*Who are the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa and what is their aim?
We are a collective of lesbian women who formed a group in early 2018 after we noticed lesbians were ‘falling through the gaps’ of mainstream LGBT organisations.
We aim to protect the hard won sex-based rights and protections of females and lesbians. Sex-based rights pertain to issues that affect and are to do with female biology such as sex-based discrimination, abortion and pregnancy concerns. We have the right to the definition of lesbian to mean biological woman exclusively interested in relationships with other biological women. Self-identification means that absolutely anyone can self identify as either legal sex with no safeguards in place. This effectively renders sex-based and subsequently lesbian rights meaningless.
We aim to protect spaces and institutions for lesbians, to stop the pressure upon butch and gender non-conforming lesbians to transition, and to protect the memory of historical lesbians who are being retroactively assigned a transgender identity. There have been instances of lesbians being pressured into sexual contact with transwomen by the queer community and we are often called bigots, “TERFs” and transphobes for not submitting to sex or relationships with biological males. This is tantamount to a form of conversion therapy and is largely and often most viciously directed at lesbians. We are lesbians – the mere concept does not and will never involve male bodies. We have a right to be lesbians.
*Why are this group’s members hidden?
Members of the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa (LRAA) group have faced abuse and harassment by merely suggesting that female spaces, and lesbian spaces, should be protected from men. This is why at this point in time, most of the group prefers to remain anonymous in this heated political climate.
The abuse our spokesperson has received is evidence of the harassment received. It should therefore be understandable that some members do not wish to be abused and harassed for having a perfectly reasonable opinion.
Some members of this group have also been kicked out of queer groups for raising concerns about sex based oppression. It should not be surprising that some of us wish to remain anonymous. If and when it is more safe to do so, more members may come out of anonymity.
*What is the LRAA’s definition of gender?
Gender is defined as the harmful sex-based stereotypes that are thrust on men and women since birth. It is a foundation upon which sexism can be built. Examples of this are the ideas that women are gentle, nurturing, feminine in appearance (hairless and immaculately made up), submissive, irrational, have an innate interested in homemaking, have long hair and wear feminine clothing. No woman can possibly be all of the stereotypes of femininity, nor should they be any of them if they don’t want to. Gender is a cage into which society limits the diversity of men and women, as well as exaggerating the differences between the sexes in order to widen the hierarchy between men above women, with women invariably always ending up on the bottom.
*Do you advocate for gender non-conformity?
Yes. Gender ideology perpetuates the idea that women must be feminine, that a women who isn’t feminine must be a man and that surgical intervention must be required instead. We encourage the idea that being gender nonconforming is ok. We advocate for accepting yourself as who you are and ridding yourself of the expectations of gender stereotypes, because no amount of surgery can make you a different sex.
*What is the difference between sex and gender?
The answer to this is extremely simple, but many people have become very confused with this. Sex means biological sex, male or female (there are of course intersex people, but these people should not be conflated with trans people. as they are not the same thing and intersex advocates have stated that conflating the two is harmful to them).
Gender is a set of harmful and constricting stereotypes about how men and women should behave.
*Why is it important to protect female-only spaces?
While some spaces should of course be inclusive to all people it is important that there be some spaces just for lesbians, lesbians meaning same-sex attracted females. We now have men (or those identifying as transwomen) in lesbian groups. We are not seeing all gay men’s groups invaded with transmen in them in the same way. The reasons for this are very old and obvious to us, patriarchy and male entitlement.
There must be space for lesbians and women to create community, organisations and events for themselves without males present. Male violence and socialisation is a large problem historically and also in current society which requires women to create their own space in which male influence and hijacking can not occur. The need for women’s space has been proven countless times where women’s concerns in general society and in social movements have been almost entirely dismissed.
Some female spaces require safety from male violence, such as domestic violence shelters and vulnerable spaces such as changing rooms, prisons and bathrooms. Self-ID would allow any male, predatory or not, into these spaces where women should be guaranteed safety. Not only have men already taken advantage of gender ideology to abuse women, but it could prevent women from seeking help if they know males will be in those institutions. Transgender rights should not come at the cost of biological females.
