Recently you might have heard of a person called Posie Parker and her visit to Aotearoa. Perhaps you’re not quite sure what it’s all about. So let’s start with who this person is, why their visit is controversial, and what on earth a TERF is.
Posie Parker is the super villain name of a British woman called Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull. Wikipedia says she should not be confused with the actress Parker Posey, although surely Kellie-Jay was aware that would happen. Certainly when I first heard news reports I thought it was the actress from the movie Dazed and Confused.
Ms Parker is a British anti-transgender rights activist and the founder of Standing for Women. Which is not a group promoting chivalrous acts on public transport.
Keen opposes laws and policies that allow transgender people to be legally recognised as their gender, the use of public bathrooms by transgender people according to their gender, the participation of transgender people in sports that align with their gender, and drag performances. She also opposes the use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender children.
Anti-transgender rights activist is an interesting concept, isn’t it? Advocating that someone else should not have rights.
Support for the rights of transgender people is the same as other fights to achieve equal rights. Be it gay rights, women’s rights, whatever. Opposing transgender rights is also the same as opposing those other rights. It’s not against the law to say that you do, but you’d better be ready to have a lot of people challenge you on it.
Which brings us to a word you might have heard, but not be familiar with. Certainly if you’ve been following this story you might have come across the term TERF.
TERF is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. “a person whose views on gender identity are considered hostile to transgender people, or who opposes social and political policies designed to be inclusive of transgender people.”
Espousing these views is, as you might expect, not particularly popular. Just ask JK Rowling! If she’d gone off on a rant about another group she could possibly have apologised, but there’s no coming back from being labeled a TERF.
The unpopularity of these views has lead to some that hold them seeing themselves as freedom fighters, rather than simply as people who oppose the rights of other human beings.
This is a very taboo subject. No kidding. Literally if there was one subject you can not discuss - this is it. I have to confess to some uncertainty about the topic myself.
When I first heard that women biologically born female were saying they didn’t want people with penises in their changing rooms I thought that seemed like their right to do so. Certainly as a man I didn’t want a bar of telling women who they had to accept, as a woman, and into their space. It really didn’t feel like my place to do so.
When people started talking about Laurel Hubbard weightlifting against women I did think those objecting had a point. With strength based events like weightlifting the development of muscle mass as a male has to give an advantage over other females. But I didn’t think that was why Laurel wanted to compete as a woman, she didn’t put herself through all that abuse and negativity for a stupid medal.
Opposing drag performances is just weird. Queer activist Shaneel Lal had the following to say about Ms Parker on One News:
She targets vulnerable parents, instigates fear and tells them I have a solution for you, and that is to be transphobic. When you look at our criminal records, I cannot personally find any drag queen criminally convicted of hurting children in Aotearoa.
However, between 1990 and 2022, I can find at least 20 Christian leaders, church leaders who have been convicted of molesting or assaulting children. I don’t understand why people like Posie Parker aren’t standing outside churches in protest for the safety of women and children.
An argument we hear is that these rights will end up with men pretending to be women to gain access to places like women’s prisons in order to rape “real” women. While it is possible an individual might do that, it sounds like a creepy man, not someone who is transgender. The rationale isn’t different to any other stereotyped bigotry. I don’t like people from group X because I think they might do something bad.
We no longer accept that prejudice towards people of different races or religions, why would we accept it against transgender people? Prejudice is prejudice. Even if you can show a case or two consistent with your claims, the vast majority of people in that group just want to live their lives like everyone else. It’s simply not OK to discriminate against the whole group.
Māori rights, Women’s rights, Gay rights - most people whole heartedly support those, why would transgender rights be any different?
Transgender rights are different in terms of where the fight is compared to that of other groups. There is still a section of society that questions transgender people’s reality - it’s their choice they say. Much as people used to say homosexuality was choice. It sounds idiotic now doesn’t it? We’ve moved on as a society from that ridiculous idea. Sadly we have further to go accepting transgender people.
