Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas slammed for transgender comments

perth lord mayor basil zempilas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Perth’s newly elected Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has apologised after LGBTIQ advocates slammed “misinformed and demeaning” comments he made about the transgender community.

Zempilas declared on his 6PR radio show on Wednesday genitals determined a person’s gender identity and it was “wrong” for someone to identify differently.

“If you’ve got a penis mate, you’re a bloke,” he said.

“If you’ve got a vagina, you’re a woman. Game over.”

Zempilas also called for any “woman who has a penis” to ring the radio station to win a gift voucher.

“If you’re listening to us this morning, if you have a penis but you are a woman, call us now. We’ve got a $100 Retravision voucher to give away.”

When asked by co-host Steve Mills how he planned to handle meeting trans constituents as Lord Mayor, Zempilas replied, “Handle the penis?”

He later claimed there are “more redheads listening to 6PR than there is hermaphrodites [sic]”.

Mills also suggested people in the community may disagree with him, to which Zempilas replied, “Well mate, if you want to go softy, lefty, namby-pamby.”

LGBTIQ advocates slam comments as demeaning and misinformed

Pride WA president Curtis Ward said Zempilas’ “flippant” comments were “demeaning” and misinformed.

“It is always disappointing when individuals express views without first fully educating themselves on the issues,” Ward said.

“Often people do not understand that gender and sex are two different things.

“Sex is your physical appearance; it is biological and it is determined by your chromosomes. Gender is how you identify psychologically, whether you are feminine or masculine, it is how you feel.

“It is possible to appear one way and feel another. When someone says they’re transgender, they are simply saying they feel differently to how they appear.

“[That is] sex being your physical appearance and your biology whereas gender is how you identify psychologically, whether you’re feminine or masculine.

“Mental health issues are rampant in our trans community because of these types of misinformed comments. We should be embracing diversity and supporting each other.”

TransFolk WA chair Hunter Gurevich said Zempilas’ comments were “repugnant and narrow-minded”.

“These comments are repugnant, bigoted, narrow minded, parochial and fundamentally deny contemporary science,” Gurevich said.

“Further, it puts LGBTQIA+ people at increased risk of harm, when we are already a vulnerable group in society.”

Gurevich said it was “especially disappointing” given the City of Perth’s longtime support of the queer community.

“For Mr Zempilas to now betray not only the community, but our relationship with the city, is beyond inexcusable.

“We strongly recommend trans awareness training for the City of Perth before Mr Zempilas even considers attending Pride.”

Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas apologises for transgender comments

Speaking on his radio show on Thursday, Zempilas said the comments were a “bad mistake” and he wished he could take them back.

“What’s more disappointing is that I understand that that is indeed how people live their lives,” he said.

“I was aware of that yesterday.

“I didn’t mean to cause any offence. One of our jobs as broadcasters is to entertain, I was trying to be funny – it was not funny – it was inappropriate and I apologise.

“I’ve learned that I’ve caused those people significant duress, and again that was not my intention.

“Those comments don’t reflect my values. They don’t reflect the values of 6PR or Channel Seven. They don’t reflect the values of the City of Perth.

“I had a very strong talking to from my wife last night. They don’t represent her values. Her best friend is gay.

“All you can do in life is go, ‘I made a blue, I’m sorry.’ You’ve got to try not to do it again, and that’s exactly what I’ll do.

“I have to get better and I will get better.”

A 6PR spokesperson said Zempilas’ comments didn’t meet “community standards and expectations” and it was appropriate he’d apologised.

Zempilas, a popular radio host in Perth, was elected Lord Mayor earlier this month. He said he would leave his 6PR radio hosting duties before the end of 2020.

He made the comments just weeks ahead of Perth’s annual LGBTQ festival, PrideFEST.

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