We fully support the need for trans spaces, but currently the demands for trans spaces are almost entirely demanding that women’s spaces are to be more ‘inclusive’. We are concerned that it yet again women who have to give up their spaces. Lesbians are particularly affected as all of their organising is done exclusively for and by women. They would not have this right if self-ID were allowed.
Why does the gender movement threaten the hard work that the suffragists fought for?
Women and lesbians have been subject to abuse for suggesting that long fought for women’s spaces are indeed important to protect. The suffragists risked their lives, and livelihoods to obtain something as simple, and nowadays taken for granted in New Zealand, of the rights of the sex class of women to be able to vote. The same thing is happening now, some feminists in New Zealand are being kicked out of their jobs, harassed, and ridiculed for stating a simple biological fact that women are female.
Given the suffragists struggle granted women the right to vote, it is absurd that women now are not able to vote on what a woman even is. Should lesbians not be able to have same sex only spaces? Should women in domestic violence shelters not be safe and protected from the sex that they were abused by?
*How do transgender(or “self identified” women’s) rights affect women’s rights and lesbian rights?
There are many issues that affect only biological females, or affect them so disproportionally that a distinction between the sexes must be made. Medical risks and problems associated with female biology and pregnancy, abortion, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation and sex-based discrimination are not because of woman’s “gender feeling” or “expression”, they are because of female biology.
Sexism is what women’s oppression has always been based on, and gender is a tool to socialise and oppress women into subordination. By privileging the post-modern and undefinable feeling of gender above the material reality of biological sex we remove a woman’s ability to acknowledge sex-based oppression. We also prop up gender instead of dismantling it as a harmful institution for women and lesbians by convincing gender nonconforming women, many of who are lesbians, that they must be men (for lesbians, this essentially means becoming “straight”) and need surgery and hormones. If we go along with gender ideology, a woman can only be a woman if she conforms to the harmful stereotypes of femininity which almost no one can actually be. We strive for a world where we are rid of sexist stereotypes and everyone can live as they wish.
Women’s music festivals, spas, gyms, literature lists and awards, prizes, scholarships, sports teams and events, book stores are and have been affected by transactivism. Sport’s records for women’s events are now held by biological men, female spas where nudity is allowed are being pressured to allow biological men. Some women’s music festivals that have been running for decades have either closed or now accept transwomen as women.
Making rights based on gender, which is undefinable, materially unobservable, and a merely a psychological feeling allows anyone to be a woman whether their intentions are sinister or not. When a woman is not based on biology, anyone has access to the rights, scholarships, colleges, sports teams/events and spaces that women have fought for. It could be misogynistic men who don’t believe in these female-only institutions, sexual predators or well meaning transwomen.
*How does using gender rather than sex affect women’s sports?
Imagining a world where gender is the only thing that matters, a soccer team with 100% transwomen players will be a women’s soccer team. A parliament with 50% transwomen and 50% men will have gender parity. The examples are obviously extreme, but it is to illustrate the point that according to gender ideology this would be a fair world for women. Notable here is that no females would actually be involved in the process in this example.
In New Zealand, Laurel Hubbard would have absolutely smashed the women competitors if it weren’t for suffering an untimely and sadly horrific injury. This is not fair on women who on average are smaller, but more importantly have been continually socialised to be weaker than male bodied people by not being encouraged in the same way boys are to undertake physical activities from a young age.
In Australia, AFL player Hannah Mouncey, who clearly has a physical advantage over women AFL players is playing in state women’s leagues. http://www.sportingnews.com/au/afl/news/daisy-pearce-says-hannah-mouncey-could-be-a-safety-risk-if-allowed-to-play-in-the-aflw-transgender/d6ad73v27azd14dy03rorhaq3
Even the professional women athletes such as Rhonda Rousey who are experts in their own fields and are speaking out against this are being ignored. https://www.out.com/sports/2015/7/16/ufc-womens-champ-refuses-fight-trans-athlete-fallon-fox.
Samoan woman Iuniarra Sipaia lost to a transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard in the Australian Women’s Open Weightlifting competition, she is another expert in her field saying that the advantage of Laurel Hubbard was unfair and it cost Sipaia the gold medal.
*How are definitions of female biology affected?