So why is Ms Parker’s visit so contentious?
Well as has been well publicised her recent speaking event in Melbourne resulted in neo Nazis dressed in black giving the Nazi salute while supporting her protest. Not I imagine because they care about the rights of those protesting, but to exploit the hatred and division that Ms Parker’s events bring.
Does Ms Parker have Nazi views herself? That I’m not sure of. But she does hold some strange views that have nothing to do with transgender rights and might explain the interest from the neo Nazis. She certainly isn’t doing anything to discourage them. I imagine they’re useful for publicity.
Some other groups protesting transgender rights do not want her involved due to "her stated views on race and religion.” Even the company that prints her merchandise said "If we had been fully aware of her beliefs earlier, we would earlier have refused to print for her."
Ms Parker, a poor person’s Katie Hopkins, spends time appearing on videos with white supremacists. She praises Tommy Robinson, hosts speakers who use terminology from Mein Kampf, and weirdly has referred to Tucker Carlson from Fox News as "an intelligent, really lovely, welcoming, warmly welcoming man".
She even spoke threateningly towards out Prime Minister when there was some question as to whether she would be allowed into the country. It sounded like an Eastenders script rejected because the gangster moll was just too ridiculous.
I tell you what Chris, I tell you what Mr Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, revoke my visa at your peril, let's see what happens.
When you stop a woman who is a women's rights campaigner, when you stop her from being able to come and facilitate the speech of women in your country ... why don't you throw down that particular gauntlet?
So Chris Hipkins, roll the dice my friend, I don't think you'll dare to keep me from coming into New Zealand but we'll see.
Of course the usual political parties supported Ms Parker’s right to free speech. They always seem to support the rights of those making hateful speeches. Not so keen on supporting other people though. For example whistle blower Chelsea Manning who they wanted barred from the country.
Apparently for National whistle blowing on appalling actions committed by the US government is not acceptable, but having Ms Parker spouting hate against the transgender community, appealing to neo-Nazis, is just fine.
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So why the difference? It’s not a principle of supporting free speech if National are selective in who they support and who they oppose. I can kind of understand them opposing Chelsea Manning - they wanted to suck up to the Americans. But who are they trying to appeal to by supporting Ms Parker coming here to speak?
Free speech is always hard. Where do you draw the line between what is reasonable and what is actually detrimental to a society? Nobody wants to see open debate stifled. But if the free speech demanded is to declare a group of people unworthy of rights, to question their very existence, then I’ve got pretty limited sympathy for that.
Still, as repugnant as the things Ms Parker says are, I didn’t think she should be barred from the country. You can’t extinguish hate and ignorance by silencing it. It has to be through learning and love (although not for Nazis obviously).
Despite much opposition this weekend’s events will go ahead and will of course be met by counter protests. Almost certainly larger than the group opposing transgender rights.
Ms Parker’s event, and the counter-protest start at Albert Park Band Rotunda at 11am this Saturday in Auckland. In Wellington Ms Parker’s event is at Civic Square at 2pm on Sunday, the counter protest meets at the City to Sea bridge at 1.30pm.
This community of people have been through enough abuse, enough hate, enough of this shit! They don’t deserve more of it. They deserve to have their rights supported. I hope a large majority of New Zealanders stand with the transgender community.
In the words of Labour MP Kiri Allan “Let’s do what we do, Aotearoa - stand up, make some noise and support our trans whānau by showing up and drowning out any bigotry that seeks to divide and hurt our whānau.”
Agree. Except she cannot be called a TERF. She can be heard in one of the videos of her Australian visit shouting “I am not a feminist “!
We could use the term coined for her by a Tasmanian MP:
MP in Tasmania calls Posie Parker a Transphobic Exclusionary Right wing Dropkick "TERD"
Well said Nick. She promotes herself as an advocate for women's rights. When in fact she's an advocate for negativity and hate.