Hundreds of people gathered outside Melbourne’s State Library on Wednesday evening for a snap protest against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill, in solidarity with trans and gender diverse people and with the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.
It was the first capital city to kick off a series of #KillTheBill protests this week, organised by Community Action for Rainbow Rights. Protests in Brisbane and Canberra were also held on Wednesday night; Sydney, Perth and Adelaide events will run this weekend.
The Coalition committed to amending the bill to add protection from expulsion for students “because of their sexuality”, but confirmed it “doesn’t go further than that”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously committed to preventing “any form of discrimination against a student on the basis of sexuality or gender identity” in a letter to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on December 1, 2021. But now trans and non-binary kids have been completely excluded.
Labor announced on Wednesday it would push for the amendments to protect trans kids, but would still back the Religious Discrimination Bill through the House of Representatives.
We spoke to queer and trans attendees of Melbourne’s protest about what this could mean for trans and non-binary students now and into the future.
Georgie, 25, they/them
“I think this bill is an attack on workers’ rights and human rights.
Even if you’re not discriminated against, hearing other stories [of young trans people being discriminated against] is going to affect you. Everyone’s going to feel it. And it can kill people.
They’re not going to feel like they can be themselves, it’s robbing people of so much time. I just can’t understand why you would attack someone so deliberately — like children — even with all the far-right statements about protecting children.”
Claire, 29, she/her
“I grew up a kid who realised they were trans while going to an all-boys Catholic school.
I think if this passes, every trans kid will feel whiplash. They will not be coming out, stepping out for years and I would not blame them whatsoever. Fuck the Liberals, fuck Labor.”
Anna, 14, she/her
“The bill’s kind of bullshit and you shouldn’t have to worry about being expelled or fired. The government and schools shouldn’t be able to discriminate against you. We deserve to be alive.”
Viv, 19, she/her
“I think it’s so gross that the government has decided they’ll cap it at gay people. Like they’re drawing that line in the sand like this is what they’ll allow. They feel like this is what’s appropriate.
And it’s all for purely political reasons and they’re treating the actual kids that will be affected as a fucking number. It’s going to add to the overwhelming of the mental health system in Australia. We already don’t have enough mental health resources for trans kids.”
Isla, 12, she/they
“I feel completely supported and I’ve been happy since [I transitioned]. I’m happy and living my life.
But I know how it feels not to be supported and it would be even worse not being support by not just one teacher but the whole school.
If you’re not coping mentally and having to come out as trans to your parents and the school, with this on top of it it makes it a struggle. The suicide rates are already going up and up.”
Shanae, 30, she/they
“Until a couple of months ago I was a teacher in Catholic schools for six years. Prior to that I was a student in catholic schools. I really loved my job but I couldn’t stay anymore because I was being discriminated against and I couldn’t stand up for the rights of my queer students there.
This bill denies representation of queer teachers to queer students. That’s what I needed when I was 16 and that’s what kids today need.”
Millie, 13, all pronouns
“I’m here to support my friend who’s trans who transitioned at a very young age. And the stuff that’s going on is really not ok and it’s not ok for her.”
Amelia, 29, she/her
“Even for students who are not queer, they’re going to grow up being taught that it’s OK to be a bigot. It’s OK to discriminate against queer people. So when they leave school and enter the workforce, their bigotry will be seen there as well and in society.
Non-binary people, trans people and gender diverse people have existed far longer than Christian institutions. We have always existed in human history and for so long have had to hide in the closet and it’s enough. We’re not going back into the closet.”