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UN discrimination expert condemns Australian media trans coverage

A United Nations expert on preventing gender- and sexuality-based violence and discrimination has spoken out against the Australian media’s coverage of issues around trans youth.

Writing in The Guardian, Victor Madrigal-Borloz called the recent mainstream press coverage “a betrayal of human rights”.

Madrigal-Borloz wrote that young trans people and their doctors have been demonised as part of a supposed new “ideology”.

“I wish to state in the strongest terms possible that such narratives are not only profoundly incorrect, but also perpetuate harmful stereotypes which delegitimise the identities of trans people and ultimately impede access to their human rights,” he wrote.

He noted that trans and non-binary identities are far from new, and referred to groups such as the fa’afafine people of Samoa, Indigenous Australian sistergirls or yimpininni, and the two-spirit people of North America.

“Gender diversity has existed at all times and across all societies,” Madrigal-Borloz wrote.

“Trans people are by no means part of some new ‘idea’ or ‘ideology’ being brought to Australia.”

He added that trans and gender diverse people are already at risk of violence, discrimination, and poor health outcomes.

“From the limited data which exists we know that trans people experience disproportionate rates of violence and discrimination, as well as encounter difficulty in accessing a range of basic services,” he wrote.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission, for example, reports that trans and gender diverse people report comparatively poorer outcomes across a range of social performance indicators, especially physical and mental health.”

He accused the media of misrepresenting the realities of trans people and their lives, especially young trans people.

“Australian trans youth are not being influenced by social media as part of a social fad, and classifying trans-inclusive healthcare as ‘experimental’, ‘gender engineering’, or as part of a broader political agenda is reductive and offensive to a deeply personal decision which is often made at great risk to a person’s own safety,” Mardigal-Borloz wrote.

“In this context, access to trans-specific healthcare, identity documents, or even bathrooms, are basic human rights and must be treated as such.

“Trans lives are not sinful by definition, are not disordered by definition, and certainly are not immoral by definition.”

He called on the mainstream press to end its “scaremongering” and “othering” of trans people.

“Stigma automatically associating trans people with sin, illness and crime must be dismantled,” Mardigal-Borloz wrote.

The Australian media has been under fire from the LGBTIQ community for its harmful portrayal of trans people.

Earlier this year, The Australian was particularly criticised for introducing a new ‘gender issues’ page on its website, devoted to attacking trans issues.

The current debate over potential new laws that would give religious organisations the legal right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people has raised further fears for the community.

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