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A Posie Parker Postscript, what have we learned?
How about we start with listening to each other and stop calling each other names?
On Friday I sent out a newsletter called Posie Parker vs Transgender Rights to provide information about the visit to our shores of Ms Parker. I attempted to show there were multiple points of view but on balance my sympathies were strongly with the counter protest group standing up for Transgender rights. I was hoping there would be a good turn out to oppose the views of Ms Parker the following day.
It was pretty exciting on Saturday to hear word of the crowd building. I remember thinking if you’re spreading a message of hate and intolerance, as Ms Parker was, the last place you should host it is right next to Auckland University. I can imagine the Uni was full of discussion about the march during the week with many students ready to voice their opposition.
For those unfamiliar with the area the student union, the heart of student life, is about 200 metres from the rotunda where Ms Parker’s rally was to be held.
If you genuinely want to speak on such a subject where there is obviously going to be opposition then maybe hire a venue and have proper security. Don’t just hold it in the middle of a public park. Unless of course the outcome you wanted all along was for it to end in chaos.
News came thought that Ms Parker had to be lead away by police as the counter protest had overwhelmed the small number of people supporting her. I was delighted by the headline that the protestors, having ended that rally, were now marching on Brian Tamaki’s event in central Auckland.
There were more headlines, claims Ms Parker had been assaulted. Which was curious because there was no assault, we all saw the pictures. There was a throwing of a tomato based beverage but that was it. Much of the media, as well as Ms Parker and JK Rowling repreated the lie.
I actually understood for the first time why people dislike JK Rowling so much. First there are not “multiple videos of Kellie-Jay being assaulted”, that is an outright lie. Second describing the protestors as “men’s rights activists” is offensive to those people who were there for one reason only, which was to support and show solidarity with the transgender community.
So far as I’m aware the only people actually assaulted were Marama Davidson, Green Party co-leader, who was ridden into by a motorbike in what looked like a deliberate act of aggression. And the other being Eli Rubashkyn, the person who threw the tomato juice.
To be honest having read about the background of Eli Rubashkyn and the persecution she has faced and fled I think throwing juice at someone who is preaching that you shouldn’t exist is pretty restrained.
Rubashkyn, originally from Colombia, said Aotearoa had become a "haven" for her, and she couldn't allow Keen-Minshull to take that away. "Nobody is going to take the safety or me, my family and community away. Ever single second of my existence has been a f...... fight, and I am exhausted."
After Rubashkyn threw the juice she was dragged away by security. She said she was then bitten and beaten by Keen-Minshull supporters."It was not assault, it was literally tomato juice. I did not beat anyone, I just dropped juice.”
By Saturday evening it became clear that the follow-up event in Wellington scheduled for the next day would be cancelled and that Ms Parker was leaving the country. I made a joke about it on Twitter:
On Sunday morning I woke up to a barrage of hateful messages. Things like a response to my mother who had commented that she was 79 and happy to share bathroom spaces with transgender people. Someone replied to her saying that meant she supported a male rapist being in a women’s prison in Scotland. That is not a logical conclusion, that is just bizarre.
A bunch of random people started turning up and posting horrible things. One man, a real estate agent, started ranting and raving about what was going to happen to my wife and daughter if Transgender people weren’t stopped.
I mention he was a real estate agent because that’s how it works right? If one transgender individual is a danger to women then they all are? That seems to be the logic. So based on that we have to assume that all real estate agents are raving lunatics wishing random strangers ill will and making threats?
One chap seemed especially bewildered. He started ranting about how I worked for the Herald (I don’t), that they would go out of business over this, and I wouldn’t have a job. I laughed at the idea that the Herald going out of business was considered a big threat. Personally, and with only a couple of journalists that are exceptions, I think the country and our democracy would be better off if the Herald was out of business. And it’s NZME stable mate Newstalk ZB.
I was getting a bit fed up by this point at all the misinformation being spread and the hateful messages so I posted the following.
This is what yesterday was about, it was not about safe spaces.
At least 57 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed in 2021, this does not include suicides.
Having seen and deleted a bunch of vile garbage off my page this morning my tolerance is now zero. Feel free to comment but if you have anything negative to say about Transgender rights you will be blocked.
And clickety clack I set about cleaning up, deleting posts and blocking people but I kept getting more and more messages. To be fair some were positive and appreciated what I had written, but many were not. Still I read them all.
Emotions are high, both sides believe passionately about their cause and have little interest in listening to the other because they are so focused on what they are fighting for. They miss the fact that they are not so incompatible.
I read a lot prior to my previous newsletter and tried to consider multiple points of view. The discussions I have had since though have solidified my thoughts. To begin with let’s identify the three groups of people involved, I think this is important.
Group A (the women's rights people, TERF is a nasty term) are genuinely worried about dangers to women. The vast majority of people in group A do not appear to hate trans people, just as the vast majority of trans people are absolutely no danger to women.
Group B (the counter protestors) They see the things someone like Ms Parker says, and the people supporting her, and see quite naturally an attack on transgender people.
Group C (Ms Parker and others) People who are happy to exploit differences to further an agenda encouraging the hatred of minorities. Be it transgender people, immigrants, muslims, or whoever. Grifters spewing lies and hatred like Sean Plunket or Piers Morgan. We do each other a disservice bringing them into the conversation.
Many people in group A & B are not listening to, or taking seriously, the concerns of the other. We all want the same thing - women AND transgender people to be safe and not afraid.
There is a far more nuanced and respectful conversation that needs to happen. But there seems little appetite from most people to acknowledge the concerns of both A and B.
One sided takes against either group A or group B are not helpful. Either painting those in group B as violent thugs, or spewing vitriol against group A, are not helpful. Save the vitriol for where it is needed - Ms Parker and the rest of group C.
Group B were not there to protest women they were there to protest against the growing spread of anti LGBT hate being excreted by certain commentators. It was no surprise that the person making the most fuss, complaining the most about all of this wasn’t a woman, or someone transgender, it was Sean Plunket.
It also doesn't help using words like TERF, lets not do that. Referring to human beings, some of who will be people we love and care about, like that is horrible. Calling people a name with derision and hate is never a good idea, it is not going to make anything better.
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This morning I watched Chlöe Swarbrick on TV One Breakfast say the following:
60% of Transgender people have hidden their identity in the work place for fear of discrimination. Half have contemplated suicide in the last 12 months. 40% have attempted suicide.
Read those statistics again. Seriously. That is why so many people were concerned with the lies and bigotry from Ms Parker. That is why so many people went to the events in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
So what steps might help?
Stop using the word TERF, just stop.
Group A, the folks concerned about women’s rights should disassociate themselves from Group C who use fear to inflame hatred against Transgender people. Group C deny the valid existence of transgender people, group A’s concerns will not be heard while they refuse to acknowledge that.
We need to stop treating people with real fears like they’re bigots. Supporting Group C is supporting bigotry, being afraid is not.
Now that this visit is over how are you feeling about it?
I feel a lightness and that Aotearoa is a better place for the departure of Ms Parker. Spare a thought for her #1 fan who seems to be doing it tough though - Sean Plunket.
I'm proud of Kiwis that stood up in Auckland and said nah, the people you don't think have rights - they are us. To quote a certain PM. They are us. I’m also proud of the folks who protested on Sunday in Wellington and Christchurch. A powerful message of support to the transgender community.
But I feel a heaviness because some women are genuinely afraid and feel marginalised by the weekend’s events - and this is not cool either.
That is so not cool.