Education Union Press for Gender Affirmation Leave at Tasmanian University

Education Union Press for Gender Affirmation Leave at Tasmanian University
A general view of Sydney University campus in Sydney, Australia, on April 6, 2016. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Marina Zhang

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the University of Tasmania (UTAS) are “locked in a battle” after UTAS declined to comply with the union’s request to provide up to 30 days’ leave for transgender staff.

The university currently offers 10 days of special leave for their staff irrespective of their gender, however, the NTEU slammed the option as it is “not specifically for trans and gender diverse people.”

Amy Sargent, National Convenor of the Queers Unionist in Tertiary Education (QUTE), a network of members of the NTEU advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community expressed that the “Gender Affirmation Leave will save the lives of tertiary education workers.”

Sargeant said that 10 days is not enough for staff, and called for a greater amount of leave given which “must be renewed each year so staff are afforded the security to seek assistance.”

Recovery time for gender affirmation surgery can take 6 to 8 weeks with extensive periods of rest in the first two weeks after surgery.

“The consequences can be too difficult to bear for many, deprived of income during a highly traumatic time in their lives of which they have no control over,” Sargent said.

The union has since released a petition calling for support for the leave to be implemented at the university, according to the NTEU, the petition has gained almost one thousand signatures.
So far, gender affirmation leave has been implemented at Deakin and Sydney University as well as the Northern Territory Government, with major corporations such as Woolworths, Allianz, TPG, Westpac and ANZ also taking part.

“Management at the University of Tasmania needs to listen to not only the union but those who have supported our petition and accept our requests,” Sargeant said.

However, despite increasing workplaces implementing gender affirmation leaves as part of staff benefits, advocates for the recognition of biological sex have “commended” the university’s stance against the 30 days of gender-transitioning leave.

Coalition for Biological Reality spokeswoman Stassja Frei told the Australian on April 28 that “workers need extra leave for all kinds of reasons—knee ­operations, the death of a child, crippling endometriosis,” Frei said.

“I’m surprised the union saw it as fair and equitable to single out transgender people as more deserving than other staff.

The discussions come amidst an election season where transgender rights have become a key election issue.

Liberal candidate for the seat of Warringah, Katherine Deves and biological-sex campaigner has spoken out against transgender women competing in female sports.

However, her statements faced a significant backlash after her previous comments on social media platforms surfaced, such as calling Wear it Purple Day—an annual LGBTQIA+ day for young people—a “grooming tactic” that pushed for “extreme body modification.”

In one of her deleted tweets in May 2021, Deves wrote: “They will not stand for seeing vulnerable children surgically mutilated and sterilised,” and attached a photo of a teenager who had undergone top surgery.

She has since alleged she has faced death and rape threats for her comments.
Though she expressed her apology, Deves said that she was confident in her win at the SBS interview on April 24 and in an email sent to Liberal supporters on April 18, she wrote that she “wasn’t going anywhere.”

“My opponents, parts of the left media and Twittersphere have been unrelenting in calling for me to be disendorsed, because of past statements,” her email wrote.

“I have been bullied in the most vile way and received death threats. I’m not going anywhere, as the Prime Minister said yesterday.”

Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at [email protected].
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