The Media Council has ruled that this column breached Principle 4, which states that material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate. The full Media Council decision can be read here. A summary of the decision can be read at the bottom of this column.
Just a few short months ago, I had no idea what the term TERF meant. I knew it was chucked around as a pejorative with monotonous regularity, so it piqued my interest. What had these so-called TERFs done to warrant such naked hatred?
Here's what I've learned.
TERF stands for 'trans-exclusionary radical feminist' and is used as a way of denigrating any woman who questions the current craze of people – overwhelmingly men - who say they were born into the wrong body.
Basically, it's a derogatory and offensive label and is used to shut down debate on the fraught subject of transgender rights.
Just a cursory glance on social media quickly provides enough evidence to prove it's anything but a neutral term – as users often claim. It's common to see slogans like "Kill all TERFs", and who're often described as Nazis, fascists and bigots.
Under the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill, the proposed law will see adults (over 18) apply to the Register-General to have their nominated sex registered by specifying they want to be female, male, intersex (neither male nor female) or X.
Daring to question this, I'm now regularly referred to as a TERF. Boxed up, compartmentalised, and considered fair game by those who enjoy hunting in packs online.
It's fatuous because I'm neither trans-exclusionary or a radical feminist so, technically, it's false. Except, the transactivists, most of whom are not trans, spit the word in your online face with such venom it causes one to reel at the mere sight of their dripping fangs.
So, to hear Labour MP Louisa Wall use the word in a public (media excluded) meeting was enough to make me reach for my snake gators. She said, "My whole thing is I don't want any f***ing TERFs at the Pride Parade."
I can tell you, that as a lesbian who has never marched in a parade of any kind – I loathe the sound of brass - I now feel like turning up.
I mean, as I'm the 'L' in LGBTQIA+, I should be safe to do so, right? But what if Louisa Wall sees me? Will security turf me out? Will I be dragged down a dark alleyway and forced to watch endless reruns of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?
Look, I'm trying to make light of this stuff because no other approach has our Government listening.
Under the proposed new law, a man can call himself a woman without ever medically transitioning (most never do) and insert himself in female-only spaces such as changing rooms, women's refuges, and prisons. Women would have absolutely no legal recourse to challenge such a move.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be locked up alone in a cell all night with a hairy, muscly, sex-starved inmate of either gender – but particularly one with his full kit and caboodle intact.
Neither would I want my six-year-old niece to see a grown male stranger naked in the changing rooms at her local swimming centre. Why shouldn't she be able to have a male-free space? And me too?
How about Laurel Hubbard competing straight-faced as a female in weightlifting? And all those other athletes around the world winning hands down against biological women? Is it fair to females, who've often trained their whole lives, only to come second to a biologically stronger athlete - no matter how they identify?
Gender critical feminists like me also question the use of hormone blockers by children as young as 10.
Parents, wanting to be best friends with their kids, are taking their son's fixation with dolls as evidence that he's really wanting to be female. In the UK alone, the number of kids being referred to the NHS' gender-service unit has risen by 2,500 per cent over the past nine years.
As a kid I played with Tonka toys. Fortunately, my parents saw me as a tomboy, and indulged me by letting me drive the farm truck and tractor at a ridiculously young age. Thankfully, in the 1960s, the seeds of "gender confusion" had yet to be planted. (Not to mention health and safety).
Which brings me to the money trail. When movements gain full throttle as rapidly as the trans train has, it must be asked who stands to gain from it?
Sure enough, American transgender lobby groups are being funded by the likes of billionaires Warren Buffett and George Soros. Why? Because investors want to help normalise the altering of basic human biology, and Big Pharma stands to make a fortune. It's already started.
So, that's just some of the red flags I see. Maybe, in time, my concerns will be allayed. Maybe worldwide peace will break out and climate change will be reversed too.
In the meantime, I believe all human beings – including trans people – deserve human rights and respect. What I don't believe is why anyone questioning the obvious dangers lurking within the proposed new law, should equate to them not being afforded the same.
Calling women TERFs is disrespectful, and Louisa Wall knows it.
* An earlier version of this column referred to the use of hormone blockers, or the taking of testosterone, by children as young as five. This was incorrect. No such treatment is given to children of that age. Hormone blockers to suppress puberty are prescribed after the onset of puberty. The youngest age in this column was subsequently changed to nine but the earliest well-documented cases are from the age of 10. Testosterone hormonal therapy is not given until later in adolescence, usually from the age of 16.
Summary of Media Council decision
The Media Council has upheld in part a complaint by Eddie Clark against the New Zealand Herald about a column by Rachel Stewart.
Ms Stewart had written, in forthright and colloquial language, opposing a proposed legislative change to permit individuals to change the details of their sex as registered at birth, and specifically objecting to the term TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) to describe her stance on the issue. She also said that American transgender groups were funded by Warren Buffett and George Soros and continued "Why? Because investors want to help normalise the altering of basic human biology, and Big Pharma stands to make a fortune. It's already started."
The complaint was of discrimination and of inaccuracy. The Media Council did not uphold the complaint of discrimination, finding that it is the function of free media in a democratic country to provide a platform for the expression of views reflecting strongly held convictions and for the debate about them, even if some of those views are expressed in a way that is offensive, disrespectful, or extreme by many people's standards. The passages to which the complainant objected were relevant to the discussion of transgender rights and to issues that the proposed legislation will have to address. They did not amount to gratuitous emphasis.
However, there must be a clear distinction between factual information and comment or opinion, and the material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate. Neither Ms Stewart nor the New Zealand Herald offered any evidence in support of the idea that major pharmaceutical companies and those who invest in them have a commercial interest in helping "normalise the altering of basic human biology" and in particular they offered no evidence that "It's already started". While it could be possible to dismiss part of the passage as offering a theory about the motives of pharmaceutical companies and their investors, the last three words could only be taken as a statement of fact, for which no evidence whatsoever was offered. There may well be a great deal of information online and elsewhere, but much of it is dubious and unreliable. Readers should be able to rely on mainstream media for accuracy.
The complaint of inaccuracy was upheld.