By Evan Van Zijl

Our community was dragged through hell by Scott Morrison’s failed attempt to force through the Religious Discrimination Bill earlier this year, and in a clear attempt at starting a US-style transphobic culture war he has now gotten behind the TERF campaign to kick trans people out of sports.

TERFism in Australia (sometimes referred to as ‘Gender Critical Feminism’) is based on a small number of activists obsessed with trans people, and the belief that abolish trans people is central to the liberation of women from sexual violence. Many are also obsessed with criminalising sex workers (aka SWERFs), peddle conspiracies about big pharma and vaccines, and wish to prevent gay men becoming parents and set up fake front groups online to make these ideas seem like they have popular support. While they talk like the left on the surface they are undeniably on the hard right.

No Sporting Association Has Raised Any Issue With Trans Participation In Sports

This is why Scott Morrison – who did not support marriage equality, calls us gender whisperers, equivocates on conversion therapy, and dragged us through hell with the Religious Discrimination Bill – is so in love with the TERF campaign around women’s sports.

There are no sporting associations that have raised any issue with trans participation in sports, and such a ban would do nothing to resolve the issues that advocates of women’s sport discuss like equal pay and media attention. And yet we are presented with this macabre joke of a bill.

We are also presented with a joke of a candidate. In the midst of court challenges, Scott Morrison personally appointed Katherine Deves as the Liberal candidate for Warringah, and describes her as an “outstanding individual” and that he “shares her views on those topics.”

Deves is a co-founder of Save Women’s Sports Australasia, and deeply involved in TERF politics, and it is clear that Morrison thinks this will distract from his party’s record on women’s issues. However she has posted almost exclusively on social media about trans people for the last two years describing the rainbow flag as “triggering”, Wear It Purple Day as about “grooming”, and children’s bodies as “mutilated”, and confirms her disinterest in women’s rights when in an interview she describes how the rape of Brittany Higgins can be exploited for this campaign.

Deves Must Be Removed As Liberal Candidate

She has also spoken on conferences with Holly Lawford-Smith about the importance of conversion therapy, and in an interview with Graham Linehan comparing her fight against trans rights as similar to fighting the Holocaust. She is furthermore, listed as a volunteer for the so-called Feminist Legal Clinic, which has repeatedly shared content attacking trans people, sex workers, and gay parents, and has shared conspiracy theories that Covid-19 vaccines are bad for women because they’re from the same companies that produce hormones.

In the wake of these disturbing revelations about Deves there has been mounting pressure with both Greens and Independent candidates, demanding she be sacked as the Liberal candidate. Albanese has also come out expressing his scepticism about the sports bill, and a number of so-called moderate Liberals have come out opposing the bill as well. Its future looks dim as do her election chances.

But a low prospect of success is not enough – the Liberals must sack Deves, and they must kill the bills rather than try to drag our community through this culture war. If they don’t, then we must protest this every step of the way.

While welcome, it is also not enough that Independents like Zali Steggal and Allegra Spender have called for the TERF to be sacked when they have still left the door open to supporting a Liberal minority government. Deves is not the only transphobe in the Liberal party. The only possible response to a Liberal government is to bring it down.

Evan Van Zijl (they/them) is a unionist, educator, writer, and member of Pride in Protest & CARR

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