7 September 2023 – A coalition of LGBTIQ+ groups have emphatically rejected the divisive politics of a lesbian group seeking to hold an event at the Victorian Pride Centre that excludes women who are transgender or bisexual.
The Lesbian Action Group (LAG) has applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for a temporary exemption from anti-discrimination laws to hold an event for lesbians excluding some women.
The group is also seeking a general exemption for five years to hold further events.
In a joint submission to the AHRC, Equality Australia and 14 other LGBTIQ+ groups said the application would undermine the intention of the Act and could not be realistically enforced.
While they agreed it was important for lesbians to be able to gather as a community, the submission found it was unnecessary to exclude women who were transgender or bisexual.
It also stated that the application was “deliberately provocative” as it sought to hold the event at one of the few spaces in Victoria intended to be safe and welcoming of the LGBTIQ+ community as a whole.
“Our community has come out in full force to reject this sad stunt,” said Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown.
“Discrimination laws exist to protect all of us, particularly groups that have experienced historical discrimination and marginalisation because of their race, disability, sexual orientation or gender.”
The joint submission said the applicants had not explained how they intended to police the sex characteristics of the women at the event and pointed to a recent study that found 52.4% of trans women reported being socially excluded and 86% of trans women reported ever having thoughts about suicide.
“Trans and gender diverse Australians are under repeated attack, which forces them out of public life and into social isolation,” Ms Brown said.
“You build community and belonging by creating inclusive and safe spaces, not by excluding the marginalised and vulnerable. Women’s spaces should be open to all women seeking friendship and connection.”
Dykes on Bikes Melbourne said LAG’s tactics do not represent the broader lesbian community.
“LAG is weaponising nostalgia for the “good old days” as their pitch to convince the public that their ‘Lesbians born women only’ event is acceptable,” said Dykes On Bikes Communications Officer Kieran Cavanagh.
“But make no mistake, it is nothing more than dangerous transphobic rhetoric and hate, causing harm and creating division when we should be united.
“Our lesbian community is extremely vast and diverse, and that is a pillar of its strength. Without our trans sisters or queer elders, we would not have the freedoms and rights we celebrate today, or the insight and knowledge for the challenges ahead.
“At Dykes on Bikes Melbourne our club motto is fun, freedom, and friendship, and that includes the freedoms of all lesbians and queer+ women. We stand proudly with our trans sisters and nonbinary family and will continue fighting against LAG’s discriminatory and inflammatory transphobic exemption request. There is space for all of us, and nobody needs to be excluded.”
Switchboard Victoria CEO Joe Ball affirmed the need for solidarity in the face of growing transphobia.
“At Switchboard we embrace the rich and beautiful diversity within lesbian communities. Whereas this application to exempt some lesbians and exclude other women who love women (bisexual, intersex queer) is the anthesis of this,” they said.
“Sadly this application seeks to divide and ultimately erode the love and solidarity we all really need as human beings to thrive, especially during these times when the entwined struggles of trans people and all women are under attack globally.”
#TransEquality Coordinator Max Pick said the broader LGBTIQ+ community had come together in support of trans women.
“Our solidarity is stronger than their discrimination, and our community and our many allies won’t tolerate it,” they said.
“The outpouring of support we have received following this troubling application has been heartening and it shows that our communities support us and welcome us for who we are.
“Our joint submission shows why it is so important for us to coordinate our efforts in the face of these deliberate attempts to exclude trans lives from public spaces.”
The 14 other community organisations in the submission to the HRC include:
· Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council Inc.
· Drummond Street Services
· Dykes on Bikes Melbourne
· Human Rights Law Centre
· LGBTI Legal Service Inc.
· Melbourne Bisexual Network
· Parents of Gender Diverse Children
· Rainbow Community Angels
· Trans Justice Project
· Transgender Victoria
· Transcend Australia
· Zoe Belle Gender Collective
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