We’ve been somewhat reluctantly engaging in some politics recently as we felt responsibility to stand against sexism. We will be having ongoing kōrero about the use of engaging with the state, as it often seems our energy is better spent on other projects.
That aside, here is the video we played at our Wednesday morning Zoom with government:
Here is the video (exactly the same) on the Committee’s Facebook livestream. We start at 5 minutes 30 seconds.
At the end of our presentation against self declaration of sex we encouraged audience members to donate to these orgs because we wholeheartedly support their mahi:
– The Fistula Foundation
And we suggested heading over to Dragon Cloud Press if you are interested in learning more about women’s herstory. Renée’s writing and art is a real treasure of 21st century feminism, and her sharp analysis enables women to make connections across oceans and millennia!
Full text of our spoken submission against self declaration of sex:
Tēnā koutou, we are from the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa. Here’s our kaupapa. We’re here today to talk about a few key concerns – your misunderstanding of sex and gender, the fact you are going to entrench sexism in law, the pattern of abuse overseas, your narrow view regarding ending discrimination and of course, your refusal to explain how women’s rights will remain protected. Our key question and the central issue is, if any man can be a woman, what does that mean for women’s rights?
So we have two terms, sex and gender, and they refer to two different things. Sex is biological and refers to reproductive capacity. There are two reproductive systems, male and female. A tiny number of people will have a difference or variation of sexual development, and a tiny number of them will not easily be categorised as male or female at birth. In that situation, we support self-ID of sex for them later on.
We’ve included some common objections to save everyone time!
“So you’re saying women who can’t xyz aren’t women?”
No, we’re just saying that there are two sexes in mammals, resulting in two kinds of reproductive systems and two gametes.
“and you’re saying female babies must grow up to be feminine?!!”
No – sex is biological. It says nothing about who you will love, your personality, expression, disposition or ideas. When we say sex matters that is because it is of significance, especially when it comes to health and ending sex based oppression.
“So you’re reducing women to their sex?????”
“And again, no, we simply want to reduce the difference between men and women to mere sex.”
So now we’re onto gender.
Gender is the process by which we associate female people with the colour pink, and male people with the colour blue. It is also the process that means the blue coded group, as a whole, earn heaps more and own far more property, and the pink coded group, as a whole, are expected to be family focussed and pressured to remove body hair etc. Gender is the social value, expectations and limitations based on sex. It expects men to be masculine and women to be feminine. These gender roles are heterosexual. Worldwide, women fight against it.
It is hierarchical in structure, and men as a class benefit from the global subordination of women and girls. Using an intersectional analysis, we can see that, for instance, Black women experience racialized sexism – a hybrid of racism and sexism.
Feminists understand we are born into a sexist society, but women are not innately feminine and men are not innately masculine.
We are very concerned about the submissions by Rainbow and Christian Conservatives who both believe in tying the idea of sex to personality, disposition, expression and interests. We think it is just as regressive to believe your feelings, personality, disposition, expressions and interests are a reflection of your sex (and should be recorded in law), as it is to believe a persons sex determines those things.
Why is this feminist analysis of gender, which has existed for over 60 years and is widely accepted, less valid than the neoliberal concept that gender is innate and individual?
Regarding conservative gender beliefs: There is no one way to live as a woman or live as a man. This concept relies on gender roles and it has no place in our laws.
Next we are going to talk about the international pattern of abuse of self declaration of sex laws, as it appears to have been left out of your analysis! We are going to go through 6 examples in 60 seconds, because we are conscious of time.
In [Fresno, California], at least nine homeless women were subject to sexual harassment in the shower.
[In the Karen White example], at least 2 women were sexually assaulted by a convicted sex offender while in prison. [In Vancouver], marginalised women had their businesses targeted and were harassed for not waxing Jessica’s male genitalia. You’ll be familiar with this case (Vancouver Rape Relief vs Kimberly Nixon), where a male dragged a rape crisis centre through the court system for over ten years.
[In Palmerston House, Toronto], a woman recovering from male violence was made to share a room with a male, or leave the residence. And here again (Veronica Ivy example), we see males winning championships which were designed to enable women to have a chance at winning in sport. And of course, the recent WiSpa incident with the sex offender which you have heard a lot about so far. (That was our one for good luck!)
And others. [[on this slide there is a typo regarding Madilyn Harks – it says ‘opinion’ where it should say ‘prison’]]
In all these examples self declaration of sex was a factor AND the people harmed were women and girls. We are left with a sexist pattern of abuse.
We want women and girls in Aotearoa to have the strongest possible protection from male violence and abuse, including male abuse of the legal system. We hope that you share that goal, and that you choose to modify this Bill so that women and girls’ sex based rights stay protected.
Now we are going to touch on your narrow, binary ideas around ending unjust discrimination.
When it comes to ending discrimination the options are not, ‘allow self declaration of sex’ OR be a terrible person.
Both things could be true, or neither.
We know that gender non-conforming and noncompliant people face cruel discrimination. In the face of that, it is our responsibility to take action: banks should not deny people access to the money system because of a mark on a birth certificate. Neither should housing be withheld from someone because how they look does not match what a landlord presumes someone from that sex should look like.
All gender non-conforming people must be protected from discrimination in housing, jobs, financial, schools etc. regardless of what their birth certificate says.
You should not need to hide your biological sex in order to be fully protected from unlawful, unjust and cruel discrimination.
We need to create an Aotearoa New Zealand where being gender non-conforming is socially acceptable, not only for the few people who wish to alter their birth certificates, but for the many gender non conforming people who have no reason or wish to do so.
Finally we want to return to our core contention, how will women’s rights remain protected when any man can legally declare himself a woman?
A common response is that nobody would ever bother with paperwork to be a creep. Tell that to every abusive man who has fought for custody and then hurt his children, every man who has applied to be in a position of power with the intention, primary or not, of abusing. Larry Nasser bothered with paperwork.
There is a pandemic going on, one of male violence towards women and girls. We have gotten so used to it, that we do not feel or notice it unless something particularly scandalous happens.
With the backdrop of men beating women in Aotearoa hundreds of thousands of times a year, how can you justify rolling back women’s hard fought for protections?
Can you assure us how our rights as lesbians to offer lesbian only spaces and services won’t be undermined?
This proposal is about removing all previous safeguards in order to enable every New Zealander to self declare their sex. As a result, it puts women and girls at a higher risk of abuse through the legal system and in female-only spaces and services. We have seen this pattern overseas and it is unacceptable.
We do not think there is any justification whatsoever for further eroding the rights of women and girls on the basis of sex. We ask that you think creatively about ending discrimination, so that you protect the rights and wellbeing of all without undermining women’s rights.
If you enjoyed our presentation, we recommend donating to Women on Web or The Fistula Foundation. And if you want to learn more about how women got here, head to Dragon Cloud Press and purchase a copy of A Brief Complete Herstory.
We are now available for questions.
Note: We were not asked any questions, or offered any assurances.
Link to our 2021 written submission against self declaration of sex on the NZ Parliament website.
Link to our 2018 written submission against self declaration of sex that was, for whatever reason, not published on the NZ Parliament website.