17th May 2022
My views on Aleph Melbourne’s questionnaire re: the LGBTIQ+ communities
I missed filling out the questionnaire I had been sent, so I’m putting out my views here:
Let me preface what I say with my general view that every individual must be equally valued and must remain equal under the law. I am aware of the horrible situation of some members of the LGBTIQ+ communities in a country like India. In India, many transgender persons, in particular, are forced into a life of perpetual poverty due to the huge social discrimination they experience. Australia has moved far away from such treatment, a far more civilised place now, I consider.
I strongly condemn any form of social discrimination which values someone on their birth or other external characteristics (e.g. so-called caste) but I am also aware that any such reform must come mainly from social reformers, with the government setting up a level playing field and broad-based protections that are also consistent with other freedoms.
I also believe that the free market tends to incrementally shift the boundary since it tends to value people on their innate talents, not other characteristics. (That doesn’t mean there is no racism in Australia: I have experienced it and know many who have: but the situation is improving every year). The current debates about transgender persons must be used to get the society to understand how badly some of them have been treated in the past. But not just the LGBTIQ+ community: all other discriminated groups. I do not agree with such social biases but realise that humans will take time to outgrow them.
Issue 1: Do you support preventing all discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people (including school settings, sports settings and religious settings)?
Yes and no. There should be absolutely no discrimination in public (government) or other employment settings which are secular, i.e. not religious. But the primacy of religious freedom means that religious institutions must have the right to discriminate in accordance with their belief. Religious freedom does not give anyone a right to assault anyone else, but discrimination in employment, for instance, in a Church setting, is consistent with the broader principles of Western civilisation. I have no religion (I’m not an atheist, though) and would personally NEVER discriminate against anyone. That doesn’t mean I would force religious people to change their beliefs through the use of the police power of the state: that would be equivalent to the state acting violently against people who are not physically assaulting anyone.
There are some settings which I’m concerned about: sports and shared toilets. While there can be a number of sports in which everyone can compete equally (e.g. shooting), in some sports the difference in physical structure (e.g. muscular/ bones) means that separation is needed. I do not agree with the situation that’s happened recently with Lia Thomas competing as a woman. It is not discrimination to expect sporting bodies to have a separate category for transgender persons or for gyms to have separate locker rooms for men and women – and one for others. Disabled toilets already exist in most facilities, they could be renamed as “Toilets for Others”, or some such thing. We need to balance out competing concepts here and arrive at a sensible policy.
Issue 2: Do you support preventing coercive surgeries and other non-consensual medical interventions for children born with variations in sex characteristics?
Obviously any coercion would not be acceptable and use of force against a child could amount to an assault under criminal law by any medical practitioner involved. I would like to study this further with illustrations to understand what exactly is being implied in this question. My general view would be that as a child grows older, his/her co-consent could be required – not sure what the situation is at the moment.
UPDATE: I’ve been sent the following by ALEPH: https://ihra.org.au/bodily-integrity
“Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that do not neatly fit medical norms for female or male bodies”. I fully empathise with the mental agony of parents and children in this situation and would require the state to ensure that there is an “independent, effective human rights-based oversight mechanism” to ensure the mental health of both parents and children. Any such costs would be legitimately incurred by the taxpayer since this situation is not of the making of the individual concerned.
I’d also be comfortable in supporting the criminalisation of surgery that is unnecessary or deferrable. For any surgery to be undertaken on health grounds during an intersex person’s childhood, I’d suggest two independent doctors would need to certify it. Any such costs would be borne by the taxpayer. The society needs to step in to reduce any avoidable hurdle in the mental and physical wellbeing of transgender persons.
Issue 3: Do you support ensuring access to gender affirmation treatment for trans and gender diverse people through Medicare?
There needs to be a difference between emergency treatment (yes) and elective treatment (under certain circumstances). I’m not quite sure where Medicare reimbursement stands for such treatments, but I’d be reluctant to include treatments under a Medicare umbrella for ailments that are not potentially life-threatening or that do cause physical pain. There is only so much that the taxpayer can afford. Once again, I would like to understand this issue better regarding the current regulatory environment and what exactly is sought.
UPDATE: I’ve been sent the following by ALEPH: https://alastairlawrie.net/2019/04/28/trans-out-of-pocket-medical-costs/
I’ve now come to the view that not all transgender medical treatment is cosmetic. Yes, some people need to remove hair from their face, and that might seem cosmetic – but this hair removal is radically different from someone who just wants to beautify themselves. And many other types of surgeries for such persons too would often enter the category of essential surgery (maybe not all types – that’s a matter of detail for the experts) – to ensure a level playing field for that person, where the person is not under pressure from society about who they are or how they look but is, instead, able to focus their mind on their contributions to society like anyone else.
To the extent possible a compassionate state has a responsibility to ensure equality of opportunity for all citizens. Someone with physical disability is supported by the state. So also some citizens born with an obvious physical gender disability (leading to a lifetime of mental stress) needs to be supported under the Medicare system like any other essential (not emergency) service. I would think that such an approach might leave out some persons, but it is a matter of drawing the line in such a way that equality of opportunity is ensured even as discretionary “additionalities” are not demanded from the taxpayer.
UPDATE: I’ve been sent this link re: Issue 1. Unfortunately, no time at present to go through. I agree it is my responsibility to understand as many aspects of the issue as possible.