State ushers in a disturbing new climate with new law
It is difficult to decide which classic of fantasy or dystopian literature best captured the surreal climate that prevailed as the Victorian Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 passed into law in the late hours of 4 February. Would it be Alice in Wonderland, something by Kafka, the prophetic lines of Alexandre Solzhenitsyn or perhaps Orwell’s grim and grey novel 1984? Take your pick.
There were thousands of letters and signatures, many professional and community-based organisations and individuals pointing out that the Bill was ill-conceived, lacking in community or professional consultation, undemocratic, unnecessary, badly drafted, potentially draconian and even deceptive in its origins and intentions. They came from different political and religious points on the compass.
Many argued that whatever else it was attempting, the Bill simply exposed gender confused and differently oriented young people, those who were working their way to maturity, to the life-long medical dependence, irreversible damage and regret of transgender surgical intervention.
The ostensible “practice” the Bill bans, the forced or violent use of electro-therapy, exorcism or restraint in same sex attracted people is, in fact, rarely countenanced today by any community – and it has never been reported in cases of gender dysphoria. Many argued that whatever else it was attempting, the Bill simply exposed gender confused and differently oriented young people, those who were working their way to maturity, to the life-long medical dependence, irreversible damage and regret of transgender surgical intervention.
Two noteworthy submissions from a Sydney-based gay and lesbian alliance and a feminist legal service argued that the law is dangerous and ironic, in that it aims to suppress individual diversity by actively privileging the most drastic monolithic answer to gender dysphoria: “ … which would go against the individual rights of Australians in allowing parents, children, and health professionals to find the best path for each unique child, not follow mandatory practices based in an ideology or belief system of ‘gender’ that is not validated by evidence.” (LGB Alliance Press Release)
The Victorian Law Institute, The Victorian branch of Australian Medical Association, the Victorian President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) joined ethics-based, activist and faith-based voices who also opposed the Bill.
Despite this, the Bill was passed 27-9. Some members voted for the Bill after arguing for initially tabled amendments. These aimed to modify one of the outlandish elements in the drafting of the Bill. Included here were exemptions for professional medical judgement or families or to protect paedophilia from being defined as a protected sexual orientation. Not one of these was given recognition. Instead there was a disturbing climate of suppression of differing “thought” and personal ridicule with which proposed amendments and arguments were met.
INCLUDED…WERE EXEMPTIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL JUDGEMENT OR FAMILIES OR TO PROTECT PAEDOPHILIA FROM BEING DEFINED AS A PROTECTED SEXUAL ORIENTATION. NOT ONE OF THESE WAS GIVEN RECOGNITION.
Rather than debate with the minority, a cheap denial of well-founded objections, jeering and outbursts of shame-inducing emotion was deployed. In Orwell’s 1984, a young boy threatens to report his parents and the diffident hero, Winston Smith, to the Ministry:
“You’re a traitor!’ yelled the boy. ‘You’re a thought-criminal! You’re a Eurasian spy! I’ll shoot you, I’ll vapourise you, I’ll send you to the salt mines!”
The new Act, among many other worrying elements, introduces new criminal acts (the ill-defined “change or conversion practices”) and two rafts by which these “practices” may be charged. The first of these can occur through police prosecution, the second through investigation or accusation to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
This second possibility gives remarkable scope and powers to the Commission by introducing what it calls a “civil response” scheme which includes the active promotion, re-education and encouragement of “reporting” within the community.
Redefining ‘gender identity’
The law redefines “gender identity” referring to any experience (apparently regardless of its association with violence and trauma, mental illness or duration) “which may differ from their designated sex at birth and includes their personal sense of the body and other expressions of gender.”
The sorts of encounters in which young people express their discomfort “with their bodies” or with their sexual feelings are personal and often intimate. Young people are often looking for a sounding board and not simply a self-reflecting mirror. There are so many settings for these: parent-child, teacher-student, the doctor-patient, the counsellor-subject, pastor-faithful. It stands to reason that the only way that the Commission or the Victoria Police can prosecute newly fabricated “offences” is by encouraging a culture of denunciation – such as is captured brilliantly in the novel 1984.
Far from promoting the well-being of each young person- the Victorian Parliament has bequeathed a culture of mute disengagement and avoidance. We have already seen how the social media and virtual communities are awash with “the bullying, censorship, de-platforming, doxing, demonising” (LGM submission) of those who question gender changing ideologies, technologies and business interests. Now the Victorian State has promoted this culture into hegemony.