The Victorian Greens on Wednesday apologised to the trans and gender diverse community over comments made by an out gay Melbourne City Councillor.
Trigger Warning: This story discusses comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
Trans rights advocates had criticised comments made by Greens councillor Rohan Leppert in a private Facebook group as well as on social media, that seemed to question transgender identities and access to gender affirming healthcare.
“In light of recent commentary by Cr Rohan Leppert, the Victorian Greens reject any suggestion that trans rights should be up for debate,” the party said in a statement.
‘We Apologise For The Hurt’
The Greens said that the party had a proud track record of standing up for trans rights. “Trans rights do not conflict in any way with women’s rights to feel safe. Trans women are women, and trans women are particularly vulnerable to gendered violence.”
“Our primary concern at this time is for the wellbeing of the trans and gender diverse community. We apologise for the hurt caused in the last week,” the statement said. The party reiterated that “debating the validity of trans people through the media is exceptionally harmful.”
“The Victorian Greens reject any views that erase or deny a person’s gender identity, and recognise that those views can and do cause deep harm to trans and gender diverse people. Trans rights are non-negotiable.”
The Victorian Greens assured its members who had written an open letter that it will take action on the concerns raised. The open letter had said that the party was “becoming associated with a reputation that persons who hold trans-exclusionary beliefs find it easy to gain power and influence within the progressive movement”.
Furore Over Social Media Comments
While I didn't initiate the discussion, I know enough about this issue to know that debating sex and gender can cause distress for many. That trans and gender diverse people are impacted by the debate more than people, like me, who do not claim to have a gender identity.
— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) March 28, 2022
The furore was over comments made by the councillor in a closed Facebook group as well as posts that he had liked on social media.
In the post, Councillor Leppert said that he approached gender clinics with “skepticism” and cited the example of “a friend who felt they managed to escape a transition pathway they had commenced”.
The councillor wrote that “many others in my age bracket who experienced gender dysphoria when puberty hit before they were discovering they were lesbians much later, who all genuinely worry that girls in a similar situation today are being told that they’re trans”.
Cr Leppert claimed that “women are identifying out of lesbianism in significant numbers, while trans women are identifying in,” adding that “I don’t think women who raise concerns about those consequences are hateful.”
The councillor also took issue with the Victorian governments ban on so-called conversion therapy that also includes trans persons being subjected to conversion practices.
“The law in Victoria may have been constructed in a way that will result in an excessive diagnosis of gender dysphoria and prescription of puberty blockers, HRT and surgery, increasing the phenomenon of detransitioning in the future.”
In a subsequent post on Twitter, Cr Leppert said that it was “absurd” to accuse him of bigotry or that he “supported conversion therapy or oppression”.
‘Cannot Apologise For My Thoughts And Beliefs’
I don't believe that sex and gender is a special category of policy not allowed to be discussed. Gender affects all of us. Where there are perceived or real conflicts between sex-based and gender-based rights, it is the job of parties seeking legislative power to understand them.
— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) March 28, 2022
The councillor pointed to his record since getting elected to the Melbourne council for the first time in 2012 and his support for LGBTQI programs and policies.
He then turned to the Victorian laws. “The law in Victoria as it relates to sex and gender is changing regularly. I will continue to follow those changes, discuss new policies and bills within my party, as all party members should do, and vote to advance our policies when the opportunities arise.”
Cr Leppert said he “cannot apologise for my thoughts, my beliefs, and for engaging in debate within my party.”
“I don’t believe that sex and gender is a special category of policy not allowed to be discussed. Gender affects all of us. Where there are perceived or real conflicts between sex-based and gender-based rights, it is the job of parties seeking legislative power to understand them.”
The councillor emphasised that how debates were conducted were important and added that “the dignity, lived experience and identities of all people impacted by the debate are paramount.”
If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.