Tasmanian Times

Bronwyn Williams

Silencing and Censorship in the Trans Rights debate

*Pic: LinkdIn of Saffire Grant

Meredith Nash
Adrienne Morton
Robin Banks
Leica Wagner

The transgender debate is increasingly characterised by no-platforming, withdrawal from participation, censorship, bullying, threats, intimidation, silencing, stonewalling and expulsion from groups for those who express dissent from the ‘popular’ transgender narrative.

The following Tasmanian case studies outline examples of trans rights crusaders and their ideological supporters apparently acting in a manner inconsistent with freedom of speech, academic freedom, open, fair and respectful debate and inclusivity.

1. Dr Meredith Nash, Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania withdrew from chairing the UTas World Environment Day Forum on 5 June 2017.

Speaking at the forum was Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. Professor Jensen was in Australia to speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and to launch his latest book, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men. The forum was presented by the University of Tasmania in partnership with Spinifex Press, Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) and the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

Professor Jensen’s talk, titled ‘Male Supremacy, Human Supremacy and the Fate of the Ecosphere’ posed the question – ‘On World Environment Day, can critical feminist and ecological analyses help us see another path to save our planet?’.

Two hours before the forum commenced, a communications officer from the University of Tasmania Institute for the Study of Social Change notified the NorMAC organisers that Dr Nash had withdrawn from chairing the forum.

Saffire Grant, a student member of the UTas Women’s Collective, had allegedly made a complaint to Dr Nash about Professor Jensen’s views on transgender people, saying they amounted to hate speech.

When interviewed for this article, Ms Grant did not deny making the complaint. She was reluctant to discuss the matter with someone who did not identify as transgender or non-binary, and asked that questions be forwarded by email.

At the time of writing, Ms Grant had not responded to the queries submitted as she requested.

Dr Nash chose to remove herself from participation in the forum on the basis of Ms Grant’s complaint. The university did not provide a substitute staff member to welcome Professor Jensen at the forum – a serious failure to observe the courtesy normally afforded visiting academics.

Attempts to contact and interview Dr Meredith Nash for this article were unsuccessful, however the communications office at the Institute for the Study of Social Change confirmed the complaint and Dr Nash’s response.

2. Adrienne Moreton, President Tasmanian Women Lawyers (TWL), withheld an invitation to attend an International Women’s Day (IWD) forum in 2017 from TWL members. The refusal to pass on the invitation was explained on the basis that members of the Women’s Liberation Front, Tasmania Branch, were speaking at the event.

On 1 March 2017 Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) sent an email message to Adrienne Morton, TWL President, extending a personal invitation to the staff, board and members of the TWL to attend NorMAC’s IWD forum titled ‘Men’s Violence to Women – A Broader Conversation’ on 8 March. The forum included a number of speakers, including University of Tasmania Professor Bob Pease, former Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner Patmalar Ambikapathy, Madeleine Ogilvie MP, NorMAC Director, Simone Watson and two speakers from the Tasmanian branch of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF).

Adrienne Moreton replied later that day –

‘Thank you for your kind invitation.

Given the short notice and the sheer number of IWD events neither myself nor any members of the Committee will be able to attend in any official capacity.

Furthermore, given the stance of WoLF in relation to the participation of transwomen in the feminist movement I am also unable, in good conscience, to forward the invitation on to my members’.

Despite several attempts to seek an explanation of this response from Ms Moreton over the course of the following six months, nothing substantive eventuated. Ms Moreton either attributed her lack of contact to a ‘clerical error’ or promised to table the matter ‘at the next committee meeting’, and finally delegated the task of addressing NorMAC’s concerns to TWL Vice-President, Seva Iskandarli, who also failed to offer anything relevant.

The TWL includes in its charter a commitment to provide a forum for the exchange of information and opinions on aspects of the law relating to women. NorMAC shares this commitment and continues to question Ms Moreton’s apparently unilateral rejection, on behalf of TWL members, of an opportunity to participate in such an information exchange.

