Bid to exclude ‘people with penises’ from lesbian events ‘unlawful’

Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt.
Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt.

Lesbians will be breaking the law if they exclude biological males who are transgender from social events, after a controversial discrimination ruling set to become a national test case.

Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination commissioner Sarah Bolt has ruled lesbian events that exclude trans-women carry a “significant risk” of breaching legislation.

In a decision earlier this month not yet publicised, Ms Bolt refused to grant an exemption to allow the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance to exclude “biological men” from lesbian events.

Launceston lesbian Jessica Hoyle, who made the application on the alliance’s behalf, said it aimed to exempt organisers from discrimination complaints if they excluded trans-women.

“I want to hold events for the lesbian community, based on our same-sex attractions – drag king bingo, drag king karaoke, and drag kings from interstate coming to perform,” Ms Hoyle said.

“I want to exclude people with penises, because being a lesbian is about same-sex attraction. It’s not about same-gendered attraction … There are many events that cater for the trans community in Tasmania that are all-inclusive.

“This event was going to be just for lesbians who are same-sex attracted.”

Ms Hoyle will appeal Ms Bolt’s decision, in what she believed could become a national test case of the rights of same-sex attracted people to enjoy their own events and services.

“Many lesbians feels ­uncomfortable having transgenders in their spaces, because they are not female; they are biological males,” Ms Hoyle said.

“We are forced to have them in our groups but none of us want to date them …I feel discriminated against by Sarah Bolt on the basis of being a lesbian same-sex ­attracted (woman).”

Ms Bolt declined to comment, except to note that Ms Hoyle could appeal her decision to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

In her decision, Ms Bolt said the application sought to go further than exemptions granted in other states by “requiring people to provide intimate information about their body to gain access to the proposed events”.

“This is problematic as it may result in potential breaches of the act under section 17, which makes offensive, humiliating, intimidating, insulting and ridiculing conduct on the basis of gender, gender identity and intersex variations of sex characteristics ­unlawful,” Ms Bolt ruled.

“I consider the risk of unlawful conduct under such an exemption … to be significant. As I see it, an exemption should not be granted in circumstances where the conduct permitted could foreseeably be in contradiction with the principles of the act.”

Transforming Tasmania said the exclusion of trans-women from lesbian events was discriminatory. “Ultimately, it’s denying the reality of the existence of trans-women, in fact all trans-people,” said Transforming Tasmania spokesperson Charlie Burton. “Trans-women are women. Full stop. It’s baffling that (LGB Alliance) don’t accept that … Trans and gender-diverse people … have long been an integral part of the broader community.”

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