PUBLIC STATEMENT REGARDING KATHERINE DEVES, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR WARRINGAH
There has been a lot of recent public discussion about comments made by Liberal party candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves, including scrutiny around her work on women’s sex-based rights. Deves is a co-founder of Save Women’s Sport Australasia, a group whose focus is outside our scope, but whose mission we support. Although we do not always agree with the language used by Deves, we agree with her overall message that single-sex sports are important for inclusion and fairness to girls and women. Our organisation similarly advocates for single-sex spaces, such as spaces for same-sex attracted people i.e. lesbian-only spaces and gay male-only spaces. As a non-partisan group, we invite discussion of greater nuance than is currently being held in the highly politicised pre-election environment.
We similarly support Senator Claire Chandler’s “Save Women’s Sports” bill in its acknowledgement of the importance of single-sex provisions for girls and women, which benefits lesbian and bisexual women. Support on these specific issues does not imply that our group endorses the LNP, which we do not. We solely agree that single-sex spaces and single-sex sport should remain available for women and girls. Other bills by the LNP, including the Religious Discrimination bill, concern us because of the impact it would have on LGB people and other minority groups. We are, and continue to be, a non-partisan group made up of individuals of differing political backgrounds. The uniting focus of our group is LGB rights, and we have concerns around the growing pressures and forms of homophobia from both sides of the political spectrum. We also recognise that sex (the basis for sexual orientation) is immutable, and separate, from gender identity (how a person views themselves). As such, we recognise that the frames of sexual orientation (LGB) and gender identity (TQ+) are separate, with potentially competing interests.
We are glad Deves has acknowledged that some of the terminology she has used could have been hurtful, such as to members of the transgender community, or detranstitioners, many of whom are LGB. As well, the rainbow flag has a long history in the LGB community and is meaningful to many for this reason; however, in recent years has been rebranded and co-opted by movements distinct from same-sex sexual orientation. We do not agree that Deves’ comments imply she is homophobic or an adversary to the “LGBTIQ+” community, as has been widely reported. Deves has spoken about having gay family members, and has raised concerns with the impact of gender ideology on gender non-conforming youth, many of whom research suggests would grow up to be same-sex attracted. We share these same concerns, and have spoken previously about the disproportionately large impact this has had on our LGB community. Further, several members of our group have met Deves previously, prior to her Liberal candidacy, and she has also featured in interviews on our YouTube channel as a result of her expertise in law. Knowing that Deves has a strong passion for the protection of children, including gender non-conforming children, and has had involvement with the LGB community, we feel provides us with additional context to better understand the meaning behind her words. We feel that Deves is sincere in her passion for protecting the rights of girls and women, who continue to be disadvantaged in society as a result of their sex, and hope for her to campaign on this issue in respectful ways.
Transgender athletes should not be excluded from participation in sport, or disadvantaged due to their gender identity. Save Women’s Sport argues for fair play for women: that the women’s category should be for females only (this would include transgender or non-binary identifying females). This is in line with the sex-based protections offered in Australia under the Sex Discrimination Act). As women are particularly impacted by the inclusion of males in their sports, we are concerned about the increased risk of injury for female athletes in contact sports, as well as an unfair playing field due to physiological advantages for males in sports, in many ways that remain regardless of changes to hormone levels. Many lesbian and bisexual women play sports and are impacted by this issue, along with heterosexual women. We do not believe they should be forced to concede on their own safety and fairness when participating in sports.
We hope to see more nuanced discussion around this issue, for the protection of all affected communities, and have been pleased when such discussions have occurred (recent examples here and here). We believe that a greater societal understanding of the distinction between sex and gender is required to achieve fairness for all, and that such distinctions are important as sex categories provide the basis for same-sex sexual orientation, as well as provisions for single-sex spaces. We condemn the silencing tactics on this issue, including dismissing proponents of women’s sex-based rights as “homophobic,” “transphobic,” or “anti-LGBTIQ+”. Undeniably, there is a conflict between sex-based rights and rights on the basis of gender identity, and we support the exploration of ways to meet the needs on both the basis of sex and gender, without eroding sex-based rights to do so.