3. Robin Banks, former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner and Leica Wagner, Policy Adviser, Equal Opportunity Tasmania – allegations of bullying, harassment, threats and discrimination

Robin Banks, former Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, and Leica Wagner, Senior Policy Adviser with Equal Opportunity Tasmania were the subject of three articles written by Matthew Denholm in The Australian between August 2016 and January 2017, as follows –

‘Feminists decry sex change proposals on men who identify as women’ –

26 August 2016


An Anti-discrimination commissioner bullied me: feminist

1 October 2016


Anti-discrimination boss to face bias claim over sex change plans

16 January 2017


During her tenure as Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Ms Banks put forward a proposal to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999 (Tas) to allow certain changes to birth certificates. Specifically, the amendments would allow individuals to change the sex noted on their birth certificate on the basis of self-identification alone, with no need to prove the medical treatment and assessments currently required to make such a change. These alterations to birth certificates could be made every 12 months, according to Ms Banks proposal.

In response to a request for community feedback, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), Tasmanian Branch presented a submission challenging the proposed legislative amendments, and arguing they would have a negative impact on women’s rights and freedoms.

A member of WoLF sought a personal meeting with Ms Banks to discuss the issues. The ensuing meeting was attended by the WoLF representative, Ms Banks and Ms Leica Wagner, senior policy adviser with Equal Opportunity Australia.

Over a period of two and a half hours, the WoLF representative was – as we see it – insulted, bullied and harassed by both Ms Banks and Ms Wagner. Her concerns were dismissed and she was accused of being ‘naïve’ and holding ‘bigoted’ views for highlighting the negative impact of the proposals on women’s existing right to establish female-only services.

The meeting left her extremely humiliated and distressed, and she lodged formal complaints with the Tasmanian Attorney General and the Tasmanian Integrity Commission.

No action was taken against Ms Banks, although the Attorney-General expressed sympathy for the WoLF representative’s position.

4. The University of Tasmania Women’s Collective expelled several women from the organisation in 2015 because they expressed views questioning the prioritisation of male trans and ‘gender queer’ members’ interests above women’s interests within the collective.

In 2015 Bronwyn Williams was a mature aged student enrolled in a master’s degree at the University of Tasmania. Ms Williams joined the Women’s Collective to engage with other women on campus, but was shortly expelled from the group, without notification, at a private meeting of group administrators. She was accused of breaching the group’s ‘rules’ after questioning why trans and queer members were to be shown special consideration.

There was no contact to advise of the supposed transgressions, however Ms Williams sought confirmation she had been removed from the group from administrative officer, Heidi La Paglia. Ms La Paglia confirmed the meeting and the group’s decision to ban her from the group, but offered no explanation for the blatant lack of due process.

Ms Williams was abused and insulted online by several members of the Women’s Collective, including Saffire Grant, Laura Nilssen, On Ee Chin and Isaac Foster. After being summarily dismissed from the group, Ms Williams located other members of the group who had been removed in similar circumstances.

Ms Williams lodged a formal complaint with the University of Tasmania Union, and after several follow-up requests, an inquiry was conducted by an independent investigator. The investigator presented several recommendations to the Student’s Union and months later the Union Board advised Ms Williams the Women’s Collective had been instructed ‘to implement fair procedures for managing inappropriate behaviour, and a clear complaints and appeals process in their Constitution and Safer Spaces Policy’. Adherence to this recommendation was to be a condition of the Women’s Collective’s re-affiliation with the Union, should they choose to apply for it.

It is unfortunate that a university student organisation needed to be told they should have robust and transparent processes in place, after numerous instances of bullying and discrimination by members and a formal complaint about their actions.

A summary of this situation was published in the University of Tasmania student newspaper, Togatus, on 16 October 2015 – http://www.togatus.com.au/utas-womens-collective-a-new-meaning-for-inclusive/.

5. In 2012, the Scarlet Alliance Tasmania attempted, but failed, to have Professor Sheila Jeffreys no-platformed at a UTas Law School staff seminar and a public forum at the Friends Meeting House.

Professor Jeffreys, formerly with the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and Public Officer of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, was scheduled to give a series of talks in Tasmania at the invitation of Whistleblowers Tasmania.

