Politics, at its best, seeks to lift others up to unify and allow every citizen to achieve their full potential. The converse is politics that seeks to divide and denigrate. As transgender and gender-diverse people in my electorate and across New South Wales know, they are too often the target of the latter. A brand of politics rooted in misinformation, fear and disrespect. The NSW LGBTQI+ Health Strategy notes more than one in five transgender and gender-diverse respondents to the NSW Health strategy report having poor or very poor health and 85 per cent report experiencing challenges with mental health. The strategy notes the direct link between those poorer health outcomes and instances of transphobia, stigma and discrimination. Those harmful attitudes have no place in our community, and they absolutely have no place in our parliaments or our politics either.
One of the key lessons of the 2022 Federal election is that Australians do not want divisive politics, particularly politics that targets vulnerable people. During that election, Liberal Party candidates sought to import culture wars from overseas in a reckless attempt to distract from the then government's woeful record and to sure up support in conservative seats. As has been well canvassed, that debate was incendiary and based on misinformation, with trans teenagers described as surgically mutated and organisations opposing trans and gender diverse inclusion in sport compared with the French resistance in World War II.
There was no room for a discussion about how to navigate the complexities around the issue, no room to acknowledge the detailed work that had been done by many individual sporting codes to foster inclusion, no room to acknowledge the impact that that debate had on trans and gender-diverse people more broadly. There was no room for discussion about how the connections forged through participation in community sport are critical to reducing the social isolation that drives so many of the poor health and mental health outcomes in the community, as stated in the LGBTQI+ health strategy, and no room to acknowledge the effect that the further exclusion of trans and gender-diverse people will have on individuals and the community. There was no room for nuance, common sense and compassion.
This approach has been taken time and again when it comes to issues affecting trans and gender-diverse communities. In a recent opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald by Fiona Bisshop, President of the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health, she unpacks media reporting on the closure of the Gender Identity Development Service in the United Kingdom. Depending on where you do your research, some sections of the internet would report that that closure represents the end of children's gender clinics in the United Kingdom or is a greater rejection of gender-affirming care. But Bisshop offers a much clearer picture. The clinic was struggling to respond to the "rapid increase in the number of children requiring support and the complex case‑mix, including neurodiverse young people and those with mental health needs". The clinic was not consistently tracking data, but Bisshop asserts that the major issue was the unacceptable time young people were languishing on up to a two-year waiting list.
The review that led to the closure recommended a move away from a centralised model towards local and regional hubs with strong links to local services. That is a move towards a multidisciplinary approach and a decentralised model, similar to that already successfully in operation in New South Wales, including at Maple Leaf House in Newcastle. While there is much more work to do and while it would be foolish to suggest that trans and gender-diverse people do not face barriers to accessing care in New South Wales, it would appear that our State's approach to gender-affirming care is moving us in the right direction.
I fear that our politics can be too broad and too bloody-minded to accurately capture the nuance and complexity of the issues facing vulnerable communities. If we continue down this path, which is characterised by misinformation and division, we risk a politics more like the United States, and that is not good for anybody. We will also miss the opportunity to make meaningful and simple reform that will significantly improve the lives of those it impacts, without touching the broader community at all. It is reform like removing the requirement for gender-affirming surgery in order for a person to change their gender mark-up on their birth certificate and other identification. I have long been on the record advocating for this change, and I will continue to advocate for the vulnerable members in my community, particularly within the trans and gender-diverse community.