My Questions to the Human Rights Commission
If you aren’t aware, Victoria has recently introduced a law banning “practices that seek to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has updated its website to describe what is allowed and what is illegal. It is rather scary stuff. But more than that, at times it is just plain confusing.
This is not a good thing. If we are to properly assess this legislation and decide how best to respond as Christians, we need at the very least to understand it.
So I thought I would email the Human Rights Commission to get some clarity.
The following is what I wrote.
To whom it may concern,
I am finding it difficult to navigate what is or isn’t considered a “change or suppression” practice based on the information on the humanrights.vic.gov.au website.
I was wondering if you could please provide clarity on a couple of issues.
The Definition of “Suppression”
I have not been able to find a clear definition of what it means to “suppress” one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The closest I was able to find was in the factsheet where this question was proposed: “Can I run a support group designed to help people not act on their same-sex attraction?”The implication is that to “suppress” one’s sexual orientation, is to “not act on” one’s sexual attraction.This understanding seems to be backed up by other places on the website where talk of being celibate or not engaging in a same-sex relationship is also deemed a “suppression”.I really want to make sure I am understanding this correctly, so I thought I would ask a few clarifying questions:
- Is “to not act on one’s sexual attraction” a good definition of “suppression” of one’s sexual attraction?
- Consequently, is it a “suppression practice” to instruct an individual directly that they should or must not act on their same-sex attraction?
- Or to put it another way, is it a “Suppression Practice” to instruct an individual that to act on their same-sex attraction would be a sin (an act condemned by God or needing repentance from)?
- Or to put it a third way, is it a “Suppression Practice” to instruct an individual that the ONLY context in which they can act on any form of sexuality is within heterosexual marriage and the only alternative is celibacy?
- If a religious leader is actually supportive of same-sex marriage, but instructs an individual that they must not act on their same-sex attraction until they get married, is this a “suppression practice”? Especially if it means they are required to remain celibate for the rest of their life if they do not find a partner to marry.
The issue of Heterosexual Suppression
- If it is a “suppression practice” to instruct an individual that they must not act on their sexuality outside of marriage, is it also deemed a suppression practice to instruct someone to not act on their opposite-sex attraction within the same parameters? As with my last question, especially if it means they are required to remain celibate for the rest of their life if they do not find a partner to marry.
- Are there any ways that a heterosexual orientation can be deemed being “suppressed” under this legislation? Are there any protections for heterosexuals from harmful suppression practices?
Personal agency over personal identity
I have also found it difficult to understand some of the statements around “gender identity”.The website defines it this way: “Gender identity is someone’s personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither.” and the legislation itself similarly defines it this way: “Gender identity means a person’s gender-related identity, which may or may not correspond with their designated sex at birth, and includes the personal sense of the body (whether this involves medical intervention or not) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech, mannerisms, names and personal references.”These definitions describe gender identity as one’s “personal sense” of one’s gender or body.
My question is, if this is the definition of gender identity, how can the Human Rights website claim that such a sense CAN NOT change, even if one wants it to?If it is one’s personal sense of self, doesn’t that automatically mean that it is a personal matter? It’s one’s own identity, not anyone else’s. Doesn’t it mean they should be allowed to have agency over their sense of self if they wish to change it? In fact, the very fact that one may wish to change it (which is acknowledged on the website) suggests that one’s own “personal sense” is fluid and on a spectrum that can indeed change.
If people do have personal agency over their personal sense of self, on what basis it is illegal for adults to be prevented from seeking to grow or transition or change into what they believe is their “true self”. Who is to tell them what is or isn’t their true self?
The website states: “The way someone describes their sexual orientation and gender is completely up to them. Everyone deserves to be surrounded by people who understand and support them.” and yet it also states that you specifically cannot support someone who wants to change their gender identity. How is that not a contradiction? Either it is “completely up to them” to describe their “personal sense” of gender and their body or it is not. Either “everyone deserves to be surrounded by people who understand and support them” or they don’t.
My second question on this issue is, with the definition of gender identity being as stated, how can it be claimed that “There is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.” ?
There are many testimonies of people whose “personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither” has changed over their life. Many trans people acknowledge a certain point in their life in which they came to understand that how they had previously thought of themselves was not their true self. They may have thought of themselves as a boy and over time changed in their personal sense of self. We know that our identity is fluid and develops grows and changes. There are even those who identify as gender fluid and would say that on one day their personal sense of self is one day and on another their personal sense of self is different. Lastly, there are those who de-transition or change their personal sense of gender later in life. With all of these examples, I don’t know how the claim that “There is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.” can be maintained.
Thank you for considering these questions, and I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. I very much want to understand this legislation and for it not to be misunderstood or mischaracterized.
Please contact me if anything I’ve written does not make sense.
I will keep you informed if they respond to this email.
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