Whistleblowers Tasmania had taken an interest in the government’s 2012 review of the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 (Tas) and had concerns about the international links between organised crime, corruption, trafficking, human rights abuses, and violence to people in the sex industry.

Given her extensive academic background in the field of women’s human rights, Professor Jeffreys agreed to address these issues at the events noted above.

Prior to her arrival in Tasmania, however, a member of the Scarlet Alliance attempted to halt both public appearances by attacking Professor Jeffreys’ professional integrity and discrediting her views on the sex trade and transgenderism.

Members of the Quaker community were intimidated with threats of a smear campaign if they allowed the public forum to proceed at their meeting house. The forum organisers were similarly discouraged from hosting Professor Jeffreys, as were those participating in the UTas staff seminar.

These efforts were unsuccessful, but are typical of the tactics used against academics and activists who speak out about exploitation in the global sex trade, and the aggression shown by some in the trans rights movement.

In response to the Scarlet Alliance campaign to no-platform Professor Jeffreys, Whistleblowers Tasmania issued a media release and ABC News Tasmania interviewed her – when the interview aired, images of Scarlet Alliance members with posters vilifying Professor Jeffreys were shown.



These instances of attempted no-platforming, exclusion and intimidation of those who oppose the pro-sex work, pro-trans agenda are becoming more and more commonplace worldwide.

Does Transforming Tasmania want to encourage respectful community discussion on transgender and gender diverse issues?

Do they want community members to feel safe expressing an opinion that may be different to theirs?

If so, they should reflect on the negative tactics used to promote trans ideology and silence legitimate dissent, and consider advocating against them.

Many trans persons demonstrate a balanced approach to transgender issues. For example, they speak against the ‘trans women are women’ dogma that dominates today’s transgender ideology and stifles rational debate.

Part Three in this series of articles will expand on this apparently inflexible position, and discuss whether, in fact, it might disadvantage transwomen.

*Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker.

*Isla MacGregor has for many years been an advocate for free speech and public interest disclosures.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Russell

    September 1, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Do I understand from this article now we have voted on transgender rights, that there are those members within the transgender movement who have become such, or can’t help but to use their ‘formerly’ male traits to join and bully real women in women’s organisations or take them over?

    With this recent massive sudden increase in re-gendering oneself you’d have to ask “what might be in their or their parent’s food to have caused this?” alongside the current obesity epidemic and boys developing boobs? There have always been tom-boys and ‘sissies’, but not in the plague numbers we see today.

    Soy products contain large amounts of phytoestrogens which may mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in your body.

    Traditionally, Asians fermented soy and only consumed small amounts with plenty of protein and mineral rich foods, such as fish and seaweed.

    Estimates are between 20-25 percent of formula-fed infants today are given a non-fermented soy-based baby formula.

    The phytoestrogens in soy formulas are absorbed by infants, and may lead to proportionally high levels in their relatively small bodies. Questions exist over whether this may affect reproductive development during this critical time, due to their ability to bind to oestrogen receptors.

    Hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) are naturally occurring hormones such as oestrogen, or synthetic alternatives, which are used in cattle to accelerate weight gain, which are then consumed by humans. What is “natural” about feeding hormones to cattle or fish (via soybeans in their meal)?

    Add to that the inclusion of DNA into some vaccines by the use of aborted embryonic cells in vaccine production, which may cause unknown genetic mutations. That is, the vaccines are grown in aborted human foetal tissue.

    The following vaccines are produced using cells from aborted foetuses and/or contain DNA, proteins, or related cellular debris from cell cultures derived from aborted human foetuses:
    Polio, Measles/Mumps/Rubella, Varicella (Measles & Shingles), Hepatitus A and Rabies.

    Are we just an experiment for Big Pharma and chemical companies while they make obscene profits backed by their political sock-puppets?

    Are there so many obese kids, teenagers and adolescents with a growing list of allergies that who don’t know whether they are a boy or a girl now .. because of all these Frankenstein experiments?

  2. Leonard Colquhoun

    August 8, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Perceptive observation in Comment 5: “The terms sex and gender are used interchangeably by government agencies, although the legislation make points on the differences between the two”.

