Hobart residents turned out en masse yesterday to protest the meeting of a transphobic group at the City Hall.
Hundreds flocked to Franklin Square this Saturday to attend Equality Tasmania’s ‘Tassie Supports the Trans Community’. Kicking off with speeches from organisation spokesperson Dr Charlie Burton and politician Jade Darko, supporters marched to Hobart City Hall to take part in a peaceful vigil outside the venue in which a meeting of ‘The Coalition for Biological Reality’ was being held later that day. Members of the transgender community and cis allies alike showed their opposition to the group by drawing a transgender flag in chalk at the hall’s steps and participating in a singalong led by the QTas choir.
According to Equality Tasmania’s Dr Charlie Burton, the event sought to show that the Tasmanians embrace diversity:
“The main message is to show that Tasmania is an inclusive community, and we reject the politics of fear and division. And particularly we want to show that Tasmanian women – cisgender and transgender, stand united behind the values of inclusion and equality.”
The Coalition is an organisation with the self-described mission of protecting ‘the rights of girls, women, LGBs, children and parents in Australia and New Zealand’. Groups like the Coalition and Women Speak Tasmania co-opt the language of feminism and gay rights to further their deeply transphobic agenda. The gender essentialism of such groups, Burton said, is weaponised to threaten the rights of transgender women in particular:
“They really seem to be targeting transwomen and seeking to exclude them from participating in women’s sport, accessing women’s services and basically not wanting them to participate in the world as the people they are. Basically they are seeking to reduce human beings to the genitalia that is between their legs. Which is a very reductive view of humanity and I think probably flies in the face of the experience of most of us that we are far more than that.”
The Coalition’s meeting courted further controversy by featuring Tasmanian Liberal Senator Claire Chandler as the keynote speaker. A long-time supporter of ‘sex-based rights’ which discriminate against gender diverse Australians, Senator Chandler used the event to defend her recent bill which seeks to exclude transgender women from sports. While Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out in support of Senator Chandler’s stance during a recent visit to the state’s north, the proposed legislation has been overwhelmingly condemned by the community. Members of Tasmanian parliament, including the leaders of all major parties, have also voiced their opposition.
Burton and Equality Tasmania were disappointed by Senator Chandler’s willingness to associate with a transphobic group, arguing her priorities are better served addressing real issues facing women such as gendered violence:
“I think Tasmanians would be right to be quite questioning Senator Chandler’s priorities. We know there are a range of issues – real issues, facing Tasmanians at the moment, and particularly Tasmanian women. And well, women around the country as we’ve seen with Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins and women around the world as we’ve seen with MeToo.”
On the question of transgender women’s participation in sports, Dr Burton said that Senator Chandler’s legislation is not supported by the sporting community:
“Tasmanian sports organisations and sporting codes and clubs have been seeking guidance on how they can become more inclusive, not less inclusive. So sports themselves are wanting more inclusion and wanting more diversity within their organisations.”
Senator Chandler’s bill is unlikely to be debated before the federal election.