I think self declared sex changes are a poorly thought out idea: My evidence to MP’s (part 3)
This has been edited so that it makes sense to people who weren’t present during Select Committee oral submissions.
Dear Committee Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to make an oral submission to you on Wednesday 4th April 2018 in support of my written submission on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. I enjoyed listening to everyone speak however was troubled to hear that you are already looking to implement one step self-declared sex changes on birth certificates. I stand behind the recommendations I presented in my written submission and am providing this report as supplementary evidence.
This report addresses the ‘evidence’ provided by Mani Bruce Mitchell and Aych McArdle on 9 April 2018.
I understand ‘woman’ means ‘adult human female’ and ‘man’ means ‘adult human male’.
In regards to policy:
The claim that ‘one step self-declared sex changes’ are an administrative change which only impact the trans community is demonstrably false. They are a demand to replace the measure of biological sex with an immaterial property called “gender identity”. This change would impact all of us.
When men did not allow women to vote in New Zealand it was because females were seen by men as the lesser sex, not because all women had “gender identities” which somehow prevented them from voting. Women fought for sex to be a protected characteristic from discrimination because women were and are oppressed on the grounds of biological sex.
Making it legal to change the sex on your birth certificate by one step self-declaration undermines what biological sex means in law and this has wide reaching consequences, particularly for women.
The proposed idea by groups like The Green Party (1) who stated on their online submission form, “It’s time to make [legal sex change] a one-step, administrative process based on self-identification” is that any man could simply say “I am a woman”, get sign off from a Justice of the Peace and be fully legally recognised as female.
This is a risk for all women but it is of particular risk to women fleeing violent men, women in prison, women in hospitals and elderly women in public care. How would you know if a male is lying about identifying as a woman? ‘Self-declared sex change’ is designed in a way it is impossible to challenge.
It has been suggested by the Intersex Trust (2) that somehow trans people are experiencing a human rights violation. Current legislation does not harm the human rights of people who identify as trans and it is notable that nobody is quoting what human rights they believe are being violated. Here is a reminder of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
It is not a human right to be able to alter legal documents because the sex marker on them makes you feel uncomfortable. You are free to personally identify however you want. You can identify as a Chiefs fan, the Queen or a tuatara. It is only when you demand laws — which apply to all of us — are changed to validate your identity that conflicts arise.
Further, The Yogyakarta Principles are not New Zealand law and should not be referred to as though they are. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission recently made this mistake. The Yogyakarta Principles do not in themselves protect people on the basis of biological sex. This conflicts with the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993.
It is important to note The Yogyakarta Principles also do not protect people who have an exclusive sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay or lesbian) because ‘sex’ is foundational to defining these orientations.
The UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which New Zealand has ratified, protects women’s rights on the basis of sex. Redefining the category ‘female’ to be about the mind and not material reality — biological sex — undermines CEDAW. Here is a link to the UN CEDAW: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/
Allowing “gender identity” to replace the metric of sex allows all males — including sex offenders or males subject to a restraining order— to assert “gender identity” as a means to invade female-only space. Both Cathy Brennan and Elizabeth Hungerford have provided US legal analysis showing it is critical the law not confuse “feminine expression” with female reproductive capacity or genital presentation (3). They have passed this on to the United Nations in accordance with CEDAW.
In regards to male violence against women:
New Zealand is a country with a terrible record of violence against women. Here is a link to the Family Violence Clearinghouse which has all the information you need to see a clear pattern of male violence against women in New Zealand: https://www.nzfvc.org.nz/
At the time of writing this, communities all over New Zealand are grieving the most recent murders of women and girls by males:
- A woman was killed by a man in Nelson in the last week of April 2018. Her name has not been released yet.
- Nicole Tuxford was killed by a man in Merivale on 8 April 2018.
- Aroha Kerehoma was killed by a man 4 April 2018.
- Ariana Eva Mahu was killed by a man on 22 February 2018.
- A woman was killed by a man in Opotiki on 19 February 2018.
- Amber-Rose Rush was killed by a man on 3 February 2018.
- Anastasia Neve was killed (along with her partner) by a man on 22 January 2018.
- Arishma Singh was killed by a man on 12 November 2017.
- Hayley Jane Williams was killed by a man 22 October 2017.
- Verity McLean was killed by a man on 25 April 2017.
- Chozyn Koroheke was killed by a man on 4 April 2017.
- Lois Tolley was killed by men on 9 December 2016.
- Amokoura Daniels-Sanft was killed by a man on 2 June 2016.
