An application by the recently formed Lesbian Action Group to lawfully exclude trans women from a “Lesbians Born Female” event has caused a heated rift, with equality and inclusion advocates squaring off against women’s rights groups.
The Lesbian Action Group, an organisation formed by veterans of the lesbian rights movement of the 1980s and 1990s, wants to stage its event at the government-funded Victorian Pride Centre in Melbourne next month to celebrate International Lesbian Day, and has applied for a five-year exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.
The application triggered a flurry of submissions, published by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which echo arguments raging more broadly within political and feminist circles and women’s sporting and cultural institutions over how to balance gender inclusion and sex-based rights.
The author off the application, Carole Ann, denies the idea for a Lesbians Born Women event is anti-trans.
Writing in support of the application, the Affiliation of Women’s Alliances, representing women’s liberation groups across four states and the ACT, said the exemption was essential for the dignity and safety of lesbians who faced psychological harassment on social media and physical threats.
Anna Kerr, a Sydney lawyer whose Feminist Legal Clinic specialises in domestic violence cases, said an exemption should not be necessary to hold a lesbian-only event.
“This application clearly demonstrates how extreme trans activism has adversely impacted on the rights of women and girls,” she submitted.
“If the protections for gender identity, whether at state or federal level, were interpreted in a manner that did not inappropriately conflate the concepts of sex and gender identity, these conflicts would not arise.”
A spokesperson said the commission was reviewing the submissions and would publish its decision.