Why we need to protest Posie Parker

Posie Parker (also known as Kellie-Jay Keen), a far-right transphobic activist from the UK, is touring Australia in February and March. The National Union of Students has called a series of demonstrations against her and her followers.

Parker’s speaking tour, “Let Women Speak”, has explicitly transphobic premises. It is claimed to bring people together from across “the political spectrum, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds”, united by the conviction “that women are adult human females—not a costume, not a feeling or a drug to be dependent on”.

The organisation sponsoring this tour, Binary Australia, is a rebranded version of the Marriage Alliance, a homophobic coalition that campaigned against same-sex marriage.

Since 2018, Parker has gained a following by campaigning against the rights of transgender women. She is the founder of the group “Standing for Women”, which opposes civil rights protections for gender identity, as well as laws and policies that allow transgender people to be legally recognised as their gender, to use public facilities according to their gender and to compete in sports. She also campaigns against the use of trans health care like puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy.

Parker is a member of the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition, a group that aims to build political connections and relationships between prominent transphobic celebrities and public figures (including the author J.K. Rowling), and the far right.

She has appeared on radio and television alongside the Proud Boys, Capitol Hill rioters and Hans Lysglimt Johansen, a far-right Hungarian politician, Holocaust denier and Islamophobe. Parker has defended far-right activist Tommy Robinson, claimed Trump represents the lesser evil in American politics and teamed up with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative anti-LGBT think tank, to campaign against including sexual orientation and gender identity in US civil rights law.

Her myriad links to racist, homophobic and sexist far-right figures and groups puts paid to the idea that there is something progressive about Parker’s supposed concerns for women. Hers is just the latest manifestation of a long-standing tendency amongst the right to justify reactionary politics under the pretext of protecting (some) women. For instance, the far right historically has mobilised concerns over white women’s safety to justify the racist treatment of people of colour.

Parker’s transphobia is not isolated; she is just one representation of a growing current of far right and fascist politics mobilised around the issue. Far-right activists in the UK, for example, recently disrupted a drag queen storytelling event for children held at the Tate museum. Similarly, plans by neo-Nazis to protest a drag event last December in Melbourne led to its cancellation.

This fringe, militant transphobia is in turn being emboldened by the mainstreaming of anti-trans politics, particularly in the US and UK. Just last month, the Westminster parliament for the first time used its veto power to block legislation passed by the Scottish parliament that would have made it easier for trans people to have their preferred gender recognised in official documents. Meanwhile, this year alone Republican-dominated state legislatures have proposed almost 200 bills designed to curtail trans rights, including access to gender-affirming medical interventions.

Australia has largely avoided the growth of a reactionary anti-trans movement. But if bigots like Parker are allowed to come here and organise unchallenged, a similar movement could develop. Such a movement would not be only about attacking trans people, but about actively recruiting to and building a far-right political current that aims to erode the rights of all the oppressed and drive politics to the right.

We need to organise a serious left-wing response to Parker—one that places the fight for trans rights alongside the fight for women’s rights, demoralises the far-right freaks and starts to build the radical political current needed to push back against the oppression and bigotry capitalism continues to create.

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