The trend towards not using words or phrases such as “woman’s body” “vagina” and “breasts”, instead preferring “front holes” and “top” or “chest” is not only dehumanising but puts some women at risk if definitions are unclear and obscure. A woman may know she has a “woman’s body” but may not know she has a cervix, for example. A campaign for “people with cervixes” to get a cervical smear may not be understandable for all women who need it. Men may not get routine prostate checks if they believe that their body is now completely female. There are health risks for both sexes with this, regardless of how they identify. You can read more about the harms of e.g. calling women “menstruaters” and other similar concerns such as sex based health related risks here. https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/05/trans-rights-should-not-come-at-the-cost-of-womens-fragile-gains
*What is “chest binding” and why is it so harmful for women?
Breast binders are devices that essentially squash breast tissue in order for a woman’s chest to look flat like a man’s. It is western colonial bodily experimentation that is affecting women not just in New Zealand but all over the world. There was a Rainbow Youth campaign to send chest binders to Africa, Latin America and Central Asia, recently in April 2018, you can see this here. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/getting-chest-binders-to-trans-and-non-binary Over $3,000 was raised for this issue.
There are many dangers of breast binding. If you are compressing your breasts this leads to breathing problems. We know the damage that corsets did to women. We should have learned by now that continually compressing any part of your body will lead to damage. This is most definitely a lesbian issue as many of us are being shamed for being gender non conforming women. We are being told to conform to heteronormativity by societal pressure to transition if some of us don’t fit the stereotypes of ‘woman’ and this is the opposite of societal progress.
*How are crime statistics affected by gender?
The important question here is, should biological women be accused of more crime that we actually commit? Should male rapists who subsequently become trans be allowed in women’s prisons? There have been several cases where transwomen have abused women in prison already. Violence is overwhelmingly male, by describing their male crimes as female crimes we obscure the problem of male violence against other men, women and children. Of course some trans people also experience violence but this is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males. Giving up women’s spaces because of the damage to society that men cause is not the answer.
*How does the BDMRR threaten women’s and lesbians rights?
The amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, And Relationship Registration Bill (BDMRR) would allow any person to “self-identify” as the opposite sex, with little to no treatment or evidence required. Not only does this not make sense, it opens up areas for abuse. For example, and male domestic violence abuser to obtain access to a woman’s shelter where his victim might have fled to.
We stress the importance and plead that the women of Aotearoa are consulted on the repercussions of the BDMRR. If a consultation does not occur, there may very well be no more female spaces left to protect in future as women will have no right to speak on sex based oppression if they no longer are the sole claimers of what it means to be female. If the reality of the female sex is denied, then women become impossible to advocate for based on their sex class.
*Why do we believe that gender ideology is so harmful?
We don’t all fit neatly into the boxes we are supposed to. From day one – girls pink, boys blue. There are infinite amounts of social pressures and expectations that we are meant to adhere to growing up and all throughout our lives.
This has recently morphed into quite a popular idea that if people do not meet these behavioural and personality expectations, and people fit more neatly into the expectations of the opposite sex, then they must try and physically and mentally be the opposite sex. This is of course very harmful, it expects that you can change biological reality based on categories of gender expectations, and it comes at a huge physical and mental cost when these desires cannot be met.
We realise how harmful the associations of gender stereotypes on people lives are and regret that such stereotypes have led to the misguided idea that gender equate to biological sex. We wish for a world free of gender roles, where everybody can be themselves and everyone is free of the patriarchal constraints placed upon us all.
We also wish to address the harmful rhetoric floating about that if trans people don’t receive ‘gender affirming care’ that they will commit suicide. This is scaremongering towards people who disagree with transactivist rhetoric . We understand the harms of gender and we are highly disturbed for the young people seeing this harmful idea and believing it to be the only way forward if they do not resolve their gender issues.
*Is there such a thing as a gendered brain?
The science suggests that no, there is not. But to further support the gender ideology movement, some have gone so far as to say that there are “gendered brains”, the science on this has long-standing evidence to suggest, that to our knowledge at this point in time, our brains are more similar than they are disparate in general.
