‘Untenable’: Senator Janet Rice responds to Greens transphobia scandal

greens senator janet rice transgender transphobia victorian greens linda gale
Image: Australian Greens/YouTube

Greens Senator Janet Rice has said her party’s newly elected Victorian convener’s position is “untenable” unless she distances herself from past comments on transgender people.

On Saturday, Linda Gale, a senior industrial officer at the National Tertiary Education Union, won a party vote to fill a casual vacancy as Victorian Greens state convener.

However Gale’s appointment caused backlash from many Greens members. They pointed to a document she co-authored in 2019 arguing against a proposed Greens workshop on trans-exclusionary rhetoric.

Part of the document stated, “If the purpose of this workshop is to develop a proposal for a State Council decree that statements such as ‘There are two sexes,’ ‘The science is not conclusive,’ ‘This is an active debate in feminism,’ ‘Shutting down debate is censorship,’ or ‘Trans women aren’t the same as biological women,’ are banned within the Greens and would constitute behaviour worthy of censure, suspension or expulsion, this is totally contrary to a Greens ethos which encourages robust debate and the development of policy based on real evidence.”

At the time, the then-Greens conveners denounced the document as “not consistent with Greens values or Greens policy,” The Guardian reported.

Greens convener Julia Gale responds to backlash

This week, Gale put out a statement in response to the backlash. She said the Greens’ position, both in Victoria and nationally, is that “trans rights are non-negotiable”.

“All trans and gender diverse people are valid and deserve to live their lives free from harassment and discrimination,” Gale said.

“The role of the convener is to advance all Greens policies, and I will do so.

“As convener, I will uphold and fight for the right of trans and gender diverse people to live their authentic lives free from harassment and discrimination.

“Just as I will fight for the rights of First Nations people, women, refugees, gay and lesbian people, people with disabilities, and people of colour.

“The Greens are committed to genuine social justice – a commitment I embrace wholeheartedly.”

Janet Rice believes Gale’s position is ‘untenable’

But Greens Senator Janet Rice (pictured above), who’s from Victoria and is the party’s LGBTIQ+ spokesperson, said while she welcomed Gale’s statement, it didn’t go far enough.

“Three years ago, Linda co-authored a paper which I believe to be transphobic and an attack on the very identity of trans and gender diverse people,” Rice tweeted.

She said Victorian Greens members received the document and it “caused real damage and harm.”

“Harm was done in particular to our trans and gender diverse members and supporters.

“[They] had to confront the idea that the party they trusted to support them could have influential members who published materials questioning their very right to exist.”

Senator Rice added until Gale distances herself from the 2019 paper, people “will read her statement as being hollow.”

“I call on Linda to explicitly reject the views she outlined in the 2019 paper, and apologise for the harm her statements have caused,” she said.

“Until she does this, I believe it is untenable for her to continue as convener.

“The safety and wellbeing of our trans and gender diverse members and supporters must be our priority.”

‘Zero tolerance for transphobia in politics’

Many prominent Greens also shared Senator Janet Rice’s Twitter thread, including deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi.

“Transphobia has no place in the Greens – or anywhere,” Senator Faruqi wrote.

“In the recent federal election we were, appropriately, very forthright about having zero tolerance for transphobia in politics.

“Ours should be a party where there is no room for transphobia.”

Earlier, Port Phillip deputy mayor Tim Baxter, a Greens member, also spoke out in a lengthy Facebook post.

He said Linda Gale’s appointment sent a message that “trans people are not safe in this party” and demanded the party openly reject transphobia.

“I call on our membership to write to their State Councillors and to the State Secretary, demanding that the party openly reject transphobia and ‘gender critical debate’, which is just a subtler way to harm trans people,” he said.

“[We must] reiterate our support for the rights of trans, gender diverse and non-binary members.”

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