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Out of the bars, into the streets: LGBTQI+ activists protest Latham’s transphobic bill

The rally marched along Oxford Street despite police repression.

Photograph: Vivienne Guo

Rainbow masks filled Taylor Square in Darlinghurst this afternoon as 300 protesters gathered to show their opposition to the Education Legislation Amendment Bill (Parental Rights) 2020, put forward by One Nation Senator Mark Latham. The bill seeks to ban the teaching of transgender and gender diverse content in schools, prevent teachers from being able to stand up against transphobic bullying and disallow counsellors from assisting transgender kids with gender dysphoria.

The rally, chaired by Pride in Protest activist Charlie Murphy and Community Action for Rainbow Rights activist Cat Rose, went ahead despite the New South Wales Supreme Court ruling the protest illegal yesterday afternoon. Organisers distributed masks and hand sanitiser through the crowd, as around fifty police officers watched on. The rally was also briefly interrupted by far-right activist Chris De Bruyne who was attempting to film speakers. He was quickly met with cries of “fascist scum off the streets” from protesters.

Community Action for Rainbow Rights activist April Holcombe spoke to the effect that the bill would have on young transgender and gender diverse youth: “The point of Mark Latham’s bill, it’s not just about getting passed, it’s about trying to make us ashamed of who we are, to make young people feel alone, to make teachers and counsellors think twice before they stand up for a student in their school who’s been bullied.”

This sentiment was echoed by Murphy, who read out a statement from Aunty Rhonda Dixon, a Gadigal, Bidjigal, Yuin elder: “I, as a grandmother of 14 children, believe that all children have the right to be treated equally and the right to a proper education. There is no room for racism, sexism or bullying in the education system or anywhere else.”

High school teacher Genevieve Doyle said that under the proposed legislation, “we would be forced to, as teachers, misgender [transgender and gender diverse] children… It would actually cause suicides as far as I’m concerned.”

“I teach no subject that is related to that, I teach mathematics, I just do my job. However, my very presence as a trans person in the classroom would have me fallen foul to this legislation proposal. I would be taken out of the system just for existing,” said Doyle.

Speakers were interrupted by police, who issued a move-on order. Protesters then began to march down Oxford Street and through Hyde Park. Chants of “out of the bars, and into the streets” could be heard, a reference to the Stonewall uprisings in 1969 and the radical history of LGBTQI+ defiance in the face of police brutality.

Protesters were corralled and chased through Hyde Park, where at least 13 people were  issued with fines, including two people who were arrested and taken away by police. The rally eventually disbanded after a second move on order was issued.

One protester noted that a group was “rammed against a glass wall on Elizabeth Street” by police, who would not allow protesters to leave the space. They also described “people getting shoved into poles and pushed so they skidded across the asphalt”. 

National Union of Students’ LGBTQI+ Officer Dashie Prasad told Honi that they condemn the bill as an open-faced attack on the trans and gender diverse community. 

“We showed today that no matter the amount of police repression, no matter the state repression, no matter what the courts tell us, when trans people and the queer community want to come out, we will take to the streets. We’re not going to stand by and watch the state and police attack trans kids and let the Liberal party and conservatives attack our community silently.”

This protest was the latest to be heavily repressed by police in Sydney under the Public Health Act, despite it being legal to assemble in a stadium with a capacity of 40,000 people.

To support LGBTQI+ activists who were fined today, donate here.