If someone feels like they have the brain of the opposite sex, this argument does not stand up as brains are not gendered. Men and women can have interests typically associated with the opposite sex without the existence of “male or female brains”. There is no such thing as “feeling” like a woman, because women are diverse and have diverse interests and feelings. “Gendered brains” are a scientifically debunked argument based on sexism which tries to prove that men and women are intellectually different.
*Do you want everyone to conform to stereotypes?
Certainly not. Gender stereotypes are very harmful. Transgender ideology only serves to emphasise the disparity of femininity and masculinity, in order for men to rank above women. If one feels uncomfortable in their own body, instead of addressing harmful gender stereotypes, then one has to then identify as the stereotypes of the opposite sex in order to try to be the opposite sex, which only proves to further perpetuates these harmful norms.
*Why does the LRAA think that lesbianism is being undermined by gender ideology?
Gender ideology redefines sexual orientation as same-gender attraction instead of same-sex attraction, ignoring that some people are homosexual, not bisexual, and attracted to the same sex irrelevant of gender identity or presentation. By doing this they try to make everybody bisexually attracted, which is not possible or desired for lesbians and is not unlike conversion therapy. Lesbians disproportionality get harassed for not accepting men romantically and sexually and must work diligently to keep their boundaries up.
Lesbians themselves are greatly affected by gender ideology as many of us are gender nonconforming and our attraction to women can lead us into being pressured into believing, that they we men in the wrong body. This is an old theory called ‘sexual inversion’ born of the late 19th century that lesbians are men born in women’s bodies because they don’t conform to gender stereotypes. It is nothing but homophobia and it is now seeing a resurgence in gender theory. Young lesbians are being medicalised and given harmful sex hormones that can irreversibly affect their bodies and cause sterilisation.
Though feminists tried to encourage a love of one’s body and a rejection of gender, now instead of reconciling the mind to appreciate and accept yourself, gender ideology preaches that you must change and alter your body to fit your feelings of dysphoria.
Even the word “lesbian” has had attempts to replace it with “queer”, which covers all types of people, gay, bi, transgender and even in some cases straight couples.
*What is the ‘cotton ceiling’?
It describes a toxic attitude that lesbians should be pressured into heterosexual sex.
“Cotton” is referring to a lesbian’s underwear as a ceiling which must be penetrated in order to validate a transwoman’s desire to be a woman. For these particular transwomen, a lesbian is something to be conquered, a desire many regular misogynistic men also have. This is described more in this post. https://lesbian-rights-nz.org/shame-receipts/
Biological males have no place in a lesbian space, it is a space that is by its definition exclusively female. Allowing males into a lesbian space is lending approval to the idea that lesbians should be pressured into heterosexual sex (the “cotton ceiling”) and is more evidence of the male fetishisation of lesbianism.
*Why do we believe that it is crucial to protect the word lesbian?
Lesbian is the word that has historically been used to describe the love and sexual attraction between two women. It has been used with pride to describe this unique situation. Going back in history and describing lesbians who wore men’s clothing out of survival, for more opportunity and so that they had less chance of being harassed for their lesbianism and calling them “transmen” is disrespectful and nothing short of revisionist history. Using male pronouns was in many cases, was a way of making it easier to move in society as a lesbian in these times. Lesbianism is a material reality that can be observed. These historical figures were lesbians, women who engaged in romantic and sexual relationships with women and it’s important to preserve and not disrespect our history and our future.
We need a word for female homosexuals so that we can make our own culture and institutions free from men. Protecting the word lesbian makes it clear what a group or organisation is there for. A lesbian organisation communicates to lesbians that this is for them and only them. Giving non-lesbians the word lesbian is another sacrifice out of many that women will have to make for the benefit of males and gender ideology. It is more than anyone else women and lesbians that have to make room and give energy for men when we already have so little for ourselves.
*Why is it so important to have lesbian visibility and representation for our young lesbians?
It is crucial that young lesbians know that it is okay to be gender nonconforming and that there is nothing wrong with that, and they don’t need medical intervention for their homosexuality. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian – we have a rich history with many brave and diverse woman and it’s something you can be proud of. Lesbian culture has been so important for lesbians to feel comfortable in a world where not everyone can be out and proud without repercussions. It is so important for lesbians to see themselves represented and unafraid to be lesbians, whether they be gender nonconforming or not. They also need to know it’s safe and acceptable to be exclusively same-sex attracted, without having to physically alter their appearance which is incredibly heteronormative.
