No Wonerland for Alice

“I never sing, she says, I never sing
I never dance without a care,
A dizzy leap to ecstasy,
An easy step, a walk on air.”
– Jumping Fences, I Never Sing

At the 1910 2nd International Conference of Working Women, delegate Clara Zetkin successfully moved for an International Women’s Day to be celebrated every year. People have marched ever since for women’s rights and to end discrimination against women.

Police attack IWD marchers in Roma Street Brisbane in 1979

International Women’s Day 2020 – Meanjin
During the 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) weekend I attended a Women’s Liberation conference and an IWD rally where I heard a number of very informative and provocative speeches.  Both events were well organised. The conference was attended by about 50 people and the rally next day by about 70.

At the conference, I attended an activist discussion group which focussed on the declaration (below).

During the main presentation I heard two lawyers discussing legal apsects of obtaining a change of gender in various jurisdictions namely NSW, TAS, VIC, WA, QLD and later heard some discussion about the UK. I heard that in WA to obtain a gender change a person needs to have the application approved by a board. I heard that there had been only ’13 such applications in the past 10 years’ and that ‘more than double of those were men trying to transition to women’.

That is less than one male per year trying to transition to a woman for 10 years via the legal process. How many people wish to have a sex change is unknown. Women in my discussion group assured me that it was many more. One of the lawyers said that WA was not a focus for ‘gender re-assignment‘ and may be atypical. My calculation was that to fit the statement about WA there would have been 9 males transitioning to women and 4 females transitioning to men in ten years. Not many, but discrimination against a group which may wish to apply for a gender change may be considerable. Surely the prominence given to this debate will pass and some resolution will be found to the issues it raises? This is but one of many. I looked back over the archives of a radio show I am associated with and the transgender issue was raised in interviews as long ago as 2009. Still no solution in sight.

International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020 – Emma Miller Place, Brisbane.

Understandably I was curious about the stats in jurisdictions apart from Western Australia. I heard that there had been about ‘5,000 applications in the UK’ since the gender change certificates had been approved by the British parliament in 2004. That is 5,000 applications out of a population of 60 million people. Not many in 15 years. So I did a quick search on the stats for Gender Recognition Certificates (GRC) in the UK. I could find none. However I did discover appeals by officials and medical scientists for statistics to be kept and analyzed.

I looked up the stats for Western Australia and this is what I found:

Applications to change gender in WA

Twenty-eight (28) applications received for male to female gender change is not a big number in a state with a population of about 2.6 million inhabitants.

The Brisbane women’s movement has been paralyzed by this debate over the past three years. Unions will not support either group. IWD rallies have been split and dwarfed in size. IWD celebrations became a confrontation in 2018 with epithets like ‘transphobic‘ being tossed around.

One of the most interesting aspect of the IWD conference was the claim that much of the exploitation of women is money driven – prostitution, pornography, the internet itself is dominated by porn most of it anti-women.

One of the organisers said that she had ‘resigned from all left-wing groups she had ever been associated with over the (transgender) issue’.

Feedback form for IWD conference

In 2019 and 2020 there were not one but two IWD rallies.

On 8th March this year, I attended the one called IWD Brisbane (Meanjin) rally at Roma Street forum where only 70 people turned up; whereas over 1,500 had come out in the same place in 2018 and marched through the streets of Brisbane. In 2020 there was no march.

As usual the IWD speakers and musicians shed real light on important social issues where radical social change is needed: domestic violence, workplace rights, stopping discrimination based on sexual preference, rights of first nations women; in a word, respect for women as human beings. One woman explained how the medical delay of puberty in children was used in gender re-assignment. All of this was new to me. I come from an age and culture where puberty occurs later than it does now and was a natural thing where medical intervention was frowned upon.

One other observation. I am not a lawyer but I found the law in the area of gender change appalling. It is not only imprecise but nonsensical … to pass legislation (in Victoria) using terms like ‘lifestyle change’ makes mockery of the whole question.

For such an important day for the working class to be mired in identity politics is a tragedy. Some way out must be found. We are all human beings regardless of race and sex. Since and before the famous Bread and Roses textile strike by women in Massachusetts in 1912 the working class is oppressed by capitalist exploitation both inside and outside of the workplace. It is just that jobs have changed … whereas the working class used work in factories now they work in service industries or in professions. In Queensland women dominate both teaching and nursing professions. The education sector is Qld’s second biggest export after coal. More needs to be said about how to organise class-based rights for women.

It is important to make criminals of people who exploit women, whether they do so for sex i.e. by prostituting women.

Pamphlet about women at work

During the conference I was given a Declaration on Women’s Sex Based Rights which is based on a 1979 resolution in the United Nations.

Ian Curr
10 March 2020


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