I remember having a conversation with a Catholic person some decades ago, during which that person, in response to a question about gay people, replied with something along the lines of: ‘…we can’t let them into our schools’. This was because she conflated gay people with paedophiles. Little did she realise that the greatest repository of paedophiles in any organisation, was that in the Catholic church, a branch at which she worshipped1.
In addition to bigotry by the religious, this demonisation of gay people was part of the conservative system of pointing the finger at those who they wanted the gullible to believe threatened the very existence of western civilisation from within2. However, for conservatives and their religious nutter fellow travellers, the demonisation of gays has largely failed. This is demonstrated by the acceptance of same sex marriage in most western democracies. In Australia, same sex marriage has been legalised, and despite the predictions of religious nutters, the sky didn’t fall in, and people have not started marrying bridges3. On top of this, the annual Mardi Gras parade has become mainstream and, this year, was joined for the first time by a sitting Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese4.
So, what do conservative bigots do now? They have to find another relatively powerless group to convince the gullible are a threat to western civilisation and transgender people are now in their sights.
This demonisation of transgender people has become intense in the United States with more legislation being filed to restrict the lives of transgender people in 2022 than ever before; and it is young transgender people who are being targeted the most. There are bills aimed at preventing transgender girls and women from playing on female sporting teams, laws barring transgender youth from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity and restrictions on gender-affirming medical care. It also extends beyond legislation. In 2022, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued a directive requiring child welfare agents to investigate gender-affirming medical procedures as a form of child abuse. Later, Republican governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, announced guidelines that would make it more difficult for transgender youth to change their names and pronouns at school, and would prevent them from using school facilities and participating in youth programs that align with their gender identity5. Similar sorts of anti-transgender legislation have been seen in several other states such as Oklahoma, Wyoming, Florida, and Arizona6. There is even a Republican sponsored (of course) bill which was introduced to the US House of Representatives in early February, which seeks to completely erase transgender recognition by the federal government, defining sex assigned at birth as an “immutable” definition of man or woman, boy or girl7.
Even worse, at a Conservative Political Action Conference, one Michael Knowles called for the eradication of ‘transgenderism’ when he said: “For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.” This was rightly construed as an attack on transgender people8. Notice how he said it was for “the good of society”, an allusion to the threat being against us all.
So, what is happening in Australia? Like most tactics and strategies that Australian conservatives use, their transgender rhetoric has been imported directly from the US Republican Party. On Saturday (March 18), there was an anti-transgender protest in Melbourne estimated to have attracted 400 like-minded bigots. The star attraction at this protest was British anti-transgender campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known, for some unknown reason, as ‘Posie Parker’9. The protest was also attended by Katherine Deves, failed House of Representatives candidate for Warringah, and Scott Morrison’s ‘captain’s pick’ for the seat10. Also in attendance was one of the most recent religious nutters elected to the Victorian parliament, Moira Deeming. She is an ultraconservative Christian cooker, who has said: “I did not win on merit, I did not win because I was popular in the party, I did not win by being a part of a faction. I won because God arranged it, and because Christians joined up and voted according to their consciences”11.
This protest was joined by around 30 members of the far-right National Socialist Movement, dressed in black and some wearing balaclava-style face coverings, who marched down Spring Street, carrying a banner that read “destroy paedo freaks”, shouting slurs at LGBT+ activists, chanting “white power” and making Nazi salutes9. It has been estimated that about 800 counterprotesters also turned up and shouted chants of “Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side”9. At a similar protest in Hobart on Tuesday (March 21) Keen-Minshull was completely drowned out by demonstrators telling her to “go home” and also chanting “Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side”12.
Keen-Minshull has made headlines for activism which centres around whipping up anti-transgender hatred. In a video broadcast on Twitter in February, she threatened women who oppose her in saying: “Each and every one of you women who stand in my way … will be annihilated.” In the same rant, she compared transgender women to sexual predators and serial killers. At one of her protests, another anti-transgender activist was recorded as quoting Hitler’s Mein Kampf9.
Just as gay people were conflated with paedophiles, now transgender people are being conflated with paedophiles. Conservatives and religious nutters need to hate someone, as long as they are perceived to be relatively powerless. That hate has now transitioned from gay people to transgender people.