Australia: Trans rights under attack – fight the far-right bigotry of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull

By David Elliott, International Socialist Alternative in Australia

In Melbourne on the 18 March, people calling for trans rights protested the far-right speaker Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, a.k.a. Posie Parker. Keen-Minshull has been on a speaking tour holding small rallies around Australia, campaigning against the rights of trans people and attempting to whip up hatred and discrimination towards people who are just trying to live their lives.

Protesters face Neo-nazis and police intimidation

At the Melbourne rally, a small group of black-shirted neo-Nazis turned up in support of Keen-Minshull. They paraded in front of Parliament House, performing Nazi salutes, with a large police escort.

They were welcomed by the anti-trans rally, including some who called themselves feminists and identified as members of the “LGB” community. Victorian Liberal MP Moira Deeming, who attended the rally, claims that nobody wanted the Nazis there, but anti-trans campaigners were seen welcoming the neo-Nazi group into their ranks.

Victoria Police formed a guard to hold back the larger group of trans-rights activists. They used both police horses and pepper spray to intimidate protesters, and at one point a cop repeatedly struck a protestor who was being subdued on the ground. Police prevented us from occupying the ground in front of Parliament House, and allowed a hate rally to continue.

Despite police intimidation, the trans rights protestors stood their ground, linking arms and making noise to drown out the anti-trans speakers.

Posie Parker and the anti-trans backlash

Trans people were among the earliest targets of the Nazi regime in Germany during the 1930s. One of the first book burnings targeted the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Science), which held a library focused on trans affirming research.

Keen-Minshull works with self-described ‘feminists’ such as Maya Forstater, who has spoken at conferences of a US group called “Hands Across The Aisle”, an anti-abortion group that uses pseudo-feminist language as a cover, and notorious Harry Potter author J K Rowling. These supposed feminists have publicly associated with right-wing lobby groups that actively campaign against abortion, sex education and gay rights. Keen-Minshull’s far-right sympathies have been public knowledge since 2018, when she came out attacking Muslim people.

Even with this background, the Australian Government allowed Keen-Minshull into the country to hold her rallies. In Aotearoa / New Zealand a debate unfolded as to whether she would be allowed to continue her tour there, with the Labour government allowing her into the country. Immigration Minister Michael Wood refused to intervene, despite claiming “the welfare and safety of our transgender community is front of mind”.

The rally on the 25th in Auckland was met by 2000 people standing for trans rights, and one of the people there, Eliana Rubashkyn, a former Colombian refugee, poured tomato juice on Keen-Minshull, saying later “I’m intersex and trans, but they can’t tell… The juice represented the blood of the people she’s promoting to kill… New Zealand needs to stand up in front of the world and say ‘this is not welcome here — we protect trans people’.”

As Keen-Minshull was escorted away by police, she commented “it may be time to say ‘we can’t do it’”, and cancelled the subsequent Wellington rally. This was only possible because 2000 people came out to oppose the holding of Keen-Minshull’s hate rally.

Transphobia and patriarchal capitalism

One specific brand of transphobia that was visible at the rallies is ‘TERF’ ideology. ‘TERF’ stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’. It is not a popular view in Australia, even though some of the key academics responsible for it have been based here. These academics often claim the titles ‘radical feminist’ or ‘gender critical’, but they come from a branch of feminism that sees rigid roles and traits assigned to men and women, which is an attitude shared by the far right.

Patriarchy is a social system used to maintain class society, not an inevitable result of biology. TERF ideology tends to see it as a struggle between cis-men and cis-women, and does not recognise anyone else. Because they defend a rigid view of gender, which is a key pillar of rule for the current capitalist system, there is nothing truly ‘radical’ about these self-described feminists — they do not get to the root of the issue: that we live in a class society, based on ruthless exploitation by a ruling class that benefits from patriarchy, misogyny, and transphobia.

For many years, transphobes, prominent TERFs, tabloid media outlets and politicians have waged a hate campaign against trans people in the UK, and have artificially created a debate over whether trans people have the right to exist as themselves. They do this while claiming to be standing for the rights of women. They spread misinformation to convince people that there is a conflict between trans rights and cis-women’s rights, and spread false claims linking trans-ness to paedophilia and sexual assault. The same claims were made by the neo-Nazi group attending the Melbourne rally.

Capitalist politicians and mass media attempt to stoke division

Last year, failed Liberal candidate Katherine Deves attempted to use the strategy of UK-based transphobes when standing for election, and was endorsed by Scott Morrison. People largely rejected the culture war politics of the Liberals, and there was an outpouring of disgust from ordinary people for Deves’ behaviour.

However, media outlets began to put out articles sympathetic to Deves after the election. Only a week ago, Tasmanian paper The Examiner planted a false story to incite hate against trans women. The editor, who has now been sacked, was a former advisor to Deves. There is an organised campaign to copy the anti-trans model of the UK TERF movement in Australia, by spreading lies about trans people.

Trans people face social and economic discrimination in Australia, and the threat of violence and bullying. But support for trans rights in Australia has been estimated as high as 78%, based on a survey released in early 2021. The Victorian government’s moves to ban the Nazi salute, and the moves to expel Moira Deeming from the Liberal Party, are being driven by politician’s fears of public backlash.

Capitalist politicians have no answers to the problems we face. Their system produced the housing crisis, welfare crisis, wage stagnation, inflation, price-gouging and widespread poverty that we face today. They are desperate for ways to distract us by placing the blame for various social problems on marginalised groups of working class people. This is what motivates the right-wing campaign against trans people.

The movement we need

We need to turn out whenever possible to defend each other against these attacks, whether it is along the lines of gender, race, religion or sexuality. But we also need to build an organised movement of working class people to fight and win victories against discrimination. We can’t only rely on coming out in defence after people are attacked.

Trans rights are worker’s rights. All of the barriers and hardships faced by working class people are magnified for LGBTIQ+ people, in particular with LGBTIQ+ people being disproportionately affected by homelessness. So we have to fight to address wage stagnation, inflation and the housing crisis.

We also have to fight for gender-affirming healthcare and for a robust public healthcare system, including mental healthcare — free at the point of service. Medicare has been eroded by both major parties over the last few decades. The Labor Party has been slowly doing away with bulk-billing for many years, with more and more clinics abandoning the practise due to insufficient government rebates.

This only adds to the artificial hurdles placed in front of trans people who are seeking appropriate care and support. We also need to fight for LGBTIQ+-inclusive education, which also means no longer allowing private schools to have hostile ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ style policies.

On top of this, we need to call for democratic community oversight of the police, and the sacking of any officers affiliated with far-right groups such as the National Socialist Network. We have to resist the ongoing worsening of anti-protest laws around the country. Police are continually given greater power by state governments so that they can be used against protestors and striking workers.

Trans people are a part of the working class, and we need a working-class movement to defend trans rights, including the full support of the union movement. The far right have no answers to the problems society faces — working class people do.

ISA Australia demands

— Free healthcare at the point of service, with full coverage of gender-affirming healthcare and mental health services

— Fully LGBTIQ-inclusive education in schools, and a genuine ban on discrimination

— Democratic community control of the police and the sacking of officers involved in far-right politics

— Immediate rollback of police powers and the repeal of anti-protest laws

— For an organised, working-class movement with full union backing to fight discrimination in all its forms For a socialist alternative to the capitalism system that breeds and encourages all forms of bigotry

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