WELLINGTON, SEPTEMBER 25TH 2023
A former staffer at the Ministry of Transport is blowing the whistle after being reprimanded for asking science-based questions at a rainbow training session.
Emma Barraclough, a former policy advisor at MoT, says staff were told to use the term “same-gender attracted” and not “same-sex attracted” when describing gay men and women during a rainbow training session delivered by InsideOUT.
Barraclough - who has a lesbian family member - asked the presenter if she thought lesbians should be willing to accept male-bodied people with penises as sexual partners if they identify as women. You can read Emma's full story here.
Explains Barraclough: "I know lesbians who feel silenced and bullied for saying they’re not attracted to males who identify as women. I wanted to add their voice to the conversation, and say they should be able to say “same-sex attracted” without being shamed.
In response, she was told by the InsideOUT presenter that saying “male” and “penis” was “part of the problem” and “part of the narrative that trans women are a threat”.
Barraclough was then reprimanded in a letter and in a subsequent meeting with the Deputy Chief Executive.
In the letter to the policy advisor, MoT’s Deputy Chief Executive wrote:
“I was surprised and disappointed that you chose to…inappropriately challenge the presenter…It was concerning to me and others that you persistently used language to describe trans women such as 'male-bodied', even after [presenter] explained that such language is inappropriate and offensive.”
The letter quoted the Ministry’s code of conduct, and the Public Services’s code of conduct, and said “the Ministry is committed to creating a workplace that is diverse and inclusive, where a variety of voices are encouraged and heard…”
Says Barraclough: “It’s concerning and ironic to be reprimanded with a code of conduct that encourages diversity, inclusion and a variety of voices, when that’s exactly what I was attempting to provide.
“The Human Rights Commission defines a trans woman as ‘someone born with a male body who has a female gender identity’. Yet when I used the term ‘male-bodied’ I was reprimanded for being rude and offensive. I question how it’s acceptable for advocacy groups like InsideOUT to police the language of public servants, especially when that language is factually accurate.”
Suzanne Levy, Speak Up for Women spokesperson says: “Transgender perspectives should absolutely be included, they just shouldn’t be the only one allowed.
“I support all LGBTQ rights, especially given I’m the L in that equation myself, and I agree with the Ministry of Transport’s code of conduct that a variety of voices should be encouraged and heard—they just need to adhere to their own code of conduct.
"If advocacy groups are invited into government ministries and they attempt to redefine scientific concepts and language, public servants should be able to ask reasonable questions without fear of reprimand.
“Having only one sanctioned perspective is not how we’re going to achieve a more inclusive society.
“Speak Up for Women is therefore calling on all government departments to be more inclusive of various perspectives when it comes to LGBTQ and women’s issues—including, and especially, perspectives from members of those communities.
“We’re also calling on the Ministry of Transport - and all other government departments - to release publicly how much time and money has been spent on providing rainbow training from InsideOUT and other providers over the last six years.
“Finally, we’d like to hear from people who have had similar experiences. You can get in touch via our website at speakupforwomen.nz.”