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AUSTRALIA: Sydney women-only ocean pool under fire over transgender policy

Social media users criticise the exclusion of some trans women at McIver’s Ladies Baths, forcing a change of policy wording.

 

By Helen Sullivan

 

The Guardian (12.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/38CGwMy – A women-only ocean pool in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has come under fire over a policy that excluded transgender women who had not had surgical intervention.

 

The McIver’s Ladies Baths’ policy on transgender women, published on the FAQ section of its website, has been changed twice since attention was drawn to it on Monday afternoon.

 

Under the question “Are transgender women allowed?” the website’s response on Monday read: “Only transgender women who’ve undergone gender reassignment surgery are allowed entry. Please contact us for further information if required.”

 

After social media users questioned the policy and called for swimmers to contact Randwick council, the Randwick & Coogee Ladies Swimming Association changed the website to read: “McIver’s Ladies Baths has an exemption under the Anti-Discrimination Act awarded in 1995.

 

“Only women and children (boys up to 13 years of age) are permitted entry. If you wish to make any further inquiries please contact the Randwick city council.”

 

The 1995 exemption, which allows the baths to be a women-only space, was made “indefinite” in 2018.

 

On Monday afternoon a post on the McIver’s Facebook page quoted the 1995 exemption and called for people to direct “any information regarding transgender people needs” to Randwick council.

 

Below the post was a fierce debate of more than 3,000 comments from a mix of people who support allowing transgender women into the baths and those who do not. The Facebook post has since been taken down.

 

This is not the first time that women-only swimming spots have faced backlash over allowing or not allowing trans women to use their spaces. In 2019, London’s Hampstead Heath ladies’ pond formalised the rights of transgender women to use the pool after intense debate and protests by a radical feminist group.

 

On Tuesday morning, after staff at Randwick council requested that the website wording be changed again, the McIver’s FAQ response was modified to say: “Yes. Transgender women are welcome to the McIver’s Ladies Baths, our definition for transgender is as per the NSW Discrimination Act.”

 

A spokesperson for Randwick council confirmed in an email to Guardian Australia that the council had requested the change “to reflect [the baths’] actual policy position more accurately.”

 

A statement from the council on Tuesday afternoon said: “Randwick council is an inclusive organisation that values diversity in our community, and have always supported the inclusion of transgender women at McIver’s Ladies Baths.” The statement reiterated that the R&CLSA, which sub-leases the baths from the council, “are ultimately responsible for management and entry to the baths”.

 

“It is our understanding the association has always had a policy of inclusion and we have been in contact with the management of the baths to ask them to more accurately communicate this inclusive position on the issue on their website,” the statement said.

 

While the NSW anti-discrimination law defines trans women as all trans people who live or seek to live as women, the law recognises only some transgender people as legally being the gender they identify with, according to Newcastle University. There is a different definition under the law for “recognised” transgender people, who are required to have had “sex affirmation surgery”. The Australian Human Rights Commission has criticised this system, and recommended that individuals be allowed to decide their own gender identities without needing surgery.

 

It is unclear from the latest FAQ response on the McIver’s website whether the definition of trans women “as per the NSW discrimination act” refers to the specific definition of “recognised” trans women, or whether it refers to all trans women. In other words, all trans people who live or seek to live as women.

 

If it refers to “recognised” trans women, the current FAQ response would have the same meaning as the first response, allowing “only transgender women who’ve undergone gender reassignment surgery” to enter the baths.

 

Liam Elphick, a discrimination expert and associate lecturer in Monash University’s law faculty, said that if the latest policy was referring to the latter definition, it offered “strong protection for trans women who identify as trans women,” who should, under the law, need to demonstrate only that they live or intend to live as a woman – rather than needing to provide documentation – but that it was “far less strong” for those with non-binary gender identities.

 

“We have discrimination laws all throughout the country,” he said, “and organisations should act not just in accordance with those laws, but as best as possible in the spirit of those laws. And those laws require that we do not discriminate in the provision of goods and services against transgender people.”

 

Equality Australia’s CEO, Anna Brown, told the Guardian: “All Australians should be treated equally and allowed to live with dignity as who they are. No woman, whether trans or not, should be forced to reveal any part of her body as a condition for accessing public facilities.” She said the NSW law was out of date, and “should be updated to remove confusion and bring it into line with more contemporary anti-discrimination acts in other states and federally”.