    Is it possible to make one term a biological / anatomical one, and the other term one of (self) identification?

    Could the two be encoded in each person’s (medical) barcode?

    There is some similarity with the argument about ‘Who is an Aboriginal’ .. particularly with the inclusion of individuals who are 0/64th, 0/128th or 0/256th ‘aboriginal’ by DNA.

  3. brendan

    August 8, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    What’s happening in the UK is insightful …

    ”Gender’ hides the problem

    Improving the climate of debate around proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act – Morning Star Online

    Posted on July 14, 2018 by genderwipesthefingerprints

    In a significant step forwards for the Left’s support for women, the Morning Star has published this open letter “calling for action within our movement to allow debate to take place over proposed changes to the Act”:

    Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt, who is overseeing government policy on trans rights

    Improving the climate of debate around proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act

    Wed July 4, 2018

    Dear Editor,

    We, the undersigned, have a variety of positions about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Some of us have not yet fully formed our opinions.

    We are calling for action within our movement to allow debate to take place over proposed changes to the Act.

    You may be aware that on April 13 this year, an activist, Tara Wood was convicted of the assault by beating of Maria MacLachlan, a 60-year-old woman who had gathered with others in order to attend a meeting at which they could discuss the potential impact on women and girls of such a change to the law.

    On March 8, an incident also occurred on a Bectu picket line in which trans activists, with no connection to the industrial dispute itself, mobbed and verbally attacked a female trade union member on the basis of having recognised her as an attendee at a similar meeting.

    And in late April women in Bristol looking to meet and discuss changes to the Gender Recognition Act were met with masked activists blocking entrances to the venue, and deliberately intimidating those wishing to go inside.

    More recently, a meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK was targeted with a bomb threat which Hastings Police are investigating as a serious incident.

    These cases are part of systematic attempts to shut down meetings organised by women at which they can discuss potential legislative changes and the impact these may have on any sex-based rights already enshrined in law.

    They draw the whole of our progressive movement into disrepute.

    Some trans rights activists even continue to justify the use of violence, meaning that many women are simply too frightened to attend meetings that are both public and lawful in order that they may discuss their own rights.

    Other women, including ordinary women concerned for their rights, as well as those active within the trade union movement and other political campaigns, are also now anxious and fearful that they will be subjected to such attacks when engaging in any political activity, meetings, or protests.

    We are sure that, whatever your view regarding the issues around the Gender Recognition Act, you will agree that it is unacceptable for women to be made scared to engage in political life.

    We, the undersigned, publicly and unequivocally condemn the use of violence or tactics of intimidation on this issue.

    Yours sincerely,’…..signed by dozens of people

  4. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    August 7, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Excellent work, Isla and Bronwyn. Thankyou so much for your effort and trouble.

  5. Joanna Pinkiewicz

    August 6, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    #4 Good example …

    Of course self-identification can be, and will be, abused. Identification should state biological sex (M, F, X) and additionally should state a gender identity, separately. One does not exclude another. The terms sex and gender are used interchangeably by government agencies, although the legislation make points on the differences between the two.

    In an Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of sex and gender from 2013 (available online in PDF) we see that “gender identity” has been given greater validity than biological sex. Gender identity information seems more useful to government agencies than information on biological sex, which they state maybe “difficult to define” (really?) Is “gender identity” easier to define?

    This guide has been implemented across the government agencies since 2016. Trans identities are well protected within our law.

    “The Australian Government is primarily concerned with a person’s identity and “social footprint” where ‘social footprint’ means how one spends one’s money.

    As such, the preferred approach is for Australian Government departments and agencies to collect gender information. Information regarding a person’s sex would not ordinarily be required.”

    It seems this new guide has no robust safeguarding against preventing sex-based violence and crimes that women experience.

    Safety and privacy of females is definitely under threat if we allow self-ID laws to take place without consideration for the consequences.

  6. Isla MacGregor

    August 6, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    From Sky news:

    [i]The idea now is to do away with the assessment and reduce the admin, allowing self-identification to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

    Ms Clarke said: “We protest against bathrooms and changing rooms but they aren’t really the problem, it’s where women are really vulnerable, that’s the issue – prisons, hospital, refuges.

