Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan has been criticised for making “disrespectful” comments about trans people in parliament last night.
Interrupting a discussion about implementation of the federal government’s 2013 sex and gender recognition guidelines, O’Sullivan asked if he could “go into the ladies’ loo-loo” if he “declared” himself a woman.
O’Sullivan continued to demand answers to hypotheticals in which he would pose as a trans woman.
Greens Senator Janet Rice responded that the government’s guidelines include sensitivity training around gender diversity.
“I respectfully say that your questioning there has not been sensitive to trans and gender diverse communities,” she told O’Sullivan.
“I’m not being insensitive,” he replied.
Rice later further addressed O’Sullivan’s comments, calling them ignorant.
“Senator O’Sullivan’s comments are extremely disrespectful and offensive to trans and gender diverse people,” she said.
“Senator O’Sullivan was ignorantly and offensively conflating his concerns about predatory behaviour from men with the implementation of the government’s guidelines on recognising sex and gender.
“These guidelines exist to ensure that trans and gender diverse people feel safe to be who they are in the workplace.
“To mix these two issues is outrageous, and minimises the experience and identities of trans and gender diverse people. A person’s gender identity is not a choice made on a whim in order to tick a form, as he implied.”
Rice said that O’Sullivan’s comments were indicative of the need for education and change in government.
“Disrespect to trans and gender diverse people should have no place in our society, let alone in our parliament,” she said.
“The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender were meant to be implemented by all government departments over two years ago, but many departments are still not compliant.
“Senator O’Sullivan’s comments show just how desperately we need these guidelines and the education that accompanies them.”