Randwick Council urged to drop transphobic policy on ocean pool

March 3, 2021
Trans community and allies take action at Randwick Council meeting. Photo: Community Action for Rainbow Rights / Facebook

Transgender rights activists organised an action outside the Randwick Council meeting on February 23 against its new transphobic policy relating to the McIver’s Ladies Baths (MLB).

Coogee’s Women’s Baths, as its commonly known, sits on a cliff face and is the last remaining women’s-only seawater pool in the country. The pool is a safe place for queer women, Muslim women, mums with young kids and older women to swim free from harassment.

In January, council announced that only transgender women who’ve undergone a gender reassignment surgery are allowed entry. 

Activists believe that this is a breach of bodily autonomy and they want council reverse its decision.

The MLB website responded to the protest by saying it had taken note, adding that “our definition for transgender is as per the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977”

The problem, however, is that the law in New South Wales excludes those transgender people who have not had gender reassignment surgery for many reasons, including expense. For example, breast augmentation can cost up to $10,000. The procedure to remove testes also costs this much. Hormone replacement therapy and other costs connected to transitioning can mount up to $85,000

Medicare still only covers transgender surgeries on a case-by-case basis, and not all trans people want to undertake surgery.

Formal recognition of transgender identity falls under both state and federal jurisdiction and each state has a different set of rules governing transgender rights. New South Wales and Queensland are the only two states that require reassignment surgery for identity recognition. 

Community Action for Rainbow Rights, the protest organisers, has a petition calling on MLB management, the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Association and the Randwick City Council to publish a statement on its website and on site making it clear that those who identify as women — cis or trans, surgeries or not — are welcome to use the pool. It also wants council to apologise to the transgender community for the hurt caused. More than 16,304 people have signed the petition.

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