Free Speech

Australian Politician and Trans Activist Bridget Clinch Files "Gender Identity Vilification" Complaint Against Critic

Clinch seeks "an apology," "an undertaking from you not to post anti-trans or vilifying posts in future, and to remove those that are currently on your public Facebook profile," "a further undertaking from you to remove any anti trans and vilifying posts made by other people from your public profile," and "for you to participate in training about vilification, and trans' issues."

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

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.
Bridget: No.
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.

NEXT: Pennsylvania's Governor Calls for Abolishing 13 Occupational Licenses

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Waaaay back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I wondered why men and women had separate sports. Then I got older and understood. Then came that tennis match, and I wondered what the point was.

    And now it seems to be a real problem to wrassle with. There was news of some foot race, I think, where the winner of the women’s race had been male, now either self-identifies as female or is a male-to-female trans, has had surgery or hormones or maybe not, but at any rate, if the rationale for separate male and female athletic categories is the innate muscular difference between men and women, doesn’t it defeat the purpose to allow transgender entrants? Shouldn’t they have their own segregated events? How many female-to-male transgenders compete on the male events, how many in the female events?

    Wotta mess, and every side wants to drag the government into it on their side.

    1. Shouldn’t they have their own segregated events?

      Part of the issue is the sham of purity in sports. During the BALCO investigation, they had sprint times and initials written down, but they couldn’t identify who was whom, so they started questioning people quasi-randomly. Having an ‘MJ’ entry, they called in Marion Jones and questioned her about the entries and sprint times. She had to point out to the investigators that the times were sub 10s and could only be men’s times.

      I’m dead certain with enough training and drugs early enough in their development, you could get a trans-Marion Jones or a trans-Flojo into the men’s competition, quite possibly even to the top (though likely not past Bolt in the near future). The problem would be that then it becomes obvious that you’re holding the cis-athletes back disparately chemically-speaking.

      1. Yes, it’s an amazing rat’s nest of categories. Then there are the “disabled” who can sometimes run faster with artificial feet, like that South African who killed his girlfriend. Where do they fit in the spectrum? How much was amputated? Which leg? Artificial heart? Asthma meds which are performance boosters?

        If you only had one category for everybody, fewer people would care or watch. Divide it into male and female, now you’ve opened up a can of worms which can only grow more diverse and useless. Throw the government into it with one-size-fits-all social justice laws backed up by police and jail and death, and you’ve got nothing anyone cares about as a sport.

    2. Back in the day, the left defended outrageous statements that make people with their worldview feel bad, horrible. Indeed, they claimed it was a virtue, as religious Christians needed a good kicking.

      Now making people feel bad is a vector to armed control over your enemies.

      In the US this is fortunately limited to public school campuses, though I am waiting for the inevitable forced silencing on university campuses of people who slam religion.

      1. Depends on which religion you slam. Christianity? Go ahead. Judaism? No problem. Islam? You’re fucked. Hinduism? No one cares. Buddhism? No one cares.

        Guess which one of these religions is most frequently in the news for reacting violently to insults towards their religion?

    3. There’s certainly no reason that gender identity should determine who gets to play what sports, but there’s certainly no reason not to accommodate people based on hormone treatments or whatever. So if you have medical procedures that make your performance more comparable to a woman than to a man, you get to play woman’s sports.

      1. Don’t organized sports overwhelmingly disallow participation by competitors who have undergone hormonal treatments unrelated to transgender interventions?

      2. So you get to keep your male bones and a bit of your male musculature, but not all your testosterone. I see no problems here

    4. “Then came that tennis match”

      ?

      1. Perhaps this tennis match (1973)?

        wikipedia Battle of the Sexes (tennis)

    5. The problem is that this opens another can of worms, namely the link between race and testosterone/muscle types(fast twitch/slow twitch). Will we start segregating events like 100m sprints on the basis of race just because West AFfrican descended blacks tend to have more fast twitching muscles and a body type suitable to Sprinting?

