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‘I hope I can retire in a world where it is safe for trans kids to grow up to be trans adults’: Calls for the government to act on rise in transphobia

8 May, 2023

Interview by Caeden Tipler, adapted by Athena Li-Watts 

Awhi Marshall (she/they), a co-secretary at InsideOUT Kōaro says the government is not taking enough responsibility to protect trans people in Aotearoa. Photo: Corey Fuimaono. 

Listen to the full interview 

A recent report from the Disinformation Project has found a concerning increase in hate speech and transphobia following Posie Parker’s visit to Aotearoa.

The report looked at anti-trans content posted online between the middle of March and the middle of April and discovered a "substantial increase in harm and hate towards trans and non-binary people".

The report stated, “denying a group’s existence and their right to exist are both signs of the language of genocide.”

A prevalent narrative spread by anti-trans groups is that transgender women pose a threat to cisgender women. This has been criticised by Waikato academic Kyle Tan, who says trans people are essentially being scapegoated and that transphobia reinforces white supremacy.

Awhi Marshall (she/they), a co-secretary at InsideOUT Kōaro, told 95bFM’s The Wire that whakawāhine and tangata ira tāne have always existed and were recognised prior to colonisation.

“Transness is an inherently anti-white supremacist concept.”

Marshall argued that this narrative continues to be pushed because many people holding this belief have not met any trans women.

“Often I find that cis women feel extremely safe around trans women, they feel protected, and they feel content to share spaces with them.”

Marshall is among those who are critical of the government for not taking enough responsibility to protect trans people by letting Posie Parker into Aotearoa.

Before she visited Aotearoa, Posie Parker's events in Australia had seen support from far-right groups.

“Neo nazis showed up and effectively co-opted that event, and that was not decried by her.”

Marshall was part of the group that took the government to court in an attempt to prevent Posie Parker from entering the country. 

The judge believed Immigration Minister Michael Wood was wrong to allow Posie Parker to enter but decided it was not the place of the courts to repeal the decision.

Many are now calling on the government to recognise the danger of transphobia and take responsibility for protecting trans people.

Current hate speech laws only protect people from threatening behaviour based on race, colour, ethnicity, and national origin. Hate speech based on gender, sexuality, and religion is neglected.

Marshall said it is also difficult to prove hate speech with Aotearoa's existing laws.

“The bar for prosecution is very high, basically impossibly high.”

Marshall emphasised the importance of cis allies understanding and showing up in support of trans people.

“I never regret being Takatapui. I never regret being trans. It is a beautiful experience. But it comes with unique challenges, and people who do not experience them can struggle to understand.”

They said many trans people feel unsafe out in public and constantly worry about the threat of violence.

“Even things as simple as using the bathrooms that make us feel the most comfortable can be something that causes a violent outburst.”

She stated that because cis allies have more guaranteed safety when speaking out or showing up to protests, they should continue showing up in support, like at the counter-protest against Posie Parker.

They argued that transphobia does not have to be the new normal, and the trend of the past decade has been acceptance, with the spike in transphobia being very recent.

She said action could be taken by the government and cis allies to ensure Aotearoa remains a safe place for trans people.

“I hope I can retire in a world where it is safe for trans kids to grow up to be trans adults.”