- Renee Duckmanton was killed by a man on 14 May 2016.
- Te Awhiahua Toko was killed by a man. She died on 19 April 2016.
- Maija Puhi-Duff killed by a man 12 March 2016.
- Sharon Comerfield was killed by a man March 7 2016.
- Jo Pert was killed by a man January 7 2016.
- Karin Ann Ross was killed by a man on 2 December 2015.
- Victoria Foster was killed by a man on 26 October 2015.
These are only some of the more recent murders of women and girls by males in New Zealand.
I have grown up hearing of murders of women and girls by men - from Nia Glassie’s murder in 2007 and Sophie Elliott’s in 2008, to Nicole Tuxford’s the week we presented our oral submissions. There is a clear and consistent pattern of fatal violence in New Zealand from men towards women and girls. The only thing we know the victims above have in common is being female. The only thing we know the killers have in common is being male. They may have identified as a range of things.
I am not saying that males who identify as women have a higher propensity for violence than other men, but I am pointing out that the sex-based risk of male violence towards women is real. Women escaping violent men, on the other hand, have been kicked out of women’s refuges for refusing to share the space with men who ‘identify’ themselves as women (4). Proposed one step self declared sex changes have no mechanism to distinguish men from ‘males who identify as women’.
There is only one recent murder of an male who identified as a woman — Zena Campbell. While it is horrible that Zena Campbell died as a result of male violence (5), there is no evidence to suggest that was a hate crime based on Campbell’s “gender identity” — just like there is no evidence to suggest any of these women were murdered based on their “gender identities”.
All we know is that there is a pattern of violence from males towards females in New Zealand that is not present within the sex category ‘female’. Women are not murdering each other anywhere near the rates men murder women.
Between 2009 and 2015, there were 92 ‘intimate partner violence deaths’ in New Zealand. In all but one death events there was a recorded history of abuse. Women abused by their male partners were the primary victims (6). In 2016, 5,461 applications were made for protection orders in New Zealand. 5,072 (89%) were made by women and 550 (10%) by males (7), disproportionately women attempting to defend themselves from men. Women in New Zealand have sound reasons to be cautious of men.
Violence by males who identify as transgender:
I referred to studies about patterns of male pattern violence in my oral submission, particularly Dhejne et al. (2011) which showed “male-to-females had a significantly increased risk for crime compared to female controls (aHR 6.6; 95% CI 4.1–10.8) but not compared to males (aHR 0.8; 95% CI 0.5–1.2). This indicates that they retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime.” (8)
Organisations representing transgender individuals in New Zealand have failed to commission or cite a single study which demonstrates that males who identify as women display a rate of violence at or below the female crime rate. This is a crucial piece of evidence we need to see if their claim (that males who identify as women display female pattern behaviour) is true.
Without that information, allowing men into spaces which are currently female-only knowingly places women at higher risk of assault. There is no such thing as a ‘gender neutral’ place in public — only single sex or mixed sex. Redefining female to include male is insisting on making all single sex places mixed sex.
If the trans community is truly united against violence, it would recognise violence against women as a major concern in Aotearoa and would not support policies which place women at higher risk of male violence.
Males who identify as women have physically injured and murdered women and it is false to suggest otherwise, as some people did during select committee.
Dana Rivers was a “transgender activist” in the United States who murdered a lesbian couple and their son in 2016 (9).
In the United Kingdom there have been many other murders and attempted murders by males who identify as women. Between 2013 and 2017 Kayleigh-Louise Woods tortured and killed Bethany Hills, Jenny Swift killed Eric Flanagan, Claire Darbyshire killed Brian Darbyshire, Graham Cleary-Senior killed Frances Cleary-Senior, Melissa Young killed Alan Williamson, Paris Green tortured and killed Robert Shankland, Alan Baker/Alex Stewart killed John Weir and Colin Coates tortured and killed Lynda Spence (10).
Women in the UK have been physically intimidated and bullied for asking questions about the impact of self-declared sex changes on their rights. Just last month a male who insists he is a woman, Tara Flik Wood, was found guilty of battering a 60 year old woman who was attending a meeting about women’s rights (11).
If males are not violent then there is no problem and transwomen should be able to share spaces and resources with men. It is positive for men to express themselves in a variety of ways, and accept that other men have different dispositions, belief systems and personality traits. Men rejecting gender — a cultural system of discrimination, norms and stereotypes based on sex — can only be a good thing.
