Dave Gerrard, one of the Swimming NZ representatives who last week supported a ban of transgender athletes from elite competition, has a very different idea of what constitutes courage from me.
Referring to the international swimming body on whose various committees he has sat for three decades, Gerrard said: "Fina have had the guts to stand up to this and make a line in the sand. I feel proud to have been part of this historic decision."
Even if you agree with the ultimate decision, what kind of "guts" does it take to further exclude the most ostracised group there is, and what kind of warped perspective would have you find cause for pride in doing so?
But Gerrard isn't done. Not satisfied with securing the trans ban in Budapest last week (coincidentally or not, Victor Orban's Hungary is at the vanguard of a reactionary anti-trans and homophobic agenda), the sports medicine professor wants Sports NZ to reconsider its inclusion policies for community sport in light of the "science" that underpinned Fina's decision.
From what I can tell, the science he refers to is far from settled, although I make no claim to expertise. But I've also lived long enough and read widely enough to know very bad things have been known to happen under the auspices of science, almost always to the detriment of marginalised groups.
The scientifically backed enterprise of eugenics - improving the genetic quality of white, European races by removing people deemed inferior - gained massive popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It would take the Holocaust to show the world the logical endpoint of such horrific ideology, discrediting much race-based science and forcing its adherents into the shadows.
It was a scientific consensus that deemed homosexuality a mental disorder until 1974.
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As a methodology to help deepen our knowledge and understanding of the natural world, science is without parallel. But it is not synonymous with the immutable truth - in fact, when it is mistaken as such, that's when the trouble starts.
Meanwhile, under the guise of a debate they insist isn't about exclusion but fairness, trans people are excluded anyway - vilified, treated as if their desire to participate in sport is a ploy to cheat "real women" out of medals. As if it's a problem of such immediate urgency, as if trans women athletes are storming elite sports the world over, and not a pretext for the ventilation for something older than sport or science - fear of the unknown, and that most inhuman of human instincts: the seeming need to persecute "the other".
The consequences of resurgent trans and homophobia were for all to see in Tauranga with the arson attack on a building used by Rainbow Youth and Gender Dynamix – an organisation that supports transgender and nonbinary people in the Bay of Plenty. When pillars of the community like Dave Gerrard cast trans exclusion in sport as an act of courage and object of pride, and where ridicule and debasement of trans people are paraded by millionaire stand-up comics as "free speech" causes celebres, you create a permission structure for exactly these kinds of acts.
The notion of gender identity existing along a continuum with little or no fixed basis in biology is understandably alien and unsettling for some of my generation or older. And yet for younger Kiwis, my own kids included, this more fluid, expansive view of gender and sexual identity is entirely uncontroversial. Through their eyes - as well as the testimony of my many friends in the Rainbow community - it's a way of seeing things I've come at first to tolerate, then to accept, and now to fully embrace. This, I have come to believe, is my fight too.
Karl Popper, one of last century's pre-eminent philosophers, was an Austrian Jew who found refuge as a lecturer at what is now the University of Canterbury in 1937. During his time in Christchurch, he wrote his seminal work, The Open Society and Its Enemies, containing these words, a call to action as relevant as resonant as ever:
"If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."
• Shane Te Pou (Ngai Tuhoe) is a commentator, blogger and former Labour party activist.