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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity SGD Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity archived ISGD First Intersex, Sex and/or Gender Diverse (ISGD) rally for civil rights

First Intersex, Sex and/or Gender Diverse (ISGD) rally for civil rights

StillFierce_mainOn 11 May 2011, Australian activists will converge at the Houses of Parliament, Canberra in the country’s first rally in which people currently discriminated against on the grounds of their sex and/or gender variance, identity or expression will demand their equal rights. Tracie O’Keefe reports on this forthcoming historic event and Bastian Fox Phelan explains why they are attending.


13 March 2011

Intersex, Sex and/or Gender Diverse people (ISGD) are groups of people who may be intersex, transexed, transsexual, transgendered, cross-dressers, androgynous, without sex and/or gender identity, and people with sex and/or gender culturally specific differences.

In addition to celebrating the second annual International Intersex, Sex and/or Gender Diversity (ISGD) day on 26 April, they will also be coming together to rally at Parliament House in Canberra on 11 May.

The time has come to say more than words to be present in the public arena and demand our equal rights in Australian Society. ISGD people all over the country have been campaigning for years for equal rights but the government continues to drag its feet and stick its head in the sand like an ostrich.

That of course was the nice version. The truth is there is no kudos in governments and larger political parties being associated with profoundly marginalised groups when it comes to getting elected. And unquestionably all ISGD groups of people in Australia are legally marginalised in every state in many ways.

Many people cannot get their birth records or documents changes to the correct sex when it has been incorrectly stated or they have changed their sex status. Others whose sex and/or gender may be other than strictly male or female are unable to have identity documents that reflect their true identities.

Australian discrimination laws are ineffective when Attorney Generals, bureaucrats and judges pick and choose when they will validate ISGD people and when they will not on the whim of political winds.

Last year a top government human rights official told me personally that they do not consider trans women “real” women despite the law having recognised them as such after their birth certificates had changed. Duplicity is rife in the Australian government with those who are supposed to be enforcing human rights often discriminating and then hiding behind their offices.

Under the Howard Government the human rights of ISGD people frequently went backwards. Under the Rudd government Ursula Stephens, the Minster for Social Inclusion, promised changed but none came. Under the Gillard Government Labor politicians continue to allow victimisation of ISGD people who they believe have little voting influence.

The practice of unwanted surgeries on intersex children without their permission to ‘normalise’ their genitalia is sanctioned under the sinister veil of enforcing normality, instead of being seen as child abuse. Many sex and/or gender diverse children and young people, who want medical treatment, are denied it unless they are intimidated into going through the court system to gain legal permission.

Full Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits for those ISGD people, who cannot afford treatment, is still only a pipe dream. They are discriminated against in comparison to people who seek other health needs from Medicare. The irony of this is that in the long run it costs the government more money because those people are often unable to integrate into society and become tax payers. It is poor economics.

Some people believe their presentation is not strictly male or female and want their documents to state ‘sex not specified’. Since stating race or religion is not compulsory then why torture people who believe they are unable to truly state that they are absolutely male or female?

Those who request such things are often cited as potential terrorist threats by government departments because they cannot be pushed in the strictly regulated, unrealistic binary male, female, masculine or feminine boxes.

There are other issues of inequality that ISGD people face, which the government needs to tackle too. Yes, I get letters and emails from government ministers saying they are looking at the issues but of course there is no official commitment and rarely any action. They might even be considering some of the recommendations of the Australian Human rights Commission’s 2009 Sex Files report but after two years since its publication there is still no change around the inequalities ISGD people suffer.

Sex and Gender Education (SAGE), is currently involved with five cases against Australian government departments for human rights infringements. Still, however, those Attorneys-General dig their heels in and refuse to meet with the complainants to discuss possible good outcomes. Politically we are at a standoff with the Gillard Government that preaches it is looking at things but doing nothing in real terms.

Australian governments know that there are no such hierarchical bodies like the European Court of Human Rights or even a national bill of rights so they continually draw out human rights abuses against ISGD people. We are in period of popularist politicians who court the middle ground of conservatism for votes, and fear supporting marginalised groups may make them look unpopular.

Many ISGD people do not want the gay lobby to speak on their behalf as they have voices of their own with very articulate people to punctuate the need for the legal changes  in society. Neither do they want the gay lobby to take funds needed for ISGD people and dole them out like big brother giving pocket money.

While the ISGD lobby is happy to work with the gay lobby on some issues such as marriage equality, this new movement growing in Australia sees ISGD lobbyists as grown-ups now who can handle their own public issues and funding. The Gender Centre in Sydney is now over 20 years old and helped countless people. We need projects like this to continue on an independent basis. While some ISGD people may be gay, many are not. As stated above, we are very keen to work with the gay lobby as allies in areas of mutual interest, but also wish to work autonomously to articulate our own needs.

StillFierce_parkSo Still Fierce: Sydney Intersex Sex and/or Gender Diverse Collective – a new and dynamic group of grassroots activists – and associated groups of people are going to take to the streets, travel to Canberra and rally outside the Federal Parliament House on Wednesday 11 May. This will be the first historical rally of its kind.

