Fascists attended an anti-trans ‘Let Women Speak’ rally in Melbourne – and it wasn’t out of a shared love of feminism
On Saturday 18 March, around 400 anti-trans protesters gathered in Melbourne, Victoria for a ‘Let Women Speak’ (LWS) event. Of these 400, 30 were members of the fascist ‘National Socialist Movement’ (NSM), who gave Nazi salutes and yelled slurs at counter-protesters.
The day was organised by Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, a.k.a. Posie Parker, a British transphobic activist. Keen-Minshull is known for extreme, often violent, rhetoric regarding trans people. She also organised a similar LWS event in Glasgow on 5 February during the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform debates. This, too, was attended by assorted Holocaust deniers and anti-abortionists. Pink News reported that:
The counter-protest included a reading of a Jewish prayer in response to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf being quoted at a Let Women Speak rally in Newcastle last month (January 16)
Some people might find themselves confused by the frequent presence of the far right at events which bill themselves as women’s rights protests. However, this will come as less of a surprise for anyone familiar with the history of transphobic ideologies.
At the event in Melbourne on 18 March, NSM members chanted “white power” and carried a large banner reading “Destroy paedo freaks”. They marched down Spring Street clad in a uniform black, wearing characteristic black bucket hats. Then, on the steps of Victoria’s parliament building, they stood in a line and performed a Nazi salute.
Keen-Minshull was also joined by failed Liberal Party candidate Katherine Deves. Deves is notorious for likening anti-trans activism to the French Holocaust resistance.
Additionally, private security grabbed a counter-protester by the throat and threw her to the ground. Keen-Minshull stood by and watched impassively. One Twitter account reported that:
Hate preacher Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) stands by and watches as a woman is strangled and manhandled by her security. “I have been asked if I’m ok with this” she says after, when questioned about their disgusting handling of a woman…. “Yes I am!”.
Certainly, this lines up with Keen-Minshull’s past rhetoric. Previously, she posted a video rant threatening that:
Each and every one of you women who stand in my way… will be annihilated.
Thankfully, counter-protesters outnumbered the transphobic side 2:1. They chanted:
“Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side”.
Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) provided legal observers for the counter-protest. MALS noted distinct police bias against the pro-trans side, including:
- not intervening in or preventing highly distressing, provocative, prejudice-motivated behaviours and messaging by anti-trans, neo-Nazi groups and individuals;
- failing to consider the effect of the presence of known neo-Nazi groups and their provocative hate speech and behaviours upon crowd dynamics, or the need to consider existing state and federal anti-discrimination protections in their response to these groups;
- allowing and facilitating the free movement of neo-Nazi groups within highly visible, prominent, and central positions within the protest area and directly in front of opposing counter-protesters;
- concentrating police resources and cordons almost exclusively toward trans rights protest groups, increasing the likelihood of these groups experiencing direct police-protestor contact and use of force, and;
- deploying the use of force, including punches, grabs, pushes, horses, and OC spray against trans rights protesters in ways likely to substantially increase stress and tension, escalating the likelihood of arrests.
After the events of 18 March, Victoria’s state premier Dan Andrews issued a message of support for trans Victorians. He posted on Facebook:
I wish it didn’t have to be said, but clearly it does: Nazis aren’t welcome. Not on parliament’s steps. Not anywhere.
Andrews went on:
They were there to say the trans community don’t deserve rights, safety or dignity. That’s what Nazis do. Their evil ideology is to scapegoat minorities – and it’s got no place here. And those who stand with them don’t, either.
So to every trans Victorian, I say this: Our government will always support you. And we’ll always respect you. Because your rights are not negotiable.
Transphobia’s Nazi history
So why, one might ask, does the far right keep turning up to these ‘women’s rights’ events, as they did last week in Melbourne? Why do direct quotes from Mein Kampf not draw horrified reactions from assembled transphobes? Why do Holocaust deniers turn up in support? Surely, it can’t be a shared belief in women’s liberation.
When I say that transphobia has its roots in Nazi ideology, I am not making a flippant comparison. This is not an “everybody who disagrees with me is Hitler” situation. Rather, it is a historical fact.
In 1919, a German-Jewish named Magnus Hirschfeld established the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Science) in Berlin. Along with issues like impotence, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases, Hirschfeld treated transgender patients. This included some of the earliest work on gender-affirming surgeries.
The far right in Germany at the time frequently targeted Hirschfeld for his work, his Jewish ancestry, and his gay sexuality. This came to a head when the Nazis took power; they declared Hirschfeld’s work an affront to German ideals. Next, the Holocaust Encyclopedia reported that:
On May 6, 1933, a Nazi student group marched to the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. With members of the SA, they ransacked the institute and looted its library and archives. Days later, the stolen books, artifacts, and clinical files were destroyed in one of several public book burnings organized across Germany. A bust of Hirschfeld was paraded through the streets on a stick before being thrown onto the bonfire. Within months, Nazi authorities forced the Institute for Sexual Science to close.
Many people are unaware that, when they see photos of the Nazi book burnings, they are looking at volumes swollen with some of the very earliest medical accounts of trans experiences. Only this year, the German parliament for the first time chose to focus on Holocaust victims targeted for their sexuality and gender identity. Regarding the queer victims of the concentration camps, the Canary previously reported that:
Between 6,000 and 10,000 were sent to concentration camps and given uniforms emblazoned with a pink triangle designating their sexuality. Historians say between 3,000 and 10,000 gay men died and many were castrated or subjected to horrific “medical” experiments. Thousands of lesbians, transgender people, and sex workers were branded “degenerates” and also imprisoned at the camps under brutal conditions.
Modern transphobia draws the far right for the same reasons that transphobia has always attracted fascists. It provides an excuse to hate on queer people, to hate on minorities. However, today, this often comes with a fig leaf of ‘standing up for women’. The events in Melbourne were merely an increasingly common mask-off moment when the fascism of this movement was on full display.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I believe every anti-trans activist is a Nazi, or even ideologically rooted in fascism. I’m sure some are genuinely moved by left-wing ideals of ‘standing up for women’. Obviously, I think that their target is dangerously wrong – I’m trans, and I’m not a threat to women’s liberation. But still, I’m sure these left-wing (or even centre-right) transphobes are out there.
So, it’s these people I’ll finish by speaking to. Have you noticed the growing, openly fascist presence in your movement yet? Do you see how few of your ‘sisters’ blink at their actions? Have you heard the violent rhetoric of your demagogues, and do you think it proportionate? Do you believe these people will stop after they’ve won against trans people? At this point, do you even care?
I’m trans. There’s no way in which I can be otherwise. You, on the other hand, are ‘gender critical’ by choice. At any point, you could walk away from your openly far-right allies. The distinction between people giving Nazi salutes and those who merely stood next to them is a razor’s edge. Ask yourself: is opposing trans rights worth everything you thought you stood for?
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Tcm1707, resized to 770 x 403
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