‘Women Speak Tasmania’ to join the consultation on placing signage in council-run toilets welcoming transgender visitors. I am very sorry to see Councillor Holly Ewin trying to have WST ‘no-platformed’ from the discussion, on the spurious grounds that WST is a hate speech group. This is patently untrue, as the most cursory examination of their Facebook page manifesto and their various public statements will attest.
It is worrying that a public office holder such as Councillor Ewin should try to stifle open discussion of what is an important issue of public policy. Recent changes to Tasmanian law have enacted the ‘affirmation’ model of gender identity. While it may well be socially and psychologically beneficial for people who wish to live as the gender of their choice without having to undergo medical treatment, there is also the potential threat to women’s traditional rights to privacy and security in public places if, for instance, an intact biological male seeks access to a women’s toilet.
There have been numerous cases overseas that starkly illustrate the point. Just to mention one: the case of transgender Canadian Jessica Yaniv, who has famously sued 16 or more beauty therapists under anti-discrimination legislation for refusing to handle ‘her’ male genitals for massage or waxing. Similar cases could well happen in Hobart.
Any responsible and sensible municipal body would be wise to consider these questions before they erupt in litigation and complaint, however difficult they may be to resolve. Council should, for instance, bear in mind that Hobart has a growing population of muslim and other immigrant cultures in which sex roles and identity are clearly defined and where the violation of female privacy in public places like council toilets or change rooms would not be acceptable.
So I repeat my thanks and congratulations to Councillors Damon Thomas, Jeff Briscoe, Tanya Denison, Simon Behrakis and Marti Zucco, and urge the others to at least engage in honest and open debate on this important issue.