Emotions boil over at NSW pre-election LGBTQI forum
Emotions have boiled over ahead of the NSW election as politicians were pushed to advocate for the rights of the trans and gender-diverse community, with the crowd asking to take control of the microphone.
Tensions rose at the State Election Community Forum held by Equality Australia in Surry Hills on Thursday after a question about legislative change that would allow trans and gender-diverse people to self-identify their gender on ID documents without having gender-affirming surgery.
Labor's Leader in the Upper House Penny Sharpe said NSW had fallen behind on the issue and the party had resolved to discuss it further.
Members of the crowd quickly interjected, urging Ms Sharpe to commit to backing the issue.
"Is that a no?" one person asked.
"No, it's not a no. This is actually important," Ms Sharpe said.
"Why isn't it a yes?" another audience member said.
The moderator urged the crowd to show respect for the panel and viewers online who had registered questions.
"But it's our lives," trans sex worker Charlie Murphy said from the crowd.
"How is it disrespectful to make comments about our own lives? These people make decisions about our lives," Ms Murphy said.
"You're saying we're being disrespectful to them? We're the community."
Moderator Anna Brown, the CEO of Equality Australia, told the group the interjections might cause audio issues, as the forum was being held in person and online.
"Give us the microphone then," a small number of people in the crowd asked before the panel moved ahead with its planned questions.
The questions came after Greens MP Jenny Leong and Independent MP Alex Greenwich committed to supporting changes to legislation.
Mr Greenwich has drafted a comprehensive LGBTQI omnibus bill he plans to introduce during the next term of parliament which looks to remove LGBTQI discrimination from all areas of government.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said legal hurdles requiring trans and gender-diverse people to undergo surgery before updating their documents were "problematic and challenging".
"I can't commit to that change," the outgoing health minister said.
"If I were in cabinet, I would be expressing a particular view, but we're now in caretaker mode and it has to be discussed after the election."
Ms Leong later addressed the tension, saying she acknowledged there were moments when she struggled to speak measuredly.
"Sometimes the injustice is so great that speaking in a calm and gentle manner is not something that I sadly have the privilege as a non-white man in a suit to do," she said.
"I appreciate that some people would prefer it if we could do that in a calm manner.
"But sometimes the rage is so great, and the inequality is so huge that you feel that the only thing you can do is to scream.
"So I want to encourage people to also scream.
"Yes go in and have meetings in parliament too, but also, scream."
Mr Hazzard said he understood the frustrations felt in the room during his closing remarks.
"I understand that. It's frustrating but a calm demeanour when you're talking to the people that actually can make decisions does help," he said.
"Generally people on both sides are pretty well intended."