 

She also noted that the stigma faced by trans women often leads them to exclude themselves from health and fitness activities.

 

It is unclear how the policy will be enforced. Entry to the baths is permitted by a group of volunteers at busy times, and at other times swimmers throw a $2.50 payment into a box before entering.

 

The Randwick & Coogee Ladies Swimming Association could not be reached for comment.

Photo: McIver’s Ladies Baths at South Coogee. The pool’s policy on transgender women, published on the FAQ section of its website, has been changed since attention was drawn to it. Credit: Carly Earl/The Guardian.





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El SALVADOR: No safe haven for LGBT people

Strengthen protections, end asylum pact with US.

 

By Neela Ghoshal

 

HRW (08.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/3qkN5ZV – Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele agreed on December 15 to implement an Asylum Cooperative Agreement with the US government. It allows US immigration authorities to transfer non-Salvadoran asylum seekers to El Salvador, instead of allowing them to seek asylum in the US.

 

US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to terminate the deeply flawed agreement, a deeply flawed deal that presupposes El Salvador can provide a full and fair asylum procedure and protect refugees. But for some groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, El Salvador provides no safe haven. Its own LGBT citizens lack protection from violence and discrimination.

 

A recent Human Rights Watch report confirms the Salvadoran government’s own acknowledgment that LGBT people face “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, excessive use of force, illegal and arbitrary arrests and other forms of abuse, much of it committed by public security agents.” Social and economic marginalization further increase the risk of violence. Many LGBT people flee from home.

 

Between January 2007 and November 2017, over 1,200 Salvadorans sought asylum in the US due to fear of persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a groundbreaking judgment, a UK court recently granted asylum to a non-binary Salvadoran, finding that their gender expression exposed them to police violence and daily abuse and degradation.

 

Five years ago, El Salvador seemed poised to champion LGBT rights. It joined the UN LGBTI Core Group. It increased sentences for bias-motivated crimes. Its Sexual Diversity Directorate trained public servants and monitored government policies for LGBT inclusiveness.

 

Bukele, then a local official, pledged to be “on the right side of history” on LGBT rights. When he ran for president, his promises dissolved. He opposed marriage equality, effectively shut down the government’s sexual diversity work, and refused to support legal gender recognition for trans people. Despite the landmark conviction of three police officers in July for killing a trans woman, violence remains commonplace, and justice out of reach, for many LGBT people.

 

The Salvadoran government should back a gender identity law and comprehensive civil non-discrimination legislation, prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes, and reestablish a well-resourced office to promote inclusion and eradicate anti-LGBT violence. It should axe the Asylum Cooperative Agreement.

 

As things stand, El Salvador fails to provide effective protection to its own LGBT citizens, let alone LGBT people fleeing persecution elsewhere.

Photo: A transgender woman shows a photograph of Camila Díaz, whom she met while migrating to the US, where they both turned themselves in to immigration authorities. Both women were eventually deported. © 2020 AP Photo/Salvador Melendez.





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NETHERLANDS to compensate trans victims of forced sterilisation

Transgender people will get compensation of 5,000 euros each after Dutch apology.

 

By By Karolin Schaps

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (01.12.2020) – https://bit.ly/3gtwgbB – The Dutch government has agreed to pay about 2,000 trans people who had to undergo sterilisation to legally change their gender 5,000 euros ($5,993) each in compensation.

 

Until 2014, Dutch trans people who wished to amend the gender on their birth certificate first had to be sterilised and to alter their bodies, through hormones and surgery, to match their new gender.

 

“Such a violation of physical integrity is no longer imaginable today,” said Sander Dekker, Dutch minister for legal protection, in a statement.

 

“It is important to acknowledge the suffering of transgender people and to offer recognition, compensation and apologies for it.”

 

The Netherlands follows in the footsteps of Sweden, which in 2018 became the first country in the world to compensate victims of a similar sterilisation law.

 

However, the Dutch compensation package for trans people who changed their registered gender between July 1, 1985 and July 1, 2014 is much lower than Sweden’s payment of 225,000 crowns ($26,411) per person.