  2. It seems a little early to start having palpitations about the state of free speech in Australia, baseless complaints happen everywhere we have no indication that this one will survive. I do find it disturbing though that the letter from the Commission, which I assume is largely formulaic, says

    3. Please comment on Ms Clinch’s claim that your comments amount to vilification on the
    basis of her gender identity.
    4. If you agree that the situation is as described in Ms Clinch’s complaint, but that it does not
    constitute gender identity vilification, please provide information to support this view.

    which appears to put the burden on the respondent to argue that her behavior is not violative, while the complaint simply points to the exchange and isn’t required to make any such argument.

    1. With tongue a bit in my cheek, is it a bit early to have palpitations about somebody else having palpitations? Eugene is relating the story (admittedly for a reason) but not making wild claims like you seem to suggest.

      1. It was an observation, not a claim about EV hyperventilating.

    2. The very fact of having to answer to a (nonjudicial) governmental commission about your speech is sufficiently “chilling” that – at least so far – it would not be tolerated in the USA.

      Even if, after expending time and money responding to a baseless complaint, the government says “never mind, your speech is permitted,” the fact remains that you were hauled before a government body to answer for things which under any reasonable legal system you’d have every right to say.

      1. It would be great if this were true, but the so-called sexual harassment in the workplace law criminalizes speech that expresses certain viewpoints.

    3. “which appears to put the burden on the respondent to argue that her behavior is not violative, while the complaint simply points to the exchange and isn’t required to make any such argument.”

      So what if it is violative. Freedom of speech gives you the right to “villify” whatever you want.

      1. It’s a big world, and in that world opinions vary about when speech is threatening enough or abusive enough to be proscribed by law. That boundary does exist, even in the US, but the fact that the line is drawn differently in different jurisdictions is not in itself a problem. At least, it gives us the opportunity to analyze the results and debate the pros and cons of the work of each line-drawer. The stock answer of “well, that ain’t the way we do things back in the good ol’ USA” is an answer, but not a very enlightening one.

        No, I’m more interested here in an even more fundamental precept, that of due process. I’m not too disturbed that a speaker might be haled before a commission to answer for their speech, but I am concerned that even the most threadbare of complaints is enough to set the government’s wheels in motion.

        1. Sure, there are threats to free speech in the US as well. Loads of them. But just because everyone, from the US to Australia to North Korea, has different ideas of what opinions should be banned doesn’t mean that all speech is equally free.

  3. I think science demonstrates many things exist on a spectrum. Things like age, height, weight, intelligence, among other things exist on a spectrum. Given genetic diversity and the ability to mix with different racial and other groups, things like race and color also exist on a spectrum and something like “ethnic origin” can potentially be a complex amalgam.

    I think it’s also the case that sexual orientation exists on spectrum.

    Sex and or gender, however …? I don’t think science demonstrates this — from what I have seen. Though it’s not absolute black or white either. The science I am aware of shows roughly 99% of people feel comfortable as the sex they were assigned at birth which is either male or female. In the remaining 1% you have some who biologically don’t fit either male or female (biological hermaphrodites, and folks with klinefelter’s syndrome). I have no problem placing transgender folks in that exceptional 3rd box. Or calling them by their preferred pronoun, as long as it’s male or female. I think most transgender folks want to be called either male or female.

    1. I could be missing something. I just don’t see the case for gender existing on a spectrum and the need for other pronouns.

      I think what’s likely true is that a LOT of folks might not feel comfortable meeting all of their gender conforming expectations. And that’s fine. I know many gay men who are more feminine than average and lesbian women who are more masculine than average. I think they are perfectly fine that way. However, I’m not sure whether that means that they are somewhere on the “gender spectrum” and need a new pronoun.

    2. If there is an “exceptional third box” (1% would be over 30 million people btw), why would we use the labels of the other two, necessarily?

      1. three million, sorry

      2. For one, the vast majority of those with AIS, Klinefelter’s, and those with gender dysphoria — as far as I know — wish to be understood as either “he” or “she” and present define themselves as such. I’m not saying that a case can’t be made for the singular “they” or fabricated pronouns like “ze” and “zir.” I just haven’t seen it yet. Camille Paglia makes a similar point. They haven’t earned those titles yet like “Ms.” did.

