Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sex and Gender Diversity Human Rights Project in Australia

I'm confused.

Very confused. Downright vexed and discombobulated even.

So the Australian Human Rights Commission (formerly the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is concentrating it's sex and gender diversity issues project on Documentation.

It's an important issue but as far as I can tell there are far more important issues and I wonder why this one has been focused on. Still I have pondered and discussed the issue.

For starters there is the issue of genital surgery as a requirement for legal recognition of sex. That seems reasonable to many folk at first but is an utter catastrophe under examination.

For one thing it's discriminatory against FtM transexuals for whom surgery is still behind in results compared to MtF surgery, that then makes such a requirement an unacceptable discrimination.

Also it's discriminatory towards those who are denied surgery or who choose not to have surgery on the grounds of increased risk of complications caused by other health issues. That can include many things from diabetes, obesity and haemophillia or family history of near-death coma resulting in missdiagnosis of death such as runs in my own family. Discrimination based on health issues is a form of ablism and not acceptable.

Then there is the matter of reproductive rights! Making documentation amendment predicated on surgery means coercivly enforced sterilisation! There is a huge difference between a person choosing to undergo a procedure that will result in loss of reproduction and a state denying essential services to someone unless they are sterilised! Also I've seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that many types of sex and gender diversity including crossdressing is hereditary! That would make requiring sterlisation genocide! So then such a requirement could be a crime against humanity!

So far the best solution seems to be removal of sex markers from documentation! I considered this: "What is the functioning purpose of sex markers on documentation?"

As a tool to verify the identity of a specific person it functions only to rule out around half of the billions of humans on the planet the person might otherwise be, so without a long list of other visual descriptor traits for identification purposes it is utterly useless.

As a security marker it is also useless, the advent of female suicide bombings shows that using sex markers as screening tools might help female terrorists pass through security measures. Therefore as a security measure it is useless.

As a key to sex segregated spaces it is useless. This is because these documents are not used to access these spaces!

So then what is the actual function of these documentation markers?

Well if someones appearance does not match the expectations of an official interacting with that document then they will act accordingly... in other words the primary use of sex markers on documentation is to discriminate against sex and gender diverse people, to deny them essential services or make those services more difficult for them to obtain.

Thats what they do! Thats their actual purpose whether intended or not that is the day-to-day function!

But while considering these notions and discussing them at the Human Rights Comissions discussion forum I've been raising other issues. I'm not the only one to do so of course with a number of people objecting to the way the commission chose to do things.

As important as the documentation issues are, and they are very important, there are other issues as or more important!

Ending unethical surgical procedures on Intersex children
Ensuring access to both basic services and vital services (from general healthcare to SRS)
Removing the risk of genocide from potential targeted abortions
Patching holes in antidiscrimination and antivillification legislation
Improving protection from bullying and improving services for S&GD school children
Increasing public education and media representation
Addressing poverty and economic disadvantage

So, along with others I have been raising these issues. Alas some have thought it more important to object to having their issues related to other groups issues.

It seems a reasonable objection considering the current narrow focus of the project but for some key points.

Firstly each group shares at least some of their issues with another group.

The HBS Transexuals share issues of somatic sovereignty with the Intersex and with cissexuals! The same right of maximising later choices of a child once they are considered capable of doing so at once makes the unneccessary surgery on intersex children wrong, the denial of hormone blockers to Transexual children wrong and also circumcision of all children wrong!

The needs of those who don't fit binary views of Sex and Gender effects members of the Intersex community, Crossdressers, the Genderqueer and in some cases transitioning transexuals too.

The gaps in Antidiscrimination legislation effect various groups state by state and is one of the issues that effects me directly but sex and gender diversity is largely absent from antivillification legislation making it everyones issue.

Hate-crime protections, public education, suicide prevention, anti-bullying strategies and resources in schools etc are all issues that effect all involved groups.

So in fact dealing with each group seperately does not ensure that each groups needs are met. One reaction of one of the participants is here: http://joanneproctor-hbs.blogspot.com in the Open Letter To HREOC post (sorry for my poor comp skills for not linking directly to the post)

Lets consider some of the points raised...

As anticipated the inevitable has occurred. Your discussion has been colonised by individuals with gender role transgressive behavioural issues: individuals with disorders in sexual formation have been completely sidelined and have given up trying to place their circumstances before you.

Actually AFAIK I'm the only one who is involved in the discussion 'fitting' the 'gender role transgressive behavioural issues' description, though the fit is a poor one at best. Individuals with disorders in sexual formation seem to have posted a significant number of times though and their issues and needs raised and discussed at length, that hardly seems sidelined except by the narrow documentation focus which also sidelines my personal issues, the lack of protection of me in my state under antidiscrimination legislation. So laying any blame on me for being involved is mistaken.

Nobody, male, female, or somewhere between, is born with knowledge of gender roles and cultural gender role expectations. Not clothing, hairstyles nor makeup! These are all acquired!
The way the brain functions in the context of its body is not learned. The confluences are biological. And you have chosen to place the performative wants of the learned behaviours in advance of the physical wellbeing of those people with biological disorders.

