The Facts on Transgender Discrimination

Women’s rights and transgender rights: the facts

Claim: There is no conflict between women’s rights and transgender rights.

This is the ‘rights aren’t pie’ argument – that giving ‘rights’ to males who claim an identity as a transgender woman takes nothing away biological women. In fact, it takes away many of our hard-fought for rights. And it takes away the very definition of woman as an adult human female.

The facts

  • The Federal Sex Discrimination Act places ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ on an equal footing in law, but it doesn’t define either term. It also doesn’t give guidance on what to do when sex-based rights and gender conflict.

  • The guidelines to the 2013 amendments to the act state: “Gender is part of a person’s social and personal identity. It refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual identity and the way a person presents and is recognised within the community. A person’s gender refers to outward social markers, including their name, outward appearance, mannerisms and dress. A person’s sex and gender may not necessarily be the same. An individual’s gender may or may not correspond with their sex assigned at birth, and some people may identify as neither exclusively male nor female.”

  • In other words, gender is based on sexist stereotypes of how women and men should look, dress and behave.

  • Since the 2013 amendments to the Act, trans identifying males have been, for all intents and purposes, considered to be women legally and socially. This has huge ramifications for women’s single sex spaces, services and sport.

  • Women have fought long and hard for things like women’s shelters, domestic violence support, and educational and career opportunities through woman-only scholarships and shortlists. We’ve fought for recognition for women’s sports and arts. We even had to fight to get our own toilets!

  • Once these spaces and services become available to anyone ‘identifying’ as a woman, they become mixed-sex spaces. We have lost our right to gather without men.

Why this matters

  • Many women do not want to share spaces with male bodies at times when they are feeling vulnerable. This could include when using toilets or change rooms, accessing intimate health care, while in hospital, using the gym, accessing rape or domestic violence services, or when playing sport.

  • For women from some faith communities, it is not permitted to share intimate spaces with males outside of their immediate family. This clash of rights is ignored by transgender advocates.

  • Female prisoners, who are among some of the most vulnerable members of society, are housed with male prisoners, many of whom have a history of violence.

  • Other women may have experienced family violence or sexual abuse at the hands of men. AF4WR firmly supports their right to request single-sex care and services – but these rights are being eroded.

  • Dr Karen Williams, founder of Doctors Against Violence Towards Women and the female-only Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre in Wollongong—an Australian first—has stated that women “cannot truly recover if they [are] terrified in the very environment where they are supposed to heal.

  • Australia has a legal obligation to protect women’s rights under the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

  • Article 1 of that Treaty states: “For the purposes of the present Convention, the term “discrimination against women” shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

  • Australis is in breach of its CEDAW obligations by failing to make clear in our legal frameworks the right of women to access and receive services and support specific to our sex.

  • At the same time, men who are identifying as women are taking places in sports teams, political organisations, academia and science which are meant to be for women.

  • Women in Australia and around the world have lost their jobs, received death threats and been publicly shamed for pointing out that these conflicts exist. We are being silenced.

Some recent examples

  • In NSW, a male prisoner Evie Amati, who was jailed for striking two people in the head with an axe, was housed in a female prison. This is one of many examples of violent men being placed in women’s facilities here and around the world. The most famous example is Karen White in the UK, a convicted paedophile who was placed in a women’s prison without having undergone any gender reassignment process, and who assaulted two female prisoners.

  • Australian women Sall Grover is being sued by a trans identifying male Roy Tickle on the basis that the app Grover created, Giggle, is discriminatory. The app is for females only. The matter is currently in the Federal Court.

  • The Feminist Legal Clinic in Sydney lost funding and its council-provided offices for having ‘gender critical’ content on its website.

  • Feminist philosopher Holly Lawford Smith at Melbourne University has been harassed and defamed for her gender critical beliefs, to the point where she needs security while on campus.

In fact, the silencing of women’s voices has become such an issue that Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, expressed her serious concern in a statement in May 2023. She said:

I am concerned by the shrinking space in several countries in the Global North for women and feminist organisations and their allies to gather and/or express themselves peacefully in demanding respect for their needs based on their sex and/or sexual orientation.

Of particular concern are the various forms of reprisals against women, including censorship, legal harassment, employment loss, loss of income, removal from social media platforms, speaking engagements, and the refusal to publish research conclusions and articles. In some cases, women politicians are sanctioned by their political parties, including through the threat of dismissal or actual dismissal.”

Further reading

The Women are Human website documents the growing number between women’s rights and trans activism

Website of Holly Lawford-Smith

JK Rowling’s famous essay on the need to protect women’s sex-based rights

The book Trans: when ideology meets reality by Helen Joyce provides an excellent overview of the subject. Her website is an up-to-date resource on her writings and interviews