Mission Australia will refuse services to transgender women at three inner-city welfare centres after being granted an exemption under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Elizabeth Riley (pictured), coordinator of the Gender Centre, told Sydney Star Observer the effect on the tranny community would be devastating.

I find that it’s extremely un-Christian for a Christian organisation and it’s certainly counter to the principles of welfare, Riley said.

Mission Australia asked for the exemption in the interests of women accessing services at A Woman’s Place in Potts Point and Lou’s Place in Darlinghurst who had experienced abuse by men and felt particularly unsafe in their presence.

In a statement released this week, Mission Australia said: In the past 18 months there have been incidents of males and unrecognised transgender clients present in services, resulting in concerns for the safety of both workers and clients.

Norrie May Welby, spokesperson for lobby group Sex and Gender Education (SAGE), told the Star the decision was discriminatory, with a group condemned for the actions of a few people.

If their behaviour is a problem then you regulate the behaviour -¦ but you don’t ban everybody who looks the same or is the same colour or is the same background, Welby said.

They’ve been granted an exemption to allow them to be a female-only service. Which is fine but transgender women are a kind of women.

Spokesperson for Mission Australia Janis Redford told the Star the organisation would work with other agencies in the area to provide more appropriate support for transgender clients and that post-operative transgender women would continue to be welcomed at the centres.

The behaviour that has been exhibited by some clients that has caused us to take this step has been around male sexuality issues -¦ Redford said.

We can certainly handle inappropriate behaviour that might be aggression or alcoholism or anger management or those types of things. It’s the other behaviour that relates to women feeling uncomfortable around pre-operative transgender clients, related to sexuality, that is the issue for us, Redford said.

Redford said the organisation would be meeting with Gender Centre representatives this week to discuss other referral possibilities for clients, which include Foley House, Edward Eagar Lodge and the Gender Centre.

Gender Centre coordinator Elizabeth Riley said it was unlikely the exemption would be challenged in the Supreme Court (the only legal recourse), but hoped the decision might be reversed within Mission Australia.
Welby said SAGE would be lobbying against the decision.

It’s cutting out the most vulnerable women of all -“ a woman of transgender background who finds herself in Kings Cross on the street and can’t get a shower. She can’t even go and ask for a shower without being metaphorically slapped in the face and told that her identity is not valid, Welby said.

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