FWF2020 Q&A: Sally Goldner

Sally Goldner is part of the FWF2020 ThinkIn Intersections of the Law.
Her twenty-year-plus involvement in Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ communities include Transgender Victoria, co-facilitating Trans family, 3CR’s Out of the Pan and Bisexual Alliance Victoria Treasurer. She was the 2015 LGBTI Victorian of the Year, joined the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll in 2016 and received an Order of Australia in 2019.

What do you think about/mean when you talk about Intersections of the Law?

I think ‘spaghetti junction’ when I think of intersections of the law. I think of intersectionality in that people are multifaceted and that when aspects of a person are treated negatively, the effects of that become compounded. I think of the intersection between legal/court systems, police and the public and the power imbalances re when, and how police and policing take place. I think of where the law can favour those with greater privilege, especially those with more income/wealth. I also think of intersections between the law and the public.

Expanding on the above, for example, if I am treated poorly due to my neuroprocessing that is one aspect. However, if I am treated poorly on neuroprocessing and trans that becomes a case of 2×2=4 and so on. Let’s at least get to neutral and then to respectful re that treatment to stop that compounding factor.

I also question whether legal processes that emerged 500 years ago to deal with commercial disputes are really the best way to deal with more human issues like discrimination, harassment, vilification, family violence and similar issues. This isn’t a free-flowing intersection at all: it is a combination of a huge traffic jam with multi-vehicle pile-ups and we need to find ways that do not re-traumatise and victim-blame people in these situations. It effectively means people need to walk around with a web-cam on 24/7 to just get evidence — and then they may still need to be overcoming bias of judges and tribunal members (who are often political appointments). I think comprehensive unconscious bias training for people in positions of influence would help here.

Finally, re law and the public: police procedures need to be developed jointly between the police and the public: after all, the public are in simple terms, 50% of the interaction. I’m sure the head-kicking macho element of police and policing will cry ‘political correctness’ at this; we need to remember for whom the law really exists.

In summary, we all need to have input re building the intersection and directing the traffic so traffic through the intersection can flow smoothly and effectively.

In your essay, Equity and Natural Justice Under the Law, you speak on limitations and prejudices in dealing with healthcare, legal and law enforcement professionals  — what needs to change in these fields for TGD people to be treated fairly and with respect?

I think awareness and understanding of diversity is a key factor and that such understanding needs to be underpinned by values and putting them into practice every day. We need more of the approach that in health care is called person-centred care: that we want equal outcomes under the law e.g. natural justice; we need flexible pathways to ensure everyone achieves those outcomes.

I think for a start police approaches in dealing with the public need to change: this ludicrous idea that anyone who appears anxious or nervous is instantly ‘guilty’ of some wrongdoing needs to be completely trashed. For starters, this completely contradicts ‘innocent until proven guilty.’  I think this limited and very masculine approach combined with the aggressive style of policing definitely has a hugely and disproportionate negative impact on TGD and other communities experiencing huge trauma and only compound inequality and inequity. I also think it leads to mistrust of police overall.  If we can’t train police to tell the difference between a person asking directions on a street (innocent citizen), someone allegedly doing 65 in a 60 kmh zone (possible civil offender) and someone with a gun in a bank (likely criminal) then we simply aren’t trying hard enough.

I also have huge concerns regarding the excessive influence of police unions and their inability to come up with win-win solutions. This article, (Union boss says police should be last people called to mental health incidents) effectively is saying at least 20% of people don’t deserve respectful policing at any point in time. According to one of my predecessors in trans advocacy, the police union allegedly made similar comments re trans people in the 1990s. Police need to be there for every member of the public and be equally respectful for all of the public. We need win-win solutions, not ideas that favour one party in an interaction.

Are there any gains in equity you can speak to in your years of campaigning for TGD people?

We have over the longer term seen an overall positive shift in Australia although I would immediately note there are variations e.g. for TGD people of colour, TGD sex workers, geographically e.g. inner metro vs outer metro/regional and by state/territory and that sometimes gains are a case of ‘two rungs up, one rung down’ re progress. We have seen an increase an allyship from the broader public and I see an example of that recently being the response to Basil Zempilas’ transphobic outburst. Even five years ago this would have, when challenged maybe received at best an evasive ‘I didn’t mean it’ response; that there was, following the condemnation of his remarks, an immediate response from him which was more comprehensive than evasive (although still not unconditional) speaks to the increased support and allyship for TGD.

We have seen laws and regulations shift to cover our issues more effectively e.g. federal anti-discrimination protection, passport reforms in 2011 and that 5 of 8 states/territories have good laws on the books re birth certificates. Gaps still exist re matching state/territory laws in most of the states/territories to federal anti-discrimination law, birth certificate laws falling way short in three states/territories, there are still sport exemptions which effect all of TGD (and intersex) and religious exemptions which effect so many discriminated-against groups. Of course, in a utopian world we would have uniformity in laws and regulations in all nine jurisdictions being based on the same principles and being uniform in details as well which would be easier for everyone including (for example) TGD people, families, employers and governments. I can but dream. 🙂

We are seeing, perhaps slowly, more service providers make efforts to be inclusive for TGD (and re sexual/romantic orientation and gender/identity expression overall). I believe that if we can keep pushing that such momentum will continue.

Last but not least, I believe that the result of the USA election, being a Biden victory is critical for TGD people worldwide. People can be consciously and subconsciously be influenced by those in positions of influence and obviously a Biden victory at least gives hope for TGD people. I note the horrendously high numbers of murders of trans women of colour in the USA this year and that Biden did announce plans to address root causes e.g. homelessness, poverty of this situation within 100 days of taking office. What he does could then be followed by others, both politicians and others worldwide. Also, the election of Sarah McBride, an openly trans Senator, is huge and will assist in ensuring the issues for TGD in America and in foreign policy for all of LGBTIQA+ will get on the table.

Recommended reading
Sally’s Story is Sally Goldner’s story of self-discovery, as she navigates the gender path on the way to her 45th birthday.
Book recommendations
The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron
Quiet!, Susan Cain 
Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney

You may also be interested in:

FWF Podcasts

FWF Podcasts

Find FWF podcasts from festivals and one-off events over on Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

read more