 

A number of European Union countries still require sterilisation in order to legally change gender, including Finland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

 

“It is quite a u-turn,” said Willemijn van Kempen, a trans woman who was one of the initiators of the compensation campaign, which was launched in 2019 by a group of individuals and trans rights groups.

 

“Apologies and recognition are given after all the forced procedures on our body and the sterilisation resulting in an unfulfilled wish to have children,” she said in a statement issued by women’s rights law firm Bureau Clara Wichmann.

 

“I am happy with (the decision), but it still feels unreal and I have to let this sink in for a while.”

 

Nora Uitterlinden, a spokeswoman for Transgender Netwerk Nederland, welcomed the government’s apology.

 

“The wounds this inflicted on so many people and on the community as a whole are deep and enduring,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

 

“Both those who ultimately underwent surgery and sterilisation to comply with the law as well as those who did not and consequently had to live without legal recognition of their identity.”





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Transgender Pakistanis find solace in a church of their own

For transgender Christians shunned by their own community, the new church is a refuge from a lifetime of pain.

 

Al Jazeera (26.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/3lAkU6C – Pakistan’s Christian transgender people, often mocked, abused and bullied, say they have found peace and solace in a church of their own.

 

Shunned by other churches, they can raise their voices high here.

 

During a recent service, transgender women, scarves loose over their long hair, conducted Bible readings and raucously sang hymns, accompanied by the rhythms of a drum played by a transgender elder in the church.

 

The church, called the First Church of Eunuchs, is the only one for transgender Christians in Pakistan.

 

“Eunuch” is a term often used for transgender women in South Asia, though some consider it derogatory.

 

The church’s pastor and co-founder Ghazala Shafique said she chose the name to make a point, citing at length verses from the Bible saying “eunuchs” are favoured by God.

 

In Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, on the Arabian Sea coast, it sits in the shadow of a towering brownstone cathedral, where the congregation says they do not feel welcome.

“People looked at us with eyes that are laughing at us,” said Nena Soutrey, a transgender woman whose life has been a tragedy of beatings, bullying and abuse.

 

“No one wants to sit near us and some even say we are an abomination. But we’re not. We are humans. We are people. What is wrong with us? This is who we are,” she said, wearing a bright red scarf over her shoulders.

 

Transgender women and men of all faiths are often publicly bullied and humiliated or even face violence in Pakistan, though the government has recognised them officially as a third gender.

 

Often disowned by their families, they resort to begging and work as wedding dancers. They are often sexually abused and end up as sex workers.

 

A minority within a minority

 

Transgender Christians are a minority within a minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

 

Christians and other religious minorities often face discrimination and feel their place is tenuous.

 

While the community can find support among themselves, transgender Christians are most often rejected.

 

At churches, they are told to sit at the back and sometimes told not to dress as a woman.

 

Arsoo, a transgender woman, said in churches with separate women’s and men’s sections, she was bounced back and forth, told by the women to sit with the men and told by the men to sit with the women.

 

“I found myself in such a confusing situation,” she said.

 

Arzoo said she loved to sing the hymns or recite the Bible but in churches she attended they asked her not to sing.

“I would try to come in front but the others, they considered it a dishonour if we participate,” she said.

 

“I don’t understand why they feel like this. We are human too, born of our parents. The way God created them, God also created us.”

 

At their new church, the pastor, Shafique, celebrates the nearly three-hour service, but it is the transgender congregation that takes the lead.

 

The church is set up in the courtyard outside Shafique’s home. Brightly coloured carpets give warmth to the cement yard.

 

Pale blue plastic chairs, many of them dirty and cracked, serve as pews.

 

It is located in the same sprawling compound as the cathedral, protected by high walls and a steel gate.

 

But there is no mistaking that the humble church belongs to them: A giant six-foot billboard emblazoned with a large cross proudly announces in English, “The First Church for Eunuchs”.

 

‘Khwaja sira’

 

An Urdu translation underneath uses the term transgender Pakistanis more often use for themselves, “khwaja sira”.

 

Shafique, a rare female pastor in Pakistan, was first approached about starting the church by an unexpected advocate, a Muslim – Neesha Rao, Pakistan’s only transgender lawyer.

 

Rao tells with pride how she begged on the streets for 10 years to put herself through law school.

 

Rao said she was moved by her transgender Christian friends who were often afraid to announce their faith, fearing a further abuse, but also could not find solace among fellow Christians.

