On Friday the 22nd of August I attended a consultation of the trans community in Wellington by Jan Logie of the Greens Party ahead of the general election in October. We started off with introductions and there was about an even split between trans people and cis allies with some intersex representation too. Unfortunately nearly all of us were Pakeha.
We then started going through the issues identified by the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex (SOGII) coalition last year. Specifically Annex 1 of this document:
Jan had separated them out into policy issues and legislative issues
Due to Statistics New Zealand's reluctance to add questions to the Census, we put forward the idea that targeted surveys should be done separately from the Census if they identify as trans. Safety concerns were raised about that and the consensus was that even just an idea about the trans population size in Aotearoa would be a huge step forward.
Schools and Youth
A sensitive topic for everyone in the room and got a bit derailed into trying to address culture problems rather than priorities to protect queer youth. Better health education and formal support were the main priorities, especially in rural areas.
Trans People in Prisons
Despite the Corrections policy change recently, the room universally agreed that it wasn't good enough. There was no transparency in placement decisions by the Chief Executive of Corrections and the lack of access to hormone treatments and surgery still hadn't changed.
This ended up being part of the discussion on prisons. It was made clear that the Police were not making an effort with the trans community. Diversity Liaison Officers (DLOs) are not funded and are now inactive. Even when the DLOs were active they were not well supported in the Police force. Communication to them went unacknowledged and front line staff were ignorant of their existence.
A big issue for the trans people in the room and something we all had negative experiences with. Issues ranged from:
- Complete lack of access to care outside main centres
- Having to lie about address of residence in order to access care.
- Lack of respect from health staff.
- Lack of training in trans health issues.
- Denial of care due to irrelevant mental health issues.
- Doctors claiming hormone and hormone blocker usage was off-label and denying prescriptions.
- Lack of follow up to the Counties Manakau DHB's proposed Standards of Care.
- Hopelessness about access to surgery.
- Having to coach other trans people for their appointments to "gatekeeping" endocrinologists.
That was just from the handful of trans people (mostly Pakeha trans women) in the room. The issues with funding and education were clear but needed to be recognised by the DHBs either collectively or through the Ministry of Health
Human Rights Act Amendment
Acknowledged to be a largely symbolic act but sending a clear message about future legislative and policy decisions. Louisa Wall's supplementary paper to the Statutes Amendment bill seen to be not good enough. Gender identity and expression need to be their own protected class for the message to have its full effect and worth waiting for to get it right.
Specifically related to the 90 day "fire at will" policy. No discussion but unanimous agreement that it needed to be repealed.
Non-Consensual Surgery on Intersex People
Strong support for outlawing any surgery done without personal consent from underage intersex people. Worries about how to define personal consent for underage people for those that do want genital surgery. Agreement that more work needed to be done on defining non-coerced consent and education about intersex people. Need to stop pathologising them.
Recognition of Gender Identity on Birth Certificates
Jan handed round a draft members bill dated last year that proposed setting up a "Sex and Gender Recognition Register" for recognising nominated sex and gender. Access would be restricted but the consensus in the room was that the privacy issues and the potential for harm were too high. Also worries about the process being needlessly restrictive. I put forward this alternative bill which had been presented by my co-author and I to Annette King and Louisa Wall in February this year. It proposes a similar process to what is done currently with name changes.
Human Rights (Gender Identity Protection and Recognition) Bill.pdf (236KB)
After going through the issues, Jan asked us to prioritise what we felt was the top 3 important things in each category (policy and legislature) and one thing we felt wasn't important.
Health was the clear winner in the policy category and banning non-consensual intersex related surgery was the clear winner in the legislature category. Birth certificate changes and the Human Rights Act amendments came second and third in legislature. Unfortunately I can't remember what the rest of the order was for policy but it was a little more divided.
Overall it was a positive experience and discussion though one sadly lacking in input from Maori and Pacific Islanders. The Auckland consultation has been rescheduled for September 9th and Jan would like to do a Christchurch one but didn't have a date.