The proposed “Lesbians Born Female” event in Melbourne to mark this year’s International Lesbian Day looms as a national test case in the clash between women’s rights and transgender inclusion, with the organisers seeking the right to bar men, straight and bisexual women and transgender women from attending.
In its application to the AHRC, the Lesbian Action Group says exclusively lesbian events have been driven underground by a “repressive and conservative political climate” which leaves women who speak out about lesbian rights exposed to abuse and recriminations.
The group is seeking a five-year exemption from the federal Sex Discrimination Act to hold an event at the Victorian Pride Centre in Melbourne on October 15 and future events which would celebrate lesbian culture and allow “like-minded and like-bodied” women to gather. It says the fear of being labelled as transphobic has eroded lesbian rights.
The newly formed Lesbian Action Group was established by women who were active in the lesbian rights movement in the 1980s and 90s. It is supported by LGB Alliance Australia, the local chapter of a British-based organisation whose promotion of sex-based rights has pushed it into the front line of a rolling gender war.
The author of the application, Carole Ann, is a lesbian and feminist campaigner who 20 years ago unsuccessfully sought an exemption from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to allow the continuation of Lesfest, a national lesbian festival and conference which ran for more than a decade.
“It is not anti-trans, it is pro-lesbians who are born female,” she said. “We are not asking for anyone to be denied who they are. It is for us to also be recognised for who we are and have a bit of space for that and acknowledgement that our lived experience is different.”