The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Bridget Clinch is a trans activist in Australia, a 2017 Greens Party political candidate for the Queensland legislature; for more, see these items. Now, she has apparently filed a complaint with the Australian Capital Territory's Human Rights Commission against one Beth Rep, who has criticized Clinch and transgender rights claims on Facebook (including in a few comments on Clinch's Facebook account). The Commission is investigating, and asked Rep for her response; I am told that such a request for a response does not necessarily reflect any judgment on the Commission's part about whether Clinch's complaint is likely valid, but only that the complaint appears to be potentially within its jurisdiction.
The complaint specifically points to Rep's comments on Clinch's Facebook page; the comments were responding to Clinch's post that condemned a group called "REAL for Women." Clinch wrote:
So basically, this group appears to exist to promote regressive supposed feminism.
Current science accepts that sex and gender exist on spectra and are not binary. You are damaging feminism by having an anti science, anti equality stance.
Trans women are women, excluding them from feminist causes creates division and weakens the whole feminist movement.
Rep responded with the comment:
Be careful ladies, Bridget likes to stalk people who refuse to accept gender ideology and may contact your place of work.
Clinch responded to that in turn with, "So don't break the law, idiot." Rep also posted the following item as a comment:
Clinch's complaint also points to Rep's own Facebook page, and attaches a screenshot of a post and various comments from Rep on that page (some part of a direct conversation with Clinch, who was commenting on the posts). The first reads, "A male is the favourite to win the gold medal in this afternoon's women's weightlifting. Has everyone reached #peaktrans yet?" The follow-up is Rep's post of a link to a news story (and accompanying photo) about the weightlifter's elbow injury; Rep wrote, "Karma's a bitch." (This apparently refers to the view among some feminists that allowing male-to-female transgender athletes to compete with biological women is unfair.) A third reads, "The Greens have reported me to the Anti Discrimination Commission because my feminism focuses on female bodies. Remember this as the day a federal candidate for the Greens said that women protesting against sex-based oppression on International Women's Day was #hatespeech (because some women have penises). This is so Orwellian." (This involved an earlier threatened complaint that apparently didn't materialize, not the one I'm writing about now.)
There are also comments by Rep in response to comments on her posts, such as:
Are you aware Matt that trans-identified males like this are bullying and vilifying lesbians who won't accept them as women and "suck their lady cocks?" As a gay man, would you date a woman who "identifies as a man"—if she said her vagina was male?
[H]e [referring to Clinch] was in the army? Shocker.
Yeah, words have definitions. I fail to see your point. Trans women are not female.
Anna: please allow feminist women to organise the way we choose in future.
That says it all, Males, regardless of whether they identify as women, should not be allowed to dictate how females organise against patriarchy.
For more, see the last two pages of the complaint.
Of course, Australian antidiscrimination law, and Australian free speech law, differs in various ways from American rules; but I thought that this incident was worth noting, as a possible harbinger of what we might see one day here as well.
I have asked the Commission to verify the authenticity of these documents (though I have no specific reason to doubt them); they got back to me to say that they can't comment on this. I tried to get in touch with Bridget Clinch, but haven't heard back. I also checked with severall Australian law professors about whether the investigation is a sign that the Commission believes the Complaint may have merit, and was told that the Commission investigates basically all complaints unless they appear to be clearly outside their jurisdiction.