The rally is so far supported by SAGE, Australian Health and Education Centre (my clinic), Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association), The Federal Greens Party, Federal Socialist Alliance Party, Femme Guild, Equal Love (Canberra) and other organisations are joining as the date nears.

A list of demands for legal changes will be handed to federal Members of Parliament and publicly published so everyone can see whether this government really is for human rights or just votes for the Labor party.

Radical changes in anti-discrimination laws are requested. Those changes will also include changes to anti-discrimination laws that will even allow the ordinary person in the street to bring cases for sex and/or gender discrimination.

This will include macho/camp straight men, femme/butch straight women and people whose sex and/or gender is fluid. Under our demands, if you were discriminated against in any way for your biological sex variance or gender diversity then you would be able to being a human rights case. The time for discrimination on these grounds must end.

What is profoundly different about the ISGD movement is it does not discriminate between labels such as transsexual, transgender, cross-dresser and so on. These labels in the past have been used to divide and sublimate these groups of people by the medical profession, government and bigots.

Only by these groups all coming together now and working as one can real progress be made. It is also time for society to acknowledge ISGD groups of people as part of a normally diverse, healthy populous. Politicians are not brave enough to take such a step themselves so it is up to ISGD people themselves to raise their public profile and teach society how to treat them decently with dignity and respect.

The Still Fierce Collective is actively courting even more ISGD groups to join in and is willing to consider even more additions to the list of demands.

Relatives, friends and supporters of all ISGD people are also invited to come along and support this first national campaign for the equal rights of all those currently discriminated against on the grounds of their sex and/or gender diversity or expression.

There will be buses travelling from Sydney, people are car pooling or you can make your own way there. You can organise your own travel arrangements from your own destinations. Bring your packed lunches and placards. It is time to be heard.

-          Tracie O’Keefe.

Why I’m taking part in the ISGD rally by Bastian Fox Phelan

I am going to the rally in Canberra because I want to see intersex, sex and/or gender diverse rights taken seriously.

There are currently no federal laws protecting intersex people, some laws protecting transgender or transsexual people in different states, and almost nothing protecting people who are gender diverse but may not fit into the categories of transgender or transsexual, however the government chooses to define those categories.

I don't know if my gender would be taken seriously in a court of law. I identify as trans, but I have no immediate plans to take hormones or have surgeries. I don't want female on my birth certificate or identification but I am not prepared to alter my body in order to get it changed to male. I would only choose to change my body for myself, not to appease the state's idea of what a trans body should be.

My body is trans because I am trans, and I deserve the right to have that acknowledged and be recognised as trans, rather than having to jump through hoops to satisfy some old-fashioned notion of the 'true transsexual'.

I know that in the real world, my gender is not respected. For many years I have been bullied and harassed verbally and physically for looking visibly gender variant or 'in-between'.

And I'm one of the lucky ones: I have white skin, I am educated, my family has money, I have secure housing, I live in a city rather than a rural area, I am not disabled, I am transmasculine (female-to-male) not transfeminine - trans women (male-to-female) experience significantly higher rates of abuse.

I am going to the rally because I am privileged enough to be in a position where I can fight for the rights of ISGD people who experience oppression, discrimination and violence on multiple levels.

If we can at least protect ISGD people by creating laws that are inclusive of all intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people – including transgender and transsexual people – we might be able to start addressing the human rights crisis of non-consensual operations on infant intersex children, the appalling high rates of violence experienced by trans women and other ISGD people, the youth suicide epidemic, the fact that very little information about ISGD health is available because very few studies have been conducted.

Australia needs to know about ISGD people, the difficulties we face and the experiences we encounter while trying to survive. We need the government to pay attention, grant us civil rights, address our needs, and help us make our country a safe place to live.

Australia also needs to know that we are a growing community, we are diverse, and we are willing to unite and stand together to demand respect.

Bastian Fox Phelan is a Still Fierce activist. Tracie O’Keefe is the co-founder of Sex and Gender Education (SAGE).

DETAILS OF RALLY

What: ISGD rally campaigning for the rights of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people, including intersex, transexed, transsexual, trangender, cross-dressers, androgynous, without sex and/or gender identity, and people with sex and/or gender culturally specific differences.

When: Wednesday 11 May, 2011 at 1.00pm

Where: Parliament Lawn, Canberra, ACT

Getting there: A bus is being organised from Sydney. Email
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book your place. Fundraisers are being held between now and May to cover the cost of the bus and also to ensure a number of seats are affordable so the rally is accessible to less financially privileged people. Contact Still Fierce to find about car pooling or to offer space in your car. Other states: Check the Still Fierce blog to see if any group transportation has been arranged from your state – or organise it yourself!

More info/questions: Email
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Still Fierce blog which will be updated regularly with information. There is also a Facebook page for the event. Those without or with limited internet access may phone Bastian on 0420 735 627.

List of demands for legal changes by Still Fierce are here. The group is open to suggestions for additions to this list.

Organisational support: If you are an organisation that supports the rights of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people and would like to support/endorse the rally and put forward a speaker, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Watch a YouTube video advertising the rally. (Filmed and edited by KK).

Images: Still Fierce Collective took part in a combined float with Scarlet Alliance, Femme Guild, SWOP and Fat Empire during the 2011 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, 5 March 2011. Photos by Brendan Daniel, used with permission.

 

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