    “It’s been in the news hasn’t it that Ian Huntley wants to identify as a woman and be transferred to a female prison… if anyone can be a woman, what is to protect a woman in a woman’s space?”
    However, staunch feminist campaigners such as Dr Nicola Williams argue [b]the public have not been given enough information to fully understand what is at stake.[/b]

    She said self-identification could be abused, that it could compromise female-only spaces and described the debate as “an urgent fight for women’s rights”.

    “I’ve got no problem with trans people living in role as a woman because gender dysphoria is real,” she said.

    “But there are times when biological sex does matter for safeguarding, privacy and dignity, fairness in sports for example, and that’s when the sex of a person must be acknowledged, in a society where we have checks and balances so people don’t abuse the system.

    “Essentially any man could change his birth certificate whether trans or not and that’s the issue, that is why this is a bad law, because it’s open to abuse.”

    And that fear of the system being abused is what the Man Friday group campaigns to highlight.

    It holds meetings and stages stunts to publicise the cause – that it thinks the proposed change in law is ludicrous, potentially dangerous, and an attack on women’s rights.

    Sky News joined Hannah Clarke from Man Friday at a stunt in Hampstead, London, where her group claimed to be self-identifying as men in order to swim in the male-only swimming pool.
    At a rally of feminists in Hyde Park, one woman was attacked by a trans activist. It went to court and charges were brought against her attacker, but Maria MacLachlan said the ordeal made her all the more passionate about campaigning for women’s rights.

    “My anger could lift a bus” she said. And although she accepts gender dysphoria a real and serious thing, Ms MacLachlan does not believe trans women should have the rights of people born into female body.
    “The most they can be is trans women,” she said.

    At another feminist meeting, you could hear the chorus from trans protesters outside chanting “No TERFS on our turf”. TERF stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It is what the trans activists have branded the feminists they say campaign against their very existence.

    “I’ve had abuse for what I do, been called a TERF… it’s the age old practise to silence women, it’s used to instil fear,” said Dr Williams. She said it was crucial all women – not just trans women – are involved in the debate over the government consultation over the GRA without fear of being accused of transphobia. “It’s not right that we should be silenced,” she added.[/i]

    More: https://news.sky.com/story/line-18-gender-debate-sparks-bitter-divide-among-trans-and-feminist-groups-11439676

  7. Renate Klein

    August 6, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you Ms Williams and Ms MacGregor, for this useful summary of discriminatory attempts to no-platform internationally known speakers from voicing their perspectives on discriminatory behaviour against women.

    As a decades’ long women’s liberationist and radical feminist, as well as publisher at Spinifex Press, I find it deeply worrying to see such fascist behaviour gain ground everywhere in Australia as well as internationally.

    As Williams and MacGregor accurately point out, such exclusionary politics that are born of ignorance and misogyny will also negatively impact the lives of those transpeople who have no desire to insult women and wish to live their lives in peace. Let transactivists organise their own (support) groups and leave feminists alone.

  8. cait

    August 6, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    While criticism of fundamentalists, be they religious, political, or in this case cultural, is important, there is a danger of appearing as fundamental as those criticised.

    I am left to ask, are either of the authors trans? There was no evidence presented that any of the participants are trans, just an ethereal claim of support from “Many trans persons”.

    Perhaps the authors might like to comment on the current Sky news issue. It might open the debate and sound much less like a personal turf war.

  9. Joanna Pinkiewicz

    August 6, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Isla and Bronwyn, thank you for documenting and critically dissecting these local examples of harassment and silencing. I applaud your sober call for a discussion around the topic of gender identity.

    Nobody has the guts in Australian politics and within vocal feminist voices to discuss the issues and effects of changes to laws and language.

    Women with public profiles and jobs are scared to mention it due to fear of backlash. Privately, gender identity politics is discussed as out of control bullying and narcissism.

    Thank you for not buying into the fear and intimidations, and for documenting bullying behaviour.


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