Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter has revealed he has been subjected to virulent online attacks after he blew the whistle on alleged transphobia of some Victorian Greens members. 

The deputy mayor had, earlier this month, publicly opposed the election of former state convenor Linda Gale. Baxter had questioned the legality of the election process and pointed to Gale’s past anti-transgender comments.

The backlash resulted in Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam MLC taking action under the party’s rules to have Gale’s election overturned. Ratnam, reportedly, also urged Gale not to run again when election for the state convenor’s post is held again. 

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The prompt action temporarily quelled the controversy, but appears to have widened the rift within the party over the issue of transgender rights.

Online TERF Attacks

On Thursday, Baxter revealed on social media that he had been the target of online attacks, many from accounts based in the United Kingdom. 

“Since I blew the whistle on the transphobia of certain members of the Greens, I have been targeted by a number of TERFs, largely from the UK. They have attacked my sexuality and my family. They have report-bombed my Facebook and twitter account. They have threatened legal action,” Baxter posted in a thread on Twitter.

The deputy mayor alleged that “powerful people” who have “ruled over this party” were using their connections in the media to spread falsehood. 

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“These people have since taken to the newspapers and threatened defo action. All because we called them what they are. Transphobes,” said Baxter, adding, “The ones who want to disagree with my views on TERFism are welcome to do so. And I’ll disagree with them. This is no more than the TERFs in the Greens have copped, after all. However, I’ve received phishing attempts, abusive emails, personal attacks.This is not ok.”

Greens Denounce Transphobia, Says MLC Samantha Ratnam

In a statement to Star Observer, Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said that the swift action with regard to Gale’s election  underscored the party’s commitment to transgender rights. 

“The Greens have been vocal and unequivocal in our denunciation of transphobia. We have a responsibility to call it out whenever and wherever we see it or hear it, which is exactly what happened last week,” said the Greens leader.  

“Our swift and decisive action last week highlights our unwavering support for our trans and gender diverse communities. This has been a really difficult time for the party, but I’m confident that it will only make us stronger. Whenever and wherever we see discrimination, we need to name it and we need to act,” added MLC Ratnam. 

Greens Face Existential Threat, Claims Gale

Linda Gale

The Victorian Greens leader’s decision, however, did not go down well with Gale and her supporters. In an opinion piece published in The Age on Thursday, Gale claimed she was ousted “due to alleged thought crimes.” 

Baxter had cited a 2019 party policy document co-authored by  Gale and former Victorian Greens member Nina Vallins. The document, Baxter alleged, was found by many “to be deeply transphobic”. Vallins was suspended from the party in 2021 for “vilification of members and volunteers on the basis of their gender identity”.

Gale blamed Baxter for making “offensive and slanderous allegations”, and that she was “decried as transphobic” due to the 2019 piece.

“Led by Senator Janet Rice, MPs and local councillors including Tim Read, Sam Hibbins and Lidia Thorpe used social media to declare that my tenure as convenor was untenable,” Gale wrote. 

Gale said that she had been contacted by many Greens supporters and claimed that the party was facing an “existential threat”.

“Will our elected representatives continue to jump to the demands of Twitter outrage and wield their influence to overturn members’ decisions?” Gale asked.

Rohan Leppert

Rohan Leppert. Image: Supplied.

Similar sentiments were echoed by out gay Melbourne councillor Rohan Leppert in a blog last week, blaming Greens Senator Janet Rice for dialling “the crisis up to 11” and “holding her own party to ransom”. 

Leppert claimed the “crisis is not about the choices between two candidates for Convenor, their respective views on sex and gender, and whether those views pose a threat to members’ safety… This crisis – and it is a crisis – is about a higher principle: whether we are a party governed by its members and the rules and decisions those members make, or whether membership is now irrelevant in the age of social media.”

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Councillor Leppert recalled his refusal “to apologise for comments I had made in a private conversation about the risks of affirmation-only approaches to gender medical care” and the resulting  “social media pile-on”. Victorian Greens had in April apologised to the transgender community for councillor Leppert’s comments

Community Speaks Up For Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter

Meanwhile, deputy mayor Baxter has received the support from community advocates and organisations. “Solidarity with Tim Baxter,” said trans campaigner Jackie Turner, who added that she herself had been targeted by transphobes online. “I have been flooded by anti-trans ppl on twitter after Mondays tweet. Very few are from Australia. They are largely all part of anti-equality lobby groups from the UK and US,” said Turner.

Sean Mulcahy, a campaigner with Rainbow Local Government slammed the attacks on Baxter by Nina Vallins. “Disgusting comments against Cr Tim Baxter for bravely calling out transphobia. Tim has been a staunch supporter of LGBTIQA+ rights on Port Phillip Council and Council’s LGBTIQA+ advisory committee and upcoming action plan will be a lasting achievement,” tweeted Mulcahy.

“I know Tim. Tim doesn’t stand up for LGBTIQA+ rights to boost his profile. He does it because it is right – and we should be tremendously grateful to him for that. What are Nina’s achievements? A failed campaign to block trans birth certificate reforms for trans people,” added Mulcahy.

Victoria’s only sex work law reform organisation Sex Work Law Reform Victoria also tweeted their support. Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter is taking a beating for standing up to anti-sex work and anti-trans activists within his own party Victorian Greens. Tim has always been pro sex work and we appreciate that support,” SWLRV said. 

 

 



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