After a lengthy six-year legal battle, transgender flight instructor Jennifer Beck, from Gympie, north of Brisbane has been awarded compensation for three established contraventions of Queensland’s Anti – Discrimination Act. These include allegations of sexual harassment, vilification on the basis of gender identity and victimisation by businessman, Blair Rowan.

Rowan lost his appeal against a 2019 ruling that had ordered him to pay over $19,000 in damages to Beck.

Concerted Transphobic Campaign

Beck, a qualified flight instructor of seventeen years, had for a decade lived onsite at Gympie Airport, training pilots and serving as a regional safety officer and local council liaison officer. This was until 2015 when Rowan launched what was a described as a “concerted campaign” against her, which she believes was aimed at driving her out of the local community.

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In Mid 2015, Rowan had sent emails to male members of the Gympie Aero Club that criticised Beck’s use of female toilets, calling her a man with “man parts” and asked why she should not be called “he”.

“How does a woman feel sharing a toilet or change room with a man? Ask your wives if it bothers them to sit on the same toilet his genitals may have just touched after being who knows where! And then he has the audacity to refuse to be on the toilet cleaning roster.” Rowan wrote.

In other emails, Rowan stated that his “religion and personal values” were highly offended by Beck.

“But let’s leave emotion out of this and burn the witch.” Rowan added.

Fired From Role

Beck was subsequently fired from her role as a regional safety officer and at the time held fears that she may have ended up losing both her job and home.

After seeking legal advice, Beck in January of 2016 lodged a complaint against Rowan under Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act.

The complaint eventually went to a Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal hearing, after Rowan having filed a counterclaim alleging Ms Beck had sexually harassed him in 2009.

Rowan alleged that Beck between 2008 and 2009, while instructing flights, had on multiple occasions “made a circle with her thumb and first finger and slid it up and down the control stick, simultaneously bulging her left cheek with her tongue” and that the “vilification continues to this day as a result of his rejection and demonstrated disgust in the unwanted advances from Ms Beck.”

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However, Rowan’s counterclaim was dismissed.  The ruling handed down by QCAT asserted that two of Rowan’s emails were indeed “sexual harassment” and that he had in fact “victimised” Beck with his harassment claim against her, which she denied and “could not be believed”.

Battle To Win Acceptance

In February of this year, Rowan filed and subsequently lost a QCAT appeal with both an application for leave to rely upon fresh evidence and an application for leave to appeal,  being dismissed by Magistrate Michelle Howard.

Rowan was ordered by the Tribunal to pay Beck a total sum of $19,055.00, the maximum compensation under Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Rowan had previously intended to take the matter to Queensland Court Of Appeal.

However as reported by The Australia, Rowan last week withdrew from any further legal action. Under a settlement signed by both parties, Beck agreed not to pursue further action to recover legal costs from Rowan, despite having relied upon borrowings and crowdfunding to finance her case and having spent far in excess of the compensation awarded to her.

Beck, who still flies but lost her instructor’s licence due to poor health, told The Weekend Australian, she was ­“relieved” her battle was over and glad Rowan no longer disputed the tribunal’s findings. Her ­intention all along, she said, “was to win acceptance in a small community and resume her life.”

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