If males are violent then that is a serious problem for women. It is yet another reason the word ‘female’ should not be widened to include males in law — as the result would be that all female spaces would be open to males. (Of course, the primary reason the word ‘female’ should not include ‘male’ is because that makes no sense.)
The trans community often calls women the insult ‘TERF’ which, as explained in the Guardian, tends to mean “women who disagree with me” (12). This word is then used to incite violence against women, particularly lesbians (13, 14). This response from transgender activists has resulted in many New Zealand women not publicly voicing their concerns with one step self-declared sex changes. I understand some women joined the private sessions to speak out on this bill, citing threats of violence and bullying from transgender activists as the reason they had to present in confidence.
Biological sex is fundamental to healthcare:
Knowing a person’s biological sex is not oppression or discrimination. Doctors should know your biological sex, especially if you are taking medication like hormones or puberty blockers (like goserelin). Linked is a medical doctor explaining in lay terms why this information is important (15).
Sex is fundamental information for healthcare. You cannot insist a doctor treats you as though you weigh 60 kilos if you weigh 30, or treat you like your blood sugar is high when it is low. Insisting doctors treat you without knowing your biological sex or without being told that you are taking certain medication(s) is likely to lead to poor health outcomes.
Doctors know to be sensitive at 1:1 level, but arguing that what sex you are should be hidden from healthcare professionals is perhaps naïve about the basics of heath. If drug trials start being done on people we do not know the sex of, the information we learn about those medications will be less valuable. Most students who have passed year 8 biology at New Zealand schools will have a firm grasp as to why (16).
Women have suffered and still do at the hands of a patriarchal medical establishment (17). Insisting there is no significant different between male and female bodies, and to insist all hospital wards are made ‘mixed sex’ under the guise of ‘gender neutrality’ erases the needs of women. Women and girls have specific healthcare needs and female erasure in medicine only serves to obscure them — only women and girls can get pregnant, menstruate or have abortions, for example.
Why legislate to protect feelings?
There is no compelling reason Government departments need to know if you have an internal sense of being ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’. Anyone making the claim that the Government needs to know this information needs to provide evidence as to why this is of public value and how it will be used in a way that allows for CEDAW to be upheld.
Article 5 of CEDAW specifically requires state parties to operate:
“.. with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”
The Human Rights Act 1993 (18) prohibits discrimination on many grounds including both disability (including psychiatric illness) and religious beliefs. “Gender identity” may meet the criteria of being a religious belief as it appears to be a term that can be used interchangeably with “soul”. I believe protection from discrimination on the basis of sex could include protection for not conforming to sex stereotypes.
I reaffirm the point that I made in my oral submission: If someone is discriminated against on the basis of age, it does not follow that we change the age on their birth certificate to reflect an age they identify with. Why should we open up the category of ‘sex’ to negotiation, but not the category of age? As many older feminist women have said, “This is outrageous.”
Protection of Women in Prison:
People are put in male or female prisons based on the sex on their birth certificate. The Department of Corrections has confirmed that with one step self-declared sex changes males who apply to legally change their sex would be transferred to the female prison as soon as the new birth certificate is sighted by staff (19). This is a risk to women as we know there are hundreds of males in prison for domestic violence and sexual crimes against women.
The Department of Corrections has confirmed that even if the man has raped women, he would be put in the female prisons if they were presented with an updated birth certificate.
At present the self-identified left thinks it is progressive to argue that a man who may have raped 10 women should be in a women’s prison because he faces the risk of violent ‘misgendering’. Many other males face risks of violence in prison and the response is not to move all of those males to a women’s prison. This is not a fair balance of rights. Women in prison have no escape from the consequences of this so called ‘administrative change’ (20, 21).
I would like to see the BDMRRA made consistent with Section 21(1a, 1m) of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1993 in its definition of sex, and for that definition of sex to align with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. I request that a preamble be added to the BDMRRA clearly defining sex as biological, and gender as a system of discrimination, norms and stereotypes based on sex.
Allowing people to change their birth certificate by one step self-declaration of sex is not an “administrative change” as the Green Party claims, but a demand to replace the measure of biological sex with an intangible property which cannot be challenged. This demand is an imposition on the rights of the female sex. If “gender identity” replaces the measure of “sex” in law it will remove women’s sex-based protections because the two terms are not compatible.
It’s 125 years since adult human female suffrage in New Zealand. Some suffragists wanted the vote in order to gain political power and try stop men beating women. When you look at the statistics of violence against women — the female sex — in New Zealand today it is clear we have lots of work to do. Taking away a clear measure of sex makes our work to reduce and prevent that male violence much harder.
With all due respect,