Girl Guides WA new CEO says organisation ‘panders to ideology’

The new CEO of Girl Guides WA has described the organisation’s policies in relation to definitions of women as ‘pandering to an ideology’.

In a public post on Twitter Karyn Lisignoli reached out to Katherine Deves, the head of Save Women’s Sport Australia asking for advice on changing the Girl Guides constitution so it explicitly stated “biological female”.

Lisignoli requested legal advice from the group who campaign against transgender women completing in sport, asking if changing the wording of the organisation’s constitution would be breaking the law.

Deves was unable to answer as her account on the platform has been deleted, and so was Lisignoli’s shortly after OUTinPerth contacted her asking her to clarify her views and plans for the youth organisation.

Lisignoli told OUTinPerth that it was something she was exploring but it was only a consideration at this stage, and it would be a few months before she did any significant work on the issue. She stressed that the organisation would not be looking to exclude transgender youth, but there was a lot of concern about the definition of ‘women and females’.

Hunter Gurevich, the chair of TransFolk of WA said it was disappointing move from the Girl Guides’ new CEO.

“It’s so disheartening that the new CEO’s first act is one of exclusion, and it’s disheartening the Girl Guides WA chose a CEO with a history of consistent transphobia. The Australian Guide Law, which is the code of conduct for Girl Guides Australia, asks Guides to be considerate, thoughtful, optimistic, and make choices for a better world. It’s hard to see how this turn of events accords with that Law.

“Our experience with young people in the community is that they are overwhelmingly inclusive and accepting. I would encourage the CEO to consult directly with the Guides themselves and ask them whether they want young trans woman to be excluded. I believe she would find her views are in the minority.”

On her now deleted Twitter account Lisignoli shared posts about transgender women in sport, and voiced her support for posts discussing excluding transgender women from author J.K. Rowling.

A spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) said the focus of youth organisations should be on empowering all young people.

“Our focus should be on celebrating and empowering our young people, linking them and their loved ones to their rich cultural heritage and proud history – not never ending trouble shooting and harm minimisation. But these are the disturbing and turbulent times we are living in.

“Anyone with any knowledge of LGBTQIA+ issues has a grasp on the horrific statistics surrounding mental health outcomes for our LGBTQIA+ kinfolk.

“It’s vital that the broader community grasp this much: ‘These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTI.’ – LGBTIQ+ Health Australia.” PFLAG’s spokesperson said.

“Loving, supporting and protecting our kids – that’s our job as parents and it’s our job as a community! If you don’t believe all children are worthy of that then just leave our kids alone!”

The community group that supports parents and friends of members of the LGBTIQA+ community has had a major focus on improving acceptance of transgender youth in recent years.  ​

The Girl Guides have quickly distanced themselves from their new CEO’s comments.  A spokesperson for Girl Guides WA said the online comments from the new CEO did not reflect the organisation’s views.

“A statement has been made by Girl Guides WA CEO on her private social media outlining her desire to engage in a conversation about sex-based rights and the organisation’s constitutional definition of girls and women.

“This was a personal request by the CEO and does not reflect the position of Girl Guides WA.

“The organisation stands by the Girl Guides Australia Diversity and Inclusion Policy, which includes commitment to providing a respectful, open, and safe environment where all people are treated equitably and with mutual respect regardless of their background, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or level of ability.”

“Girl Guides WA welcomes all girls and women, including transgender girls and women.” the spokesperson said.

The Girl Guides have publicly available policies that outline their inclusive approach to transgender participants.

Graeme Watson, Leigh Andrew Hill

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