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USyd QuAC speak out against transphobic One Nation motion

Gender-neutral language, including the use of singular ‘they’ pronouns, has existed in the English language for centuries.

Photography by Vivienne Guo

USyd’s Queer Action Collective gathered for a speak-out today, to stand against a motion introduced to Senate by One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts that seeks to ban the use of gender-neutral language at a federal level. The motion was passed last week.

Queer Officer Oscar Chaffey denounced the motion as “transphobic” and “bioessentialist nonsense”, saying that gender-neutral language, including the use of singular ‘they’ pronouns, has existed in the English language for centuries.

“This motion says that medical institutions and the government are prepared to go out of their way to fuck over trans people and say that their bodies are other and invalid. It will actively discriminate and exclude trans and gender non-conforming people from seeking medical care and being referred to in a way that validates their lived realities,” said Chaffey.

Ken, a representative from Community Action for Rainbow Rights, pointed out a pattern of transphobic bills in Parliament, citing Mark Latham’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 which seeks to prohibit mentions of gender fluidity in schools.

Ken also spoke about the Religious Discrimination Bill, saying that 80% of people are opposed to the Bill. “Activists need to turn majority opinion and sentiment into mass action,” said Ken. “That is our key task: people power hitting the streets.”

Mya, a representative from Pride in Protest, mentioned the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, drawing connections between civil rights movements in the United States and the moral panic surrounding gender and bathrooms today. 

“Starting in the 1960s in the United States, the right-wing built moral panic around the desegregation of bathrooms, talking about the violence of black communities,” said Mya. “We can see that exact same moral panic whipped up against trans people today.”

As highlighted by prior speakers, Mya also encouraged the gathered crowd to continue fighting for queer justice. “Despite the fact that we’ve won that fantastic victory [of marriage equality], we have to beat back these attacks and we have to win more.”

The motion introduced by Senator Malcolm Roberts was passed in the Senate last week, by a majority vote of 33 to 31, after gaining support from Coalition senators. The motion called on the federal government to “reject the use of distorted language” and reduce the range of language to binary terms such as man and woman, mother and father.

Community Action for Rainbow Rights has called a rally on 5 June to kill Mark Latham’s ‘Parental Rights’ Bill and defend LGBTQI+ rights.