        1. The debate would be regarding those who wish not to use those labels.

          I’m a bit unclear as to the argument the usage is still novel. Popularity doesn’t seem to me the lead principle of many here — some have strong views that are atypical and I respect them on the merits. I don’t know how one “earns” it, especially if all we are talking about is encouraging usage and not setting up a one size fits all rule that results in sanctions if it is not used.

          I also think there is some pressure to use one or the other & given their druthers, various people would prefer a third term, but the reaction is so negative, they figure it is not worth it. Finally, to the degree we recognize “he” or “she” are not stereotypical one size fits all labels, that’s great, but society does treat them that way. A libertarian approach might be to use a different label in certain cases.

          1. The libertarian approach would be to let people use the pronoun that they want, but not (civilly/criminally) punish people who don’t want to use it.

    3. The idea that science demonstrates or makes a case for something existing on a spectrum is an abuse of science.

      1. The video to which you link demonstrates no such thing. Science is comfortable with numerous spectra, and in many cases relies on spectra.

    4. “Given genetic diversity and the ability to mix with different racial and other groups, things like race and color also exist on a spectrum and something like “ethnic origin” can potentially be a complex amalgam.”

      Maybe so, but going back to the original post, imagine a black activist facing “hate speech” charges for saying you’re either black or you’re not – a position you don’t have to search too far to find.

    5. “I think it’s also the case that sexual orientation exists on spectrum.”

      But it’s also the case that that spectrum is extremely bimodal, as you note.

      The ugly issue today, IMO, is “transitioning” minors. Because the evidence is that most minors who report any gender confusion are going to resolve it naturally within a few years. (And that those who do get the surgery don’t exhibit any lower incidence of suicide, so it doesn’t actually appear to solve anything.)

      It appears to me to be an epidemic of Muchausen syndrome by proxy, outside the extremely rare cases of genuine intersex conditions.

      1. Is sexual orientation “bi” modal? There are three boxes there most understand: “hetero” “homo” and “bi.” I think the underlying orientations are grounded in nature, but some degree of social construct is involved in how one understands and defines oneself. For instance, Barack Obama is understood as “black,” when he is in fact mixed race. But in some cultures — those predominately black, Obama might be understand as “white” or “white and mixed race” as opposed to “black and mixed race.”

        I think a great deal of people have some degree of bisexuality but feel more comfortable identifying as either gay or straight (the gender to which they are primarily attracted) which might give the illusion of a bimodal spectrum, albeit one strongly slanted towards heterosexuality.

        1. “Is sexual orientation “bi” modal?”

          Absolutely. “Bimodal” means the distribution has two peaks. And sexual orientation absolutely is bimodal, with the vast majority of people hetro males and hetro females. The people who aren’t one or the other are just a couple percent of the population.

          1. Aha. I see what you are saying. But I think you are somewhat mistaken, especially given your use of the terms “absolute” and “absolutely.”

            Rather, it’s sex that is bimodally distributed; sexual orientation exists on a continuum strongly slanted towards heterosexuality.

            What the data from the Williams Institute show is that 3.5% of the population identify as LGBT. What the data do NOT show is that the other 96.5% of the have a pure heterosexual orientation. The data there show different percentages depending on whether one is asked about 1. self-identification; 2. experiences; and 3. attraction. 3 is a greater number than 2 and 2 is a greater number than 1.

            In fact the Williams Institute data show that between 8-10% (a lowball in my opinion) have at the very least some degree of same sex attraction and/or experience. Most of these however aren’t in fact defining themselves in the LGBT box. Most of them define themselves as heterosexual and I would assume most of them are predominately heterosexually oriented.

            That fits my above described paradigm better than the “bimodal” paradigm.

            1. By the way. I’m not sure if this site permits links? Let’s see. I wrote in more detail here. AND I linked to the 2011 Williams Institute data. I also discuss the argument of McHugh et al., and their data.

            2. Bimodality doesn’t require that the population be one or the other. It just requires that the distribution have a low point between two peaks. The peaks don’t have to be perfectly sharp spikes.

      2. The ugly issue today, IMO, is “transitioning” minors.

        Well, there’s also the pretty nefarious issue of blithely moving between, “We should recognize more genders going forward.”, “We were wrong to recognize only two genders in the past.”, and “The binary gender construct has always been a tool of oppression yielded against gender non-conformists.”

