This is the text of my oral submission on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. It was delivered to the select committee at parliament on April 11.
In several sections, this Bill challenges understandings of sex that are a) based on biology, b) commonplace and c) form the basis of international mechanisms that cannot be ignored like the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW.
This Bill instead further entrenches pseudoscientific, inconsistent, and dangerously medicalised notions of sex defended with denial and doublethink.
What is sex if it needs to be recorded, and can be observable one day, but subjectively nominated the next? If medical practitioners are wrong to assume they can observe it, but are still called on to “correct” its appearance?
Section 68 relies on the availability of medical expertise on sex nomination. Yet the sexual health physician in charge of trans healthcare at Auckland DHB, Jeannie Oliphant, says she does not know what makes people transgender any more than she knows why she was born left-handed. Perhaps not the skills but the ideas of gender identity advocates are by nature experimental, and not expert.
We need to be more rigorous and in this Bill insist that sex is defined clearly. Does a female have a vagina, or not? Is same-sex attraction legitimate or not? There are consequences. Section 69 of this Bill puts children at grave risk of sterilisation and conversion therapy. Sex-based protections are undermined wherever sex is ill defined.
Lesbian women are already suffering from ideas gaining traction that gender non-conformity might make them male. I know several young women who struggle with the popular undermining of female only same-sex attraction in a new age of “male lesbians”. This is not hysteria, but one real and devastating consequence of attempts to radically redefine sex.
RainbowYouth has been distributing breast binders in schools, ostensibly for born “transmen” – but we know teenage girls suffer discomfort with their bodies in this climate of objectification we live in. Consider Northland teenager Zahra Cooper, a young lesbian who was put on a course of testosterone that permanently altered her body and voice before she recognised she is inalterably female.
I want to add here that extrapolating from intersex experience that sex is “assigned at birth” does intersex people no favours. To conflate the intersex experience of physically developing in ways other than were indicated at birth with the experience, of, for instance, males who claim to be lesbian, is simply reckless.
Consider too that the concept of a pay gap makes absolutely no sense when you accept definitions of sex and gender that are subjective and unrelated to biology or the sexism females face. Note that Gavin Hubbard took a gold title in a women’s weightlifting tournament lifting 19 kilos more than Samoan silver medalist, Sipaia. Another New Zealand male by the name of Weathersley is now similarly taking out women’s mountain biking.
#Metoo also shows women have every reason to be concerned about moves that facilitate male access to female safe spaces, schools and sports teams. Indeed, Malcolm Platt, Rory Francis, and Alex Seu are all local trans identifying male sex offenders whose access to already overflowing women’s prisons would be eased with this Bill to women’s detriment. Internationally, it has been shown that trans identifying males retain male pattern violence. This Bill would also skew reporting on that violence.
Young Labour expects women to be content with redressing abuse of this Bill individually through the courts using unspecified laws. They frame court processes involved with changing birth certificates as tedious and demoralising. Yet court processes following breaches of women’s safety are simply the price to pay in a more important quest for male freedom to self identify.
Last week a submitter, committee member and later online backlash framed three women who encouraged this committee to consider the impacts of this Bill on women as offensive. This an increasingly common and silencing cruel reversal of the reality that epidemic male violence necessitates women speak up for ourselves and for girls.
I request that this committee listen carefully to women asking that this Bill defines “sex” in alignment with CEDAW. No novel definitions of sex should be further entrenched without full public consultation. Kia ora.