Well as to the first thats a matter of dispute in behavioural biology circles, certainly cultural gender role expectations exhibit wide variety and few would dispute they are learned, however that does not rule out the possibility that there are some aspects of gender-behaviour that are biologically determined. There is an assumption that there are no gender identity issues that lead to variations in gneder behaviour.

As this open letter goes on to complain about the fundamnetalist adam and eve view of sex might I suggest that the possibility of more variability of neurological sex development than is taken into account in the 'behaviour' argument. That just as there are variations in genital anatomy sex development issues then so too should we predict and expect likewise variation in neurological sex development issues! So that suggests that without concrete evidence either way the safe bet is that crossdressers, the genderqueer etc are but other forms or variations of the same form of neurological diversity as transexuals.

The anecdotal evidence I've heard of crossdressing running in families (often taking the form of crossdressing children finding evidence after a parents death amongst their belongings but also including people coming out only to discover that living parents, siblings or cousins are also crossdressers) certainly supports a biological causation.

Also important though is that human rights are not dependant on the causation! Religion is not biologically determined yet plenty of human rights apply to it, same for culture and expression making gender expression part of the purvue of the comission regardless of hypothetical causation!

It is important that no group that is oppressed or discriminated against on sex and gender diverse issues should be left out! That means that just as people with sex development disorders should not be left out nor should those whose gender expression is discriminated against!

The issues of targeted abortion is raised then as well as unneccessary genital surgery on children and those are important issues.

Then we get this:

Still, you have clearly absolved your conscience and given the floor to a variety of self professed cross-dressers, gender F+++kers, drag queens and transvestites of various persuasions. Choosing to turn away from the genital mutilating, the shoe-horning, the force-fitting, the redefining, and denying that takes place as western cultures attempt to make all human beings fit their fundamentalist Adam and Eve model of biological sex.

Huh? WTFH? Huh? Something must have seriously gone wrong with my communication skills these last months. Why? Because I'm the crossdresser there whose been given the floor and yet... and yet...

I've been advocating for the rights of the Intersex children! I've been speaking out about ending the uneccessary surgery and stating it as being more important than the documentation issues and even my own issues!

So I really can't understand this.

Why am I being blamed for, as the vocal self professed crossdresser involved (and I wonder who all the others are!), taking these issues off the floor when I've been one of the main ones raising those very issues? It's truly vexing and confusing that someone who, going by the issues we both clearly feel are vital, should be a strong ally working with me is instead accusing crossdressers (i.e. me) of the opposite of what I'm doing!

And why is the Australian Human Rights Comission still concentrating on documentation when clearly calling for a cessation of such permanant surgery that robs the child of their right to determine for themselves later in life is clearly a vital issue that many on the forum including myself think should be the first priority?

It's really important that all the human rights needs of all sex and gender diverse poeple are addressed fully. All people involved have a responsibility to that.
And this crossdresser, whose male aspect is rather genderqueer anyway, is intent on just that!


OII: http://www.intersexualite.org/ said...

I am writing on behalf of the Organisation Intersex International to add a link to OII, the largest grassroots intersex organisation in the world. ISNA is now defunct.

Our link is


We also have an Intergender spokesperson from Australia.
Kind regards,
Curtis E. Hinkle
Founder, Organisation Intersex International

Marcus said...

Hi Battybattybat,

On my reading of the HRC Blog about sex and gender diverse people I think you have been very supportive of covering the field interms of adressing human rights issues for all sex and gender diverse people.

Battybattybats said...

Hi Curtis.

Thanks for the polite request. Linky request granted! (insert fancy sound effect here)

Hi Marcus.

Thanks for your assessment. Much appreciated and may I also ask that if you think I fail to do so in any way at any time let me know as it won't be intentional and I'll want to address any mistakes or failure or issues I miss imediately.

It's vitally important, but also just being cogent with the very priciples of rights, for no group to be left out, for no rights to be ignored or dissmissed and for us all to do our darndest to achieve change towards equal rights, equal justice.

To deliberately exclude any group, any needs while fighting for my own would make me just another wretched hypocrit undeserving of those rights.

Marcus said...

well the AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) Consulation Reform Proposal has been released on their blog.

Unfortunately they have kept the focus on documents -primarily the birthcertificate.

so it will be up to those with the strength and stamina to lobby the labor party to keep to their national platform and introduce Equality legislation.

Something i am still lobbying for. I did note that the AHRC submission to the Sex Discrimination Act Senate Inquiry made recommendations regarding gender identity.

slowly the wheels turn- lets hope they turn fast enough not to get caught in the political gaps between parties and elections ( my fingers are crossed;-)

Battybattybats said...

Marcus, please let me know of whatever ways I can help you to get that equality legislation up!

Marcus said...

a start might be to read Louise Pratt's first speech as a Federal Senator and then write to the federal ALP reminding them of their national platform which includes gender identity (note you may want to suggest they add gender expression too) and talk a bit about how such legislative reform would help you and others in your cicrumstances.

(Ive found that hardcopy letters to federal pollies work better than emails and letters that are personalised are better than form letters that so many religous groups have used in the passed)