 

“I am a Muslim child and a Muslim transgender, but I had a pain in my heart for the Christian transgenders,” said Rao as she attended a Friday evening service.

 

She attends every week, she said, standing behind the worshippers.

 

Shafique belongs to the Church of Pakistan, a united Protestant Church of Anglican, Methodist and Reform Churches.

 

‘Theological issues’

 

So far, her efforts with the hierarchy to get her church recognised have been rebuffed.

 

“They tell me there are theological issues,” Shafique said. “I am still waiting to hear what those theological issues are.”

 

She is sharply critical of clerics who would rather want transgender congregants to be invisible or stay away altogether and of parents who reject their transgender children.

 

“Church elders have told me they are not clean … that they are not righteous,” she said.

 

“We reject them … and then they become so broken and then they get into all bad things. I say we are to be blamed, the church and the parents.”

 

Pakistan’s recognition of a third gender was a remarkable move for the conservative country.

 

It was life-changing for many because it allowed them to acquire identity cards, needed for everything from getting a driver’s license to opening a bank account.

 

“This is a great step,” Shafique said. But she added it does not change attitudes.

 

Parents often refuse to give their transgender children their birth certificates needed to get an ID card or forbid them to use their family name.

 

A refuge from pain

 

For Soutrey, the church is a refuge from a lifetime of pain.

 

Tears welled up and her voice cracked as she told of how her mother died when she was just 12, and her brothers beat and insulted her.

 

Finally, she fled to live on the streets and found acceptance within the transgender community.

 

She has stopped going out at night because of harassment and abuse.

 

“First thing I want to say is no one should have to suffer as transgenders suffer,” said Soutrey, between her tears.

 

“People treat us worse than dogs,” she said, even in mainstream churches she attended.

 

“This church is important for us because we are free and happy sitting here, worshipping the God who created us.”





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JOINT STATEMENT: Trans Day of Remembrance 2020: Fighting for our futures

On Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR), 20 November, we remember and honour trans and gender-diverse people whose lives were taken away from us.

 

ILGA-Europe (19.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/3fsI6Cc – Day after day, trans people around the world fight for our human rights and social justice. Year after year, we demand that trans people are protected from violence. We demand that our human rights are respected. We demand our right to live.

 

This year, the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) reported 350 trans and gender-diverse people murdered worldwide between 1 October 2019 and 30 September 2020.

 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, inequalities, systemic oppression, and violence by state and non-state actors are heightened. The realities of trans communities that are hugely marginalised and underrepresented, such as Black and people of colour, sex workers, migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, Roma, people with disabilities, and those living with HIV, remain mostly unseen. Lack of access to healthcare, employment, housing, education, and justice, as well as stigmatisation and persecution, are just some of the results of the inaction of societies that do little or nothing to protect trans and gender-diverse people.

 

Trans activists and movements are persistently fighting to ensure that trans rights, policies, and legal measures protecting trans people are put in place. However, the lives of trans and gender-diverse people remain constantly at risk, particularly for those of us who are affected by racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, ableism and anti-sex worker sentiment and discrimination. Increasing hostility from anti-trans feminist groups, exclusion from mainstream LGBT groups, and the rise of political networks mobilising anti-gender movements severely aggravate these risks.

 

November is a particularly painful month for trans people. Trans Day of Remembrance reminds us of how normative and oppressive systems strive to erase us, to eradicate our existence. This date reminds us that violence towards one of us is violence towards all of us. It reminds us of the urgency and importance of building more self-aware, resilient, and connected trans movements. It is not enough that we are in one another’s thoughts; we have to be in one another’s actions. We will not let anyone stop us from fighting for our dignity, caring for our communities, and celebrating our lives. To our trans siblings around the world, you are not alone. We are in this together.

 

On Trans Day of Remembrance, we call on you to join our fight. Do not only share the horrific statistics on murders of trans people worldwide. Make sure that the lives of trans people who are still alive are part of your fight. Amplify trans voices while we live. Educate others about trans rights while we live. Donate to organisations focusing on marginalised and underrepresented trans communities. Commit to concrete actions and confront the pervasive structural and cistemic oppression that keeps us deprived of our basic rights. Let us end all forms of violence and discrimination against trans and gender-diverse people together.

 

Together, we fight for our futures. Fight with us!


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