Content warning: This article discusses transphobia, rape, and violence.

This election, we’re looking at the key issues affecting young voters, breaking down stats on the reality of the situation, what young voters think about it, and later, once they’re all announced, the policies from different parties on the issue.

In this piece, we look at stats on trans rights and safety.

At a glance: 

Read: What are each political party planning to do for rainbow rights? Here are all the policies broken down.

If you’re on social media, you may have noticed a change in the rhetoric around trans people.

Comment sections, which sometimes aren’t even about gender or sexuality, can quickly turn transphobic and disturbing.

Earlier this year The Disinformation Project, an independent research group, studied the online hate towards trans people and found it is so extreme it could be considered “genocidal”.

Its research showed since April 2022, extreme anti-vaccination and anti-mandate groups switched their focus to trans hate once vaccine restrictions eased and government policies and media coverage moved on from Covid-19.

This movement quickly intensified when British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, known as Posie Parker, travelled to New Zealand in March 2023.

Why it matters

Now, anti-trans politics has infiltrated this year's election.

New Zealand First has proposed a law that would require new public toilets to provide "clearly demarcated" unisex and single-sex bathrooms. And current toilets would not be allowed to be used by anyone of the opposite sex.

“Men have no place in women’s bathrooms,” New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said. “Women and young girls should be safe and feel safe when they go to a public bathroom.”

The fear is that trans women are a threat to cis women or girls in bathrooms. This sentiment mirrors Posie Parker’s campaign to remove trans women from ‘women-only spaces’ because she says cis women “across New Zealand are very very afraid" to share these spaces.

In a since-deleted video from 2021, Parker even invited men with guns to start using women’s toilets to protect cis women from trans women.  

However, statistic after statistic shows trans people are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime compared to cisgendered people. 

Watch: Trans bathroom safety explained

What the numbers show

Trans people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime, according to the Williams Institute, a public policy research institute focused on sexual orientation and gender identity issues in the United States.

Counting Ourselves, the first in-depth New Zealand survey of trans and non-binary people in 2019, found one-third (32%) of non-binary and trans New Zealanders have been raped. This is compared to 3% of cis males and 11% of cis females.

Only 4% of trans and non-binary people sought help from the police after being raped and many avoid seeing a doctor for fear of being mistreated.

Local data on the connection between bathroom safety and trans people is limited but a study from Harvard University found trans and non-binary teens face a higher risk of sexual assault in schools that prevent them from using bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The study found that 26% of trans or non-binary students in the study reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months. 

That number increased to 36% for trans or non-binary students who could not access appropriate bathrooms at their school.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that letting trans people use public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks, according to Williams Institute.

“Toilets and child safety have become the catch cries. And both of those things are based on false information,” says Nicole Skews-Poole, the director of communications at The Disinformation Project. 

“This idea of trans people preying on children is a recycled piece of narrative bigotry that we saw in the 80s and 90s. So it's literally straight out of that same homophobic book where you basically claim that people are grooming children or harming women and it immediately alarms people who might not have previously cared about trans rights.

“This fear-mongering is an absolute flipping over of what’s correct and who poses a threat to who,” she says.

Hate speech legislation delayed

Despite online hate towards trans people mimicking “genocide”, amending hate speech laws to include gender was delayed by the Labour Party until after the election. 

After the Christchurch mosque attacks, hate speech laws were amended to include religious communities. However, the explicit protection for rainbow and disability communities was put off.

Skews-Poole says “it's important to not underplay the seriousness of transphobia and the impact that it's having, especially now seeing politicians picking up transphobic talking points and running with them.”

“But it doesn't match the average New Zealander’s view. When Posie Parker came to New Zealand we saw the overwhelming number of people who were in solidarity with our trans whānau."

A global survey of 30 countries in 2023 found New Zealand scored highest when it came to people wanting protection from discrimination for trans people - 84% of New Zealanders said trans people should be protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and access to businesses. 

But this number dropped (in New Zealand and globally) when it came to trans people being allowed access to single-sex spaces according to their gender identity. In New Zealand specifically, it was 55% in support, with 17% not sure.

“Regardless of whether wider society is starting to slowly be transformative, those threats and also the outcomes that they are wanting - that essentially trans people should stop existing, especially in the public sphere - needs to be taken very seriously,” Skews-Poole says.

Keep an eye on Re: News in the weeks before the election - we’ll wrap up all of the party's policies around rainbow communities. 

Where to get help:

  • 1737: The nationwide, 24/7 mental health support line. Call or text 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor.
  • Suicide Crisis Line: Free call 0508 TAUTOKO or 0508 828 865. Nationwide 24/7 support line operated by experienced counsellors with advanced suicide prevention training. 
  • Youthline: Free call 0800 376 633, free text 234. Nationwide service focused on supporting young people.
  • OUTLine NZ: Freephone 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463). National service that helps LGBTIQ+ New Zealanders access support, information and a sense of community. 

Here are some helplines specific to sexual assault:

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