        Not all do it but plenty do and it’s pretty obviously morally evil and intellectually lazy.

      3. “to resolve it naturally within a few years”

        Such people are not likely to actually fully transition including respecting having surgery or the like.

        Others have had “gender confusion” [though it is somewhat unclear what this means without more] since the early years of grade school. This is the type from the stuff and accounts I have read more likely to transition fully.

        1. The ability of a person to transition here would arguably be a basic matter of liberty [especially if it is merely representing as another sex in ways that are more cultural than biological] but some “libertarians” are actually conservatives on this issue. The concern about people really just having mental problems here came up when women wanted to “act like men” etc. as well btw.

          1. You are right on the liberty issue. The problem is with the damn kids! Libertarianism is all about consenting adults. It’s when people under 18 want to transition that causes the dilemma.

        2. I find something fascinating about those minors who have their gender dysphoria “resolve [] naturally within a few years.” Almost all of them grow up to be gay or gay or bi. That’s something that doesn’t go away. If there is evidence of a “born gay” or a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality, I think it’s from this subset.

          I remember debating some kind of neuro expert here years ago on this. And I invoked the handedness analogy. I ask, where is the evidence left handedness is genetic? And he noted something like kids in their single digits reach for things with their left hands. I think we have something similar here. Kids in their single digits who exhibit gender non-conforming behavior and experience gender dysphoria (like the little boy on Rosanne) turn out to be gay adults.

          And there is tension here between “gays” on the one hand and “trans” on the other. Tension I don’t want. But it’s there. I think it’s much preferable outcome to be a gay feminine man who is comfortable as a man than to transition as the current technology on transitioning exists.

          This might not be as much of an issue in our transhumanist future.

    6. You’re certainly correct that we can point to chromosomes and physiological features of humans, say they exhibit some group similarities, and decide to call the one group “male” and the other “female,” with some change left off to the side we’re not entirely sure what to do with.

      But how do we know what to look at? How do we know what we’re comparing? What is “sex,” exactly, and who decides? Someone has to decide how to delineate these categories, but it’s not science that guides us – it’s culture. Science can help us to examine the distinctions we draw, it can help us to refine them. But it can’t tell us what we mean by “male” or “female.” We have to decide that.

      The question is the same, and perhaps more clear, with gender. “Gender” expression is not so easily confined to simplistic questions of what happens when people of one gender fuck people of another gender (in the right orifice, anyway). What does it mean to be a “man” or a “woman”? We quite clearly understand what we mean when we say a man is “feminine,” but how does science tell us that?

  4. Reads like a “statement of charges” brought against a faculty member at Wheaton, Liberty, Regent, Grove City, or Biola for teaching science, or doubting fairy tales, or saying something nice about Muslims.

    Let’s hope this one turns out better than the conservative custom.

    1. Your link is broken.

      1. That ain’t all that’s broken.

  5. (because some women have penises).

    GOOD LORD MAN!

    You can’t write that without a trigger warning.

    Quick!

    Somebody check on TrueAmericanParrot.

    You OK buddy?

  6. Apparently the person facing these charges is what they call a TERF – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

    These “TERFS” are like the Girondins or Mensheviks of the identity-politics revolution – they’re among the first to be branded as counterrevolutionaries, right alongside the bona fide reactionaries.

  7. It seems to me that the problem stems from elevating an “internal sense of oneself” which is “gender identity” into a primary identifier, which is “sex” or “gender.”

    Sex is measurable to the extent that we have chromosomes–XX is female, XY is male. One of each is required for propagation of the species. Mating cares not what your “internal sense of yourself” is. If your gametes can contribute either an X or Y through sex, you are a male. If not, then you are a female.

    Likewise, for objective identification purposes, chromosomes are testable, observable, measurable–while “gender identity” is not. There is large overlap among the two sexes–but chromosomally it is clear. XX is female, XY is male.

    You may choose to live your life in stereotypically masculine or feminine ways (ways, which may change with the culture!)–but your sex is unchanged. You may surgically or hormonally alter your body–but your chromosomes in every cell betray the underlying truth. (And what other “internal sense” do we honor with elective surgery to “align” with?)

