The appearance of a handful of Nazis at the “Let Women Speak” rally in Melbourne last weekend has caused a furore.
The small group of black-shirted, Nazi-saluting men was a warning of how the far right is trying to grow out of the officially sanctioned transphobia that is being whipped by the likes of One Nation’s Mark Latham and Scott Morrison’s favourite transphobe, Katherine Deves, who was also at the rally.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has moved to ban the Nazi salute, having already banned publicly displaying swastikas. The Victorian Liberals are moving to expel Moira Deeming, the state Liberal MP who promoted and joined the Melbourne rally as part of a national tour by British anti-transgender activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (also known as Posie Parker).
But banning swastikas or Nazi salutes will not be enough to end the menace of the far right. They are trying to grow out of the misery created by inequality and the insecurity of capitalism and the transphobia that comes from the top of mainstream society.
Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who is renowned for her flirtation with the far right in Britain, is running a mile to dissociate herself from the Nazis after the outcry in Melbourne and with pro-trans protesters confronting her rally in Tasmania.
The far right here is trying to imitate the efforts of Proud Boys in the US who have capitalised on anti-trans sentiments and are making a name for themselves by disrupting drag queen library reading events.
It is sadly ironic that the events have occurred just a few weeks after so much attention was focused on World Pride in Sydney, and very telling that behind the celebrations, official homophobia and transphobia still thrive.
Anthony Albanese might have been the first prime minister to march in the Mardi Gras, but federal discrimination laws still allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTQI kids and teachers.
The Christian right was also quick to mobilise during World Pride events, taking offence at a joke told on The Project to stage an intimidating march through the Sydney suburb of Newtown on 4 March and to call a follow-up rally last weekend.
The official approval of homophobia and transphobia has encouraged Nazis and some Christian right groups to picket at events hosting drag queens.
A family-friendly youth festival in September last year that featured drag performances in the inner Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds was targeted by a group of 12 of the same National Socialist Network Nazis who showed up at the “Let Women Speak” rally.
In 2020, Melbourne drag queen Annie Depressant was reading to more than 40 children and their parents at Werribee Plaza Library when demonstrators showed up.
The events in Melbourne come only a few months after 30 men were seen performing Nazi salutes and chanting slogans such as “white power” and “heil Hitler” on Elwood beach.
Three men in Queensland have been charged in relation to displaying of Nazi material after a banner was dropped from a bridge in November 2022.
There is no doubt that the far right is trying to grow and the left needs to respond, particularly if there is any attempt to directly confront trans-friendly events. But the main obstacle to trans rights now is not the far right.
While religious schools are still able to officially discriminate, homophobia and transphobia is encouraged across society. Similarly, transphobia is legitimised when mainstream newspapers run campaigns fostering myths and fomenting discrimination and hate.
The NSW Liberal Party has dumped their candidate Matthew Squires for Wyong in the upcoming state election for his disgusting homophobic Facebook posts.
The Victorian Liberals are now trying to dump Deeming but she was well known for her transphobia when she was pre-selected for the upper house—replacing, ironically, Bernie Finn, who had been kicked out for being anti-abortion.
No one should have to choose between being who they are and having a job or a stable source of income.
Forty three per cent of trans people in Australia report they have attempted suicide. But instead of increasing benefits and services, the Labor government is spending billions on war-mongering and nuclear submarines.
While there have been substantial gains made by some unions more recently, the fight against transphobia has to be taken into every workplace. And gender affirmation leave should be enshrined in legislation, so no worker can be discriminated against.
The right-wing grows out of the misery created by capitalism. With unaffordable rents, growing inflation and the cost-of-living crisis that misery is getting worse. We need to step up the fight against transphobia and the system that creates it.
By Ian Rintoul