The Greens party in Victoria has once again been internally rocked by claims of transphobia – this time over the election of its new state convenor Linda Gale. Gale has been accused by Greens members of making anti-transgender comments in the past. 

Trigger Warning: This story discusses transphobic 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.

While Gale reiterated that she would uphold the Greens policy with regard to trans rights, many in the party pointed out that she hadn’t yet retracted or apologised for her past views, which remain in the public domain. This latest controversy follows another one in April when Victorian Greens apologised to the trans and gender diverse community over comments made by an out gay Melbourne City Councillor on social media.

“Trans rights are non negotiable. We are in solidarity with trans Greens members, who must feel safe and be supported in the Greens,” Greens Senator Janet Rice told Star Observer in a statement. “This principle underscores all our work, and it will continue to guide us as we work to fortify the safety and inclusiveness of our party.”

Linda Gale’s 2019 Document On Trans Rights

Gale was elected on June 11 to the post of State Convenor, Australian Greens Victoria. Soon after the election, Port Phillips deputy mayor Tim Baxter publicly called out the election process as well as Gale’s past anti-trans views. 

“Gale’s (narrow) victory sends a clear message to all members of the Victorian Greens: Trans people are not safe in this party,” Baxter posted in a thread on Twitter. 

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

“Gale is a known and long-time supporter of Vallins,” said Baxter. The councillor said there were larger issues at play within the party when its comes to trans rights. 

“There are a small number of institutionally powerful people in the Greens, who hold transphobic views, and have been fighting to silence trans members and allies in the party. Any policies to make the party a better place for trans people are opposed and, if possible, crushed.”

Discussions Against Transphobia Shut Down

City of Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter.

According to Baxter, trans members in the party were “expected to shoulder the burden of dealing with hostile TERFs within the party, which is exhausting and damaging work. Meanwhile the transphobes continue to push for their right to ‘question’ the humanity and rights of trans people.”

“It seems that these people want all the time and space for transphobic discussions to take place within the party and within the public sphere, but any pushback against this is ‘publicly bringing the party into disrepute’,” Baxter said, adding that when he signed an open letter earlier this year calling on the party to restate its support for trans people, “I was called a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘troll’.”

Victorian Greens Apologise To Trans Community Over Out Gay Councillor’s Comments

Baxter also pointed to the flaws in the election process this time.  “Traditionally, candidates have been allowed access to contact details of members to enable them to directly advocate their candidacy, and open “meet the candidate” events have been held to allow members to ask questions of candidates. For some reason, these activities were disallowed during this election”. 

Baxter said this resulted in an advantage for those who were already in power. “No opportunities were given to members to challenge Gale on her transphobic views, which are well established, and her suitability to lead the party given those views’. 

Baxter and others pointed to the recent federal elections when an attempt by the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison to drive a wedge around trans issues was defeated. “In the recent federal election we were, appropriately, very forthright about having zero tolerance for transphobia in politics. Ours should be a party where there is no room for transphobia,” deputy leader of the Australian Greens Senator Mehreen Faroqui.

Will Uphold Rights Of Trans And Gender Diverse People, Says Linda Gale

Three days after her election, Gale, in a statement on Tuesday, reiterated the Greens’ position: “Trans rights are non-negotiable. All trans and gender diverse people are valid and deserve to live their lives free from harassment and discrimination. The role of the Convenor is to advance all Greens policies, and I will do so,” the statement said. 

“As Convenor, I will uphold and fight for the right of trans and gender diverse people to live their authentic lives free from harassment and discrimination, just as I will fight for the rights of First Nations people, women, refugees, gay and lesbian people, people with disabilities, and people of colour. The Greens are committed to genuine social justice – a commitment I embrace wholeheartedly,” Gale added. 

The statement did little to quell those who called on the new state convenor to apologise to the trans community for her past views. 

“Gale had a golden opportunity to renounce her past views and apologise for them, and she has refused to do so. She continues to bring the party into disrepute. The party must act. State Council must act,” Baxter posted on Twitter.

‘Apologise For The Harm Caused To Trans People’

Greens leader Adam Bandt (middle) flanked by Senator Janet Rice (right) and Greens Macnamara candidate, Steph Hodgins-May (left)

Victoria’s Greens Senator Janet Rice in a lengthy thread on Twitter agreed that Gale would have to go further than pledge to uphold the Greens policy on trans rights. 

“Three years ago, Linda co-authored a paper which I believe to be transphobic and an attack on the very identity of trans and gender diverse people. It was distributed to Victorian Greens members and it caused real damage and harm.”

“Harm was done in particular to our trans and gender diverse members and supporters who had to confront the idea that the party they trusted to support them could have influential members who published materials questioning their very right to exist,” said Senator Rice. 

The Senator said that until until Linda distanced herself from the 2019 paper, “people will read her statement from today as being hollow. “

“I call on Linda to explicitly reject the views she outlined in the 2019 paper, and apologise for the harm her statements have caused. Until she does this, I believe it is untenable for her to continue as Convenor.  The safety and wellbeing of our trans and gender diverse members and supporters must be our priority,” added Senator Rice. 

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