Trans activist and actor Georgie Stone has called on governments around the nation to do more to protect transgender Australians.
- Stone was pivotal in getting trans youth access to healthcare without needing to go to court
- She is calling for protections against hate speech to be expanded to include trans people
- She also wants organisations to support families of trans youth get consistent funding
Stone said a recent uptick in hate speech against the trans community has made her genuinely fearful for her safety.
Speaking at the National Press Club, she said governments needed to act now to ensure there were protections for the transgender community from hate speech and ensure easier access to gender-affirming healthcare.
Stone and her mum successfully removed one barrier from the process in 2017 when they successfully challenged a rule giving the family court say over if a young trans person could begin cross-sex hormones.
Before puberty, gender affirming healthcare consists of things like accepting a child’s gender and respecting their preferred name and clothing choices.
Then, just prior to adolescence, people can seek to go on completely reversible puberty blockers and after at least 12 months on blockers, and if they’re over 16, they may then be able to take cross-sex hormones.
Before 2017, young trans people had to get approval from the family court for this but Stone and her mum successfully managed to get that changed.
During her address Stone again called for legal change, this time to the requirement that young people need permissions from both parents for gender affirming healthcare.
“[A] case in 2020 was brought before the family court where the decision was made not by the full bench of judges, but only by a single Judge, which set back the legal rights of trans young people,” she said.
“Right now there are vulnerable trans young people who still need to go through a court process to obtain court authorisation, some who are being denied access to healthcare.
“No other young person is subjected to these discriminatory medical consent procedures, it’s just trans people, the right to having decision making power over your own body is one that should never be denied to anybody.”
Lawyer Rachell Davey from Family and Relationship law at Lander and Rogers has worked on a number of cases where parents do not agree.
“These children are unable to access the treatment that has been recommended to them by their medical professionals until such time as the legal process is finished,” she said.
Separate to disagreements between parents, there are those using the law as a tool to drag their former partners through the courts as a way of furthering family violence.
“A really highly distressing situation for children who may have a very supportive parent who is absolutely on board with whatever medical treatment is recommended, but have an absent or a violent or a controlling parent who is still able to perpetrate that violence and coercive control by refusing their consent,” Ms Davey said.
Hate speech consequences
Alongside calling for consistent access to gender-affirming care and better funding for organisations supporting trans peoples’ families, Stone highlighted the lack of protections for transgender people and the LGBTQI+ community more widely.
“This last month has been incredibly difficult for us, I am holding the hearts of fellow trans Australians in my mind and acknowledge the collective trauma and pain caused by recent events,” she said.
“We have heard dangerous anti-trans rhetoric amplified in every major city in Australia, we have seen Neo-Nazis out in the open, on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne.”
“The truth is I’m genuinely fearful for my safety, and I am tired of feeling targeted.
“We need to extend legal protections to stop the harmful spread of misinformation, vilification and hate speech and further protect vulnerable LGBTIAQ+ communities.”
Stone said there were not two sides to the debate but instead the “opinions” shared by those who were anti-trans were hate speech.
“Currently there are no national laws in place to protect us from hate speech, vilification and misinformation, some Australian states don’t have these laws either,” she said.
“This means that the media can continue to spread misinformation, and radical groups and anti trans individuals can continue to spread hatred with little consequences.
“Hate speech leads to real-world violence, it always has a cost.”
Push for vilification laws
In Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia there are no laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people, along with the rest of the queer community, from vilification.
Transgender Victoria’s Michelle McNamara said that needed to be changed as soon as possible.
“We know that when these vilifying statements are made that the incidents of attempted suicide and incidents of depression and anxiety increase because we see an immense increase in the calls for help to helplines,” she said.
“The mere existence of those laws will act as an inhibitor for the for all the tormentors and taunters of this world, the Neo-Nazis.
“We want this to stop and we want it now.
“What we need is vilification law that enables police, when transgender people are being vilified in public — particularly where people doing the vilification to provoke the transgender people to violence — the police need a law where they can act, arrest the perpetrators of the vilification and where the DPP can actually prosecute those people for those vilifications.”