Dykes on Bikes Melbourne has taken a stand against another group’s attempt to hold an event that explicitly excludes transgender women.
Despite the anti-discrimination laws that prohibit such an event, the Melbourne-based Lesbian Action Group (LAG) aims to “exclude anyone who was not a Lesbian Born Female”. It applied to host its meeting on International Lesbian Day, October 15, at the Victorian Pride Centre in St Kilda.
The group claims it needs an exclusionary event for lesbians who are “like-minded and like-bodied”.
According to its application, the group has been meeting privately for the past 20 years but hasn’t “been able organise and publicly advertise our events and gatherings with fear of litigation”.
“These meetings and gatherings have been much smaller in numbers and we have very much regretted the ability to reach out to younger lesbians as we used to be able to do in the past.”
The venue rejected the application, citing that the event is “inconsistent with the Pride Centre’s purpose,” and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is now reviewing LAG’s application for the legal exemption.
The Australian branch of the HRC published documents submitted to the organisation in response to the LAG application, including a Dykes on Bikes Melbourne joint letter signed by 14 other LGBTQ+ groups who stand for the freedoms of all lesbians, queer and trans women, including the Human Rights Law Centre, Parents of Gender Diverse Children, Transgender Victoria and the Trans Justice Project.
The letter explains that while it is “important and beneficial” for lesbians to be able to gather as a community, it is “not appropriate or necessary” to exclude trans or bisexual women. It also questions how LAG would attempt to enforce sex characteristic exemptions, emphasising that any attempt to do so would compromise the attendees’ dignity, privacy and safety.
In an official statement, Dykes on Bikes Communications Officer Kieran Cavanagh said LAG is not representative of the broader lesbian community and called the event application: “Nothing more than dangerous transphobic rhetoric and hate, causing harm and creating division when we should be united.”
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In the statement, Dykes on Bikes added: “Our lesbian community is extremely vast and diverse, and that is a pillar of its strength. Without our trans sisters or queer elders, we would not have the freedoms and rights we celebrate today or the insight and knowledge for the challenges ahead.
“We stand proudly with our trans sisters and non-binary family. And we’ll continue fighting against LAG’s discriminatory and inflammatory transphobic exemption request. There is space for all of us. Nobody needs to be excluded.”
Max Pick, TransEquality Coordinator, said the outpouring of support “shows why it is so important for us to coordinate our efforts in the face of these deliberate attempts to exclude trans lives from public spaces.”
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