    If you look stereotypically like a woman, I will categorize you and call you “she” out of courtesy and practicality. But if you have XY chromosomes and your driver’s license says “Female,” then we have crossed into fantasy.

    Chromosomal aberrations are just that–and can be dealt with legally so that an independent arbiter can determine the best course of action for that individual, on an exception-basis.

  8. Ooga booga! The trannies are coming for you! Watch out!

    1. Well, Bridget Clinch does seem to be coming after critics of the trans rights movement, no?

      1. Not just her, EV. This is from Jesse Singal, at NY Mag:

        Trans activists get major researcher fired

  9. In reality, science does not support the tranny activists in their attempts to change the definitions of male and female. But even if it did, it would be monstrous if the government helped them make their opponents shut up.

    1. If biotech continues to advance I think we will certainly get to the point where the science does support trans activists attempt to change their gender. Right now SRS is at an 8 bit level of technology. Think of how far we’ve come in so short a time since that day. We will eventually get to the point where someone born male or female will be able to transition and transition back and will be biologically indistinguishable from “the real thing.”

      Humans at this point will also have much longer lifespans.

      I am not trans and currently have no desire to live as a member of the opposite sex. I’m 45 and hope to make it to between 75-100. But if I were looking at 1000 years and an ability to transition such that I would be biologically indistinguishable from a cisgender woman, I might well wish to try it.

      1. If biotech continues to advance I think we will certainly get to the point where the science does support trans activists attempt to change their gender

        this is not at all disagreeing with what he wrote

  10. Nice misunderstanding of Australian law. No one attempted to contact me, I am easily contactable and have had no one approach me about this.

    1. Notwithstanding the interests of thorough journalism, have you considered that maybe since you’ve illustrated your anti-liberty, pro-censorship worldview that some people aren’t really dying to get on your “someone offended me” list?

      Now, before you respond with accusations of bigotry, let me tell you exactly where I stand on the issue of transgender rights. I am not in any way opposed to someone changing their appearance to lead a more fulfilling life. Whether you desire to be a man, a woman, or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I wish you nothing but the best in your journey. Moreover, should anyone threaten you with actual harm, or, Allah forfend, actually attempt to hurt you in some way, I hope they face harsh punishment for their crimes. Hell, to be even more specific, if I happened upon you in the street as a band of bigots chose to set upon you, you can count on me to come to your aid. I would quite literally suffer physical harm before I let a bunch of fools harm even a complete stranger over a lifestyle choice, their sexual orientation, their race, etc. So please do not mistake me as being an anti-XXXXX…

      1. That said, I lack the words to emphasize how strongly I disagree with your attempts to use the power of the state to shield yourself from criticism, debate, or mean sentiment. It’s intellectual cowardice of the worst variety; the kind where you get to pretend like you’re some sort of infinitely woke moral superhero as you ultimately maneuver to avoid confrontation under the guise of “the debate is beneath me.” I have no respect for that approach, nor do I respect the pseudospeciation you seem so keen to employ when referring to people who don’t agree with you, nor do I appreciate the volley of rhetologcal fallacies you seem to make liberal use of. You may indeed have the most valid viewpoint, supported by thorough evidence. Unfortunately, however, we’ll probably never know, since you find it too tempting to say, “you’re not allowed to talk,” rather than, “you’re wrong and here’s why.”

        1. Further, regarding Professor Volokh’s supposed misunderstanding of Australia’s laws, I think you miss the point. Those of us who value freedom ?yes, even the crass or offensive kind? don’t really care that much about the specifics of how you try to silence your opponents down there in the Australia. Rather, we dislike that tactic in whatever form it takes.

          Lastly, the one thing I’ve never been able to understand about our friends on the modern political left is how reluctant they are to realize that all the power you grant to some leading class to do “good” (by way of infringing upon the rights of people you find dispicable) is indistinguishable from the power that your opponents would use -if allowed- to infringe upon your rights. Upon how many graves must history’s statists (on the left or the right) dance before young people of the modern world can appreciate the reasons we limit the power of the state in the first place?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.