Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 07, 2024


Gender Dysphoria

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. F. Pangallo:

1. That a select committee be established to inquire into and report on young people seeking assistance for gender dysphoria in South Australia and related matters, with particular reference to:

(a) the health care and related support services provided, and options available, to children, adolescents and young adults seeking services for gender dysphoria or other gender identity related issues in South Australia, and their parents, guardians and families;

(b) the role, rights and obligations of parents and guardians of minors seeking services for gender dysphoria or other gender identity related issues;

(c) the public funding of health and education services in South Australia in relation to sex-related and gender-related issues; and

(d) any other related matters.

2. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

(Continued from 15 November 2023.)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:12): I rise today to speak on this particular motion, noting that the Greens will not be supporting the establishment of this select committee. I would like to point out that there already has been a recent South Australian inquiry into this issue, one done by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, who in 2019 published a document called First Port of Call that supported the South Australian healthcare system to better meet the needs of trans and gender-diverse children and young people.

The recommendations of this report, supported and devised from advice that was received from trans and gender-diverse children and young people, identified four key priority areas. They included:

1. More visibility around gender diversity in both the South Australian health system and society.

2. Better information for children and their parents and carers.

3. Better education and training for GPs and health workers.

4. Implementation of gender-affirming health services to be available to children when they need them.

Funnily enough, not one of those recommendations suggested a parliamentary inquiry. Transgender kids and youth face the intersection of transphobia and the disempowering place that children face in our society. For these children and young people, this perceived judgement adds to the distress that they were already experiencing. It made them feel excluded and discriminated against. It also delayed them from finding the help that they needed, which sometimes, of course, had the additional consequences of that for their long-term health.

To quote one young person, 'Why do lawmakers make it so difficult for people to try to be who they want to be?' They need our support, not a parliamentary committee. My office has received a number of calls and emails from health professionals and community groups alike calling for the idea of this select committee. I have also received many pieces of correspondence and calls noting that it is unnecessary and an inappropriate way to address the issues that are raised in the terms of reference.

The Trans Justice Project's 'Fuelling Hate' report from 2023 shows a clear relationship between political and media speculation on the legitimacy of gender-diverse people's experience and the repetitive verbal, digital and physical violence that gender-diverse people face. This contributes to a climate of hostility and invalidation, which we know stretches into their homes and into the lives of these young people, with misgendering and transphobia being a significant cause of distress for around 90 per cent of trans-youth.

Medical expertise already exists in this area and has informed the SA Health gender diversity model of care, alongside other South Australian policies relevant to the health of gender-diverse people. This expertise, not political bargaining, is what should inform practice.

In his speech the Hon. Frank Pangallo quoted Dr Georgie Swift, a South Australian gender diversity psychiatrist involved in setting up the gender clinic at the Women's and Children's Hospital. She was quoted from a psychiatry conference that was held in Adelaide on 14 October 2023. In that conference Dr Swift gave a talk entitled, 'We're here, we're queer and we'd like to say hello: the mental health and wellbeing of gender-diverse and same-sex attracted people.'

Dr Swift told the conference, though not on the official record but as reported in an article published on Gender Clinic News:

I'm reasonably confident to say that no matter where you stand on gender-affirming health care for children and adolescents, that you agree that we need more evidence—our evidence isn’t robust, it isn’t good enough.

This was seized on by many who wrote to me calling for a select committee. It was also used in the Hon. Frank Pangallo's speech and repeated various times since in online campaigns.

That quote, I believe, has been misinterpreted. Even taking that small sliver, it is simply Dr Swift saying that more evidence would be good. It has been misinterpreted and misconstrued and, I believe, is being misused to justify the opposite of what Dr Swift then calls for and represents and has worked so hard to implement.

In the full speech she gave, not the selective, misconstrued quote, she said she believed there was enough evidence to prove that gender-affirming interventions brought benefits to patients but more evidence would help better uphold standards of gender-affirming care. She said there was enough evidence in her speech at that conference, but all of us, I believe, have received emails saying it was her saying that there was not enough evidence.

It is disappointing. I note that Dr Swift also appeared on the March 2020 ABC Four Corners TV program, entitled Not a Boy, Not a Girl, where she said:

Not allowing someone to socially transition or to medically transition, not supporting them in their gender identity is a high, high chance of them having significant mental health problems including high rates of deliberate self-harm, high rates of suicidality and suicide attempts.

Those were Dr Georgie Swift's words on that program. Trans and gender-diverse young people experience significantly higher rates of suicidality and politicising their care only serves to cause them further harm. They are an already vulnerable group.

I would like to reflect, for my colleagues in the council today and for the community of South Australia, on a story told by one of my colleagues at a federal level, Greens senator Nick McKim. Senator Nick McKim is stepdad to a young trans man, Jasper. Jasper wrote something in The Guardian in 2023 after a rally in Hobart that was put on by Kellie-Jay Keen, also known as Posie Parker. When Jasper wrote for The Guardian he said a couple of really impactful things. He said, 'Transitioning has been the hardest and most wonderful thing I have ever done.' He also said, 'There were two options for me as I grew up, I could die or find a way to live as Jasper.' Those were the options he faced.

It is extraordinary that over and over again this council's time this past year has been spent on moral attacks on trans-people. That moral attack, of course, is not unique. If you want to have a debate on what is really impacting the lives of everyday South Australians, let's talk about the cost of living; let's talk about grocery prices—as we will be doing at the leadership of the Greens in just a minute. Let's talk about the level of education funding to our schools, and let's talk about what we are doing to stop violence in our homes and discrimination against women and others in this state.

Let's talk about stopping the scourge of sexual violence and the scourge of domestic and family violence. Let's talk about what we are going to do to help young people to have the lives that they deserve, to live full and healthy and happy lives. Also, let's talk about what they can do to be helped to cover their rents and not have a cost-of-living crisis face them. Let's talk about those people who are struggling just to pay the bills because the mortgage rates are going through the roof.

I do not want to take up too much more of this council's time, but I did think it was important, even though this select committee was not going to a vote today, to share these words and to share why the Greens oppose the way forward that has been proposed by the Hon. Frank Pangallo. I do not think that the Hon. Frank Pangallo brings this select committee to us with ill intent, but I do believe it opens up a forum for those who do have ill intent to be made bolder and louder and more harmful.

Trans-rights are human rights, trans-men are men, trans-women are women. I note that not all members of this council in this place right now, even in this room right now, believe that, but I believe that and I respect your right not to believe that, but I also respect the right of those who are trans in our community to not have their lives used as a political plaything.

We should be offering our collective and unanimous love and support to all South Australians, no matter their gender identity, sexuality, race, creed or religion. We should not be providing platforms to inflate hatred. I note that this select committee would have had on its number people who do not believe that trans-people exist, because we know there are a number of people in this council who have voted that way in the past year. The extraordinary proposition of having a select committee populated by members of parliament who do not believe a group of people exist in this society, to investigate that group of people, simply blew my mind in a way that Alice in Wonderland never quite managed to achieve.

We should not be deliberately setting up processes in this council that are designed explicitly to cause harm to people who deserve our support. It would be an appalling thing to do to a group of people that we know are already likely to harm themselves—we already know how likely they are to be self-harming—and that is not a hypothetical exercise, that is real life. This will have real-life impacts on real people, and that is what happens when you vote in this place. The Greens will not support this committee. We are here for people like Jasper, we are here for trans-folk and other folk across this whole beautiful complex web of human diversity that we get to enjoy in our society.

The wondrous condition of humanity is actually enriched by our diversity and the Greens know that diversity should be celebrated and supported. It should not be condemned and it certainly should not be used by political operatives.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.