*Do you work with the right wing?
Gender is not a right vs. left issue as so many people like to make out, it is a women’s rights issue. This is not the tired stereotype of lefties vs. religious conservatives. A lot of radical feminists and gender critical people are very left leaning, some are supporters of left political parties, while others are even further left, and some are even absolutely politically homeless due to their being no party in New Zealand that appears to completely support women. Even if right wing parties agree on the some aspects of the gender issue, they still can have other harmful views of women, such as on abortion or the “role” of women in society.
One or two instances of agreement might intersect with others even if they are from very different backgrounds. There are things you would agree with some conservative natured people about, but that does not then instantly make you agree with all of their other thoughts. Some groups have indeed worked with right wing groups, but this is for single issue campaigns and also suggests the desperation of the situation and the complete lack of support for women’s rights in the left.
*Does the LRAA hold essentialist views?
Absolutely not. Biological essentialism is very harmful to people. One suggestion of biological essentialism is for instance that girls are inherently weak, and boys are rough and tumble. We all know that this is not true. Biological Essentialism suggests that men are just always going to be “wired” violently, so little goes into education of violence to boys from a young age. Our environment, society, and culture shapes most of who we are. If we don’t for instance give men opportunities to live outside the stereotype that they are violent, then they have much less of a chance of shaping their behaviours towards each other, and women to be more positive.
If we don’t support girls to become whatever profession they like, they will assume that all they are meant for is to have babies, as society tells us this is what we must do to be a “woman”. Simone de Beauvoir spoke on this and suggested that gender differences are socially constructed, this makes sense in terms that most of our actions and behaviours are learned from the environment that we are in.
*Does the LRAA wish harm on transgender people?
Definitely not but it is an accusation those of us that stand up for women’s rights commonly face.
All people deserve to be free from discrimination in housing, employment and in the justice system. All people should be free from violence, almost all of which is perpetrated by men and not gender critical feminists. Everybody should be able to wear the clothes they want and live outside of the harmful gender stereotypes imposed on us. Nobody should be bullied. Gender critical feminists simply want to protect womens and lesbian rights where transactivism comes in conflict with them. We simply want our concerns taken seriously, instead of ignored or belittled as women’s concerns so often always are.
*Does the LRAA claim to speak for all lesbians?
No, lesbians are not a monolithic group. Some lesbians don’t acknowledge or are ignorant of the threats to them as lesbians and women, and some simply don’t agree with this analysis.
The LRAA objectively recognises that self-ID will by its definition render sex-based protections and definitions meaningless by making gender interchangeable with sex, and making sex a question of someone’s feelings. There is no doubt this will affect women and lesbians and their protections in the law. We don’t speak for all lesbians, we speak for those that are concerned about how gender self-ID and ideology will impact lesbian and women’s rights negatively.
*What is a TERF?
TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It is term used by transactivists and their supporters.
It is a slur used to dismiss women who are gender critical or concerned about women’s rights or even if lesbians say they aren’t sexually attracted to male bodies.
TERF is often used within violent rhetoric and has replaced or even been used in conjunction with misogynist slurs. It is sometimes been used in conjunction with rape threats, or threats of violence to shut women up or make them fearful to speak out in favour of their rights. “Punch a TERF”, “The only good TERF is a dead TERF” – these are all terms you see often online.
More often than not people using this slur have never actually read any radical feminist texts to understand what the “RF” in “TERF” means, yet freely throw the misguided acronym around without much thought.
See here https://terfisaslur.com/ for a large amount of evidence of the use of this slur.
*How do we resolve this sex and gender issue while retaining the rights of lesbians and female based laws and spaces?
Biological sex as an important concept that needs legal protection. It allows women to have female-only space and organisations to advocate based on our unique concerns due to our biological sex. We need to rid the world of harmful gender stereotypes, not reinforce them, which is what gender ideology does. Discussion needs to be able to occur publicly between gender critical feminists and discussion should be encouraged with and between all groups with an interest in this topic. Politicians must listen to gender critical feminists and women’s concerns and the public and politicians need to cease the continual silencing of feminists, but they are currently ignoring us.