By Inara Hossain
Merriam-Webster defines protest as the act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval, usually an organised public demonstration.
When we think of protest, we envision activists coming together to express their support or disagreement regarding an issue in our modern society. Prominent protests and movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and the Climate Strike. While not everyone may agree with the nature of protests, most people tend to view the reasons behind protest in a positive light. The causes that lead to protest often revolve around international subjects of concern, such as the elimination of racism, sexism, and the preservation of natural resources. However, what would happen if protest were used in a hateful and manipulative manner? Could the very tool that has facilitated significant social progress also be employed for the exact opposite purpose?
Unfortunately, it is indeed possible, as there are circumstances where the true essence of protest is violated. A prime example of this can be seen in the March 18th transgender rights protests and the opposing “Women’s Rights” rally in Melbourne. In reality, this “Women’s Rights” rally served as a façade for the dissemination of anti-transgender sentiments.
Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as “Posie Parker,” is a British campaigner and an anti-transgender activist who refers to herself as an advocate for women’s safety. She is the founder of the group ‘Standing for Women’ and organised the anti-transgander rally in Melbourne. Despite presenting herself as a “women’s rights” activist, it is impossible to overlook how her words and actions contribute to the dissemination of anti-trans propaganda and hatred towards people who identify as transgender. Ms Parker utilised her platform to manipulate individuals by claiming to fight for women’s rights whilst simultaneously infringing upon the rights of others.
Speakers invited to this rally made deplorable comparisons between transgender individuals and sexual predators. They spread hateful rhetoric equating being transgender with child grooming and portrayed gender affirmation healthcare as a form of mutilation. The primary objective of Ms Parker’s rally was to vilify transgender individuals and, as noted by the Greens Party of Victoria, “framed trans rights as in opposition to the cause for women’s rights”.
Some of the many transphobic tweets on Ms Parker’s Twitter
What brought significant attention to this rally was the disturbing involvement of neo-Nazis. Around 30 individuals dressed in black from the National Socialist Movement participated in the rally, marching on the steps of the Victorian Parliament. They shouted derogatory slurs, performed the Nazi salute, and carried signs with offensive names targeting transgender individuals. As stated in the statement ‘Victorian Greens Condemn Anti-Trans and Nazi Rally’, the neo-Nazis “announced their presence as protectors and allies of the rally”.
The rally received extensive media coverage and faced widespread condemnation from the public, media and government. Many people pointed to Ms Parker as the driving force behind the rally, as it appeared to be a breeding ground for hatred and prejudice. In response to the backlash, Ms Parker attempted to deflect the blame with a now-deleted tweet stating, “It’s a real shame, although not surprising, that the focus of our amazing rally with courageous and articulate women has been sidelined by the media who are focussing on what men, who weren’t even at our rally, had to say and do.” However, the presence of neo-Nazis at the rally speaks volumes. Demonstrating that under the guise of a “women’s rights” rally, Ms Parker is actually spreading her transphobic beliefs. Her futile attempt to shift responsibility and dismiss the concerns raised by the media and the public only confirms the perception that this rally served as a platform for promoting prejudice and discrimination.
Ms Parker's response to the increase in referrals for Australia’s LGBTQ suicide prevention service after Ms Parker’s rally
While individuals are entitled to their own beliefs, it is essential to consider the impact those beliefs have on others. If someone’s beliefs are harmful and discriminatory to others, it calls us to question whether they should be granted a platform to share these ideas.
Protest have historically been instrumental in advocating the rights and freedoms of marginalised individuals in society. However, there is a concerning trend where protests are now being utilised to strip away the rights of individuals. Are we as a society moving away from social progression and towards social regression?
It is inevitable that people’s personal beliefs will differ and sometimes conflict with others. However, it is important that our beliefs do not infringe upon the rights of others. It is our responsibility to ensure that our beliefs promote respect for all individuals as personal beliefs do not give us the right to be bad people.