Shorten bans gender inclusive language after complaint from Sall Grover

Bill Shorten, the Minister for NDIS and Government Services, has announced that the government will remove gender inclusive language from Medicare forms following a complaint from Giggle CEO Sall Grover.

Grover, who runs a social media app that has a policy of excluding transgender women, shared her concerns about a form she was recently asked to fill out following the birth of her daughter. Grover told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph she was shocked to discover a form used the term “birthing parent” rather than “mother”.

Grover described the use of the term as something that was too close to the dystopian future described in Margaret Atwood’s novel A Handmaiden’s Tale. 

“Being called a ‘birthing parent’ on government forms is too close to A Handmaid’s Tale for my liking.” Grover said.

Coalition for the Biological Reality founder Stassja Frei also commented on the form saying it showed a “public service so completely captured by bad ideology that mothers are erased from language”.

Services Australia, the government agency that manages the forms told the newspaper that the form was bring trialed and to date had generally positive feedback.

This morning Grover spoke to Nine’s Today show and said shared that she was concerned about the form that authorises a child to be added to a parent’s Medicare card.

“I know enough about women’s rights and the erosion of our language and spaces and whatnot, so I know where it’s coming from.” Grover said, describing the use of the wording ‘birthing parent’ as a shock.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the term birthing parent isn’t inclusive of anyone, particularly mothers and women who don’t want to be called birthing parents, adoptive mothers, step mothers, gay men who are parents – who have obviously not given birth.

“There are an array of people that this doesn’t include, it’s just this ridiculous de-humanising ridiculous language.”

“I think its appalling. It’s offensive. It’s to please fringe activists and lobbyists who have made such a big deal about this sort of language, and then come after us and call us bigots for not accepting it.” Grover said.

Today hosts Karl Stefanovic and Alison Langdon voiced their support for Grover’s campaign to change the form.

“I can’t believe that they’ve actually done this. This is bureaucracy gone crazy.” Stefanovic said. While Langdon said the form was “de-humanising.”

Shortly afterwards Bill Shorten announced via Twitter that the forms would be removed, and all Medicare forms would revert to using the term mother exclusively.

When I was informed of this situation yesterday, I instructed the responsible officials they should cease using the previous government’s forms.” Shorten said.

“They will be replaced with new forms that use the word mother, not birthing parent, which is consistent with other Medicare forms.

The Minister said a trial of the use of the phrase “birthing parent” has been introduced under the former Coalition government.

Sall Grover has welcomed the decision telling The Telegraph that she welcomed the Labor government’s plan to remove the phrase.

“I’m very happy with Bill Shorten’s statement and plan,” she said.

“It’s the right thing to do. I hope this win inspires more women to speak up when our rights, language, spaces and sport are under attack.”

She added: “We just have to stand up for ourselves.”

Who is Sall Grover?

Grover has become a prominent campaigner against transgender women’s inclusion with regular appearances on Sky News, talk-back radio, podcasts and video blogs. She has previously been profiled in The Australian.

Her company Giggle was the subject of a Human Rights Commission complaint that has recently been withdrawn. The complaint focused on the social media apps policy of actively excluding transgender women. Giggle uses facial recognition software to search for transgender women who have signed up for the app.

The Daily Telegraph described Grover as a “podcaster” while the Today show introduced her as a “new Mum”, and while both of these terms are accurate, they underplay the depth of Grover’s presence as an activist campaigning against transgender women’s inclusion.

Grover’s comments have also been featured in digital campaigns from Binary, the organisation runs by Kirralie Smith that campaigns against transgender people.

The organisation morphed into an anti-trans lobby group after the campaign for marriage equality in Australia. Previously they were known as the Marriage Alliance, who infamously made a campaign showing people being hung by a rainbow noose and released advertisements filled with dubious statistics.

Sall Grover

The human rights complaint against Giggle was brought by transgender woman Roxanne Tickle. In her complaint Tickle said; “The app provider appears to not recognise transgender women as female. I am legally permitted to identify as female.”

The parties were not able to come to an agreement over the complaint and it proceeded to the Federal Circuit Court, but did not proceed when Tickle withdrew the complaint.

Grover has shared previously that she designed the female only app in the wake of the #MeToo movement as a space for women to connect. Since it was launched in 2019 it has signed up over 20,000 women from across the globe.

In her interview with The Australian Grover said that many of the women using the app use it because it is a safe space for them to connect.

“We have women in countries like Saudi Arabia or Orthodox Jewish women where female-only spaces are incredibly important. We have women who are recovering and dealing with trauma, and the space has significance to them in their healing,” she said.

Shorten’s action welcomed by Katherine Deves and Lyle Shelton

The announcement from Minister Shorten has been praised by Katherine Deves, the founder of Save Women’s Sport Australia. Deves unsuccessfully ran as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Warringah at the federal election.

Shorten has also been praised by political party Family First who urged him to take more action against transgender people.

“Labor knows the public is sick of LGBTIQA+ woke gender fluid ideology and is no longer prepared to defend aspects of it.” said Lyle Shelton, the party’s spokesperson.

Family First urged Labor to take more action against people being provided medical treatment for gender dysphoria, including withdrawing Medicare funding for young people.

Graeme Watson

Update: 25-07-2022 3:40 The original version of this article stated that it was unknown if Sall Grover had endorsed the use of her image and statements in campaigns from Binary. Grover has subsequently confirmed to OUTinPerth that she has endorsed their use. 

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