Greens councillor Rohan Leppert under fire for online comments

Rohan Leppert, a Greens politician on the Melbourne City Council, has defended comments he made online about the medical treatment of transgender people and the introduction of Victoria’s laws which ban conversion practices and suppression of gender and sexuality.

Over the weekend screenshots showing Cr Leppert questioning the affirmation model used to treat people experiencing gender dysphoria, and his criticism of Victoria’s recently introduced laws outlawing practices that aim to change or suppress sexuality or gender identity, spread quickly across social media.

In the screenshots posted online Leppert appears to be asking for data on people desisting, ‘de-transitioning’, or reaffirming their gender to align with their sex assigned at birth.

“I will readily admit that one reason I approach gender clinics with skepticism is a friend who felt they managed to escape a transition pathway they had commenced, and many others in my age bracket who experienced gender dysphoria when puberty hit before they were discovering they were lesbians much later, who all genuinely worry that girls in a similar situation today are being told that they’re trans.” Leppert wrote.

The councillor said he was concerned that “women are identifying out of lesbianism in significant numbers, while trans women are identifying in.”

Later in the post, Leppert says he is not opposed to children who are transgender receiving treatment, but is concerned about the affirmation model being the only approach used by clinicians. He then questions if Victoria’s recently activated laws against conversion and suppression practices have criminalised some of the alternatives that might have previously been accessed.

“The law in Victoria may have been constructed in a way that will result in an excessive diagnosis of gender dysphoria and prescription of puberty blockers, HRT and surgery, increasing the phenomenon of detransitioning in the future.” Leppert wrote.

The councillor described his statements as fears he held, not “hard and fast assertions”.

Leppert defends his comments 

On Twitter Councilor Leppert defended his comments, saying he believed he was making them in a closed Facebook conversation that was not intended for public consumption.

“I woke up on Sunday to twitter accounts that I follow, tweets that I had liked, and comments that I had made in what I had assumed was a closed Facebook post, being discussed,” Leppert said.

“While I didn’t initiate the discussion, I know enough about this issue to know that debating sex and gender can cause distress for many. That trans and gender diverse people are impacted by the debate more than people, like me, who do not claim to have a gender identity.

“That’s in part why I didn’t initiate a public debate. I also know that any public debating point short of full-throated support for the concept of gender identity in all its applications is deemed by some to be hateful.”

Councilor Leppert said it was absurd that he was being accused of bigotry, and denied showing support for “conversion therapy or oppression”.

“I don’t believe that sex and gender is a special category of policy not allowed to be discussed. Gender affects all of us. Where there are perceived or real conflicts between sex-based and gender-based rights, it is the job of parties seeking legislative power to understand them.

“How that debate is conducted is important. Where the debate is conducted is important. The dignity, lived experience and identities of all people impacted by the debate are paramount,” Cr Leppert posted.

The City of Melbourne Councillor said he had a long history of supporting LGBTIQA+ programs across the city.

“I will continue to conscientiously consider Council’s obligations in law and in providing support. But I cannot apologise for my thoughts, my beliefs, and for engaging in debate within my party,” Leppert said.

OUTinPerth asked Leppert if he had ever visited Melbourne’s Gender Clinic or raised his concerns with medical experts in the field, to which he responded that he had met clients of the facility.

“I have met with trans and detrans young adults who have been through the Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service,” Leppert told OUTinPerth.

“I am not the party spokesperson on this matter and do not propose to run commentary on my discussions with party members held in a closed forum.”

“The party’s policy on gender clinics is clear,” Leppert said.

The Melbourne City Councilor hopes the Victorian government would systematically review the laws around conversion practices to ascertain if they were having any negative effects.

“Yes, the Act should be reviewed over time to ensure its objectives are being met; this is reasonable for any law,” Leppert said.

Prior to being elected on to the City of Melbourne Council, Leppert was a musician, teacher and political campaigner. He managed the campaign of federal Greens leader Adam Bandt that saw him elected to parliament. Leppert then worked in Canberra as a policy advisor.

Greens voice their support for Gender Diverse Communities

As online discussion about Councilor Leppert’s comments grew online and an open letter called for the party to take action, the Victorian Greens released a statement voicing their support for Gender Diverse Communities.

“The Victorian Greens reject any views that erase or deny a person’s gender identity, and recognise that those views can and do cause deep harm to trans and gender diverse people. Those views are not consistent with Greens policy. We are steadfastly committed to trans and gender-diverse rights – in our policies, in our values and in our votes.

“We will continue to work alongside our trans members and the broader trans community to safeguard their right to feel safe and supported both in our party, and in this country. The Greens are proud of our track record as the strongest advocates for trans rights at all levels of parliament, including being the only party to vote against the Federal Religious Discrimination Bill.

“We will always fight for trans rights – and all LGBTIQA+ community rights – to live free from discrimination, have autonomy over their bodies, and have access to holistic and comprehensive health services.

“The Greens believe healthcare is a human right, and are taking our plan to include gender-affirming healthcare as a permanent part of Medicare to the 2022 Federal election.

While the statement made no mention of the growing criticism of Leppert’s comments or Leppert himself, the party was clearly rattled by criticism from some of their strongest supporters.

Federal leader Adam Bandt also posted a message of support for trans and gender diverse folks to social media.

“Trans rights are non negotiable. Gender affirming healthcare saves lives and should be free on Medicare. I’m proud to be in solidarity with our trans friends and colleagues every day, and I’ll continue to fight for you.” Bandt posted.

Senator Janet Rice posted a statement similar to her leaders, adding “To all trans and gender diverse people: I hear you, see you & will always fight alongside you – inside & outside parliament.”

Samantha Ratnam, The Greens’ leader in Victoria also voiced her personal support for people who are gender diverse.

I will always support our transgender, non-binary and gender diverse communities, and stand alongside them in their fight for equality. All trans people are valid, and deserve to live their authentic lives free from transphobia or discrimination,” Ratnam said on Twitter.

“In recent years I’ve been proud to back legislation that improves the lives of trans people, like the birth certificate reforms and ban on ‘conversion practices’. We’ve also tried to pass legislation of our own, like protecting TGD students and teachers from discrimination.

“The Greens will always be a party that celebrates gender diversity, and that welcomes diversity with open arms. To all trans people today and every day: I hear you, see you, and will always fight alongside you.”

Graeme Watson

30-03-22 16:15 Councilor Leppert’s comments to OUTinPerth were added. This article was originally published at 16:05.

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