Flat White

Tickle vs. Giggle

4 July 2022

4:00 AM

4 July 2022

4:00 AM

A landmark case is about to hit the Federal Court that will either confirm or challenge the ongoing attempt by the Australian government to erase ‘women, ‘female’, and ‘girl’ as sex-based categories.

Tickle vs. Giggle could be the title of a tween pillow fight, but it is the culmination of years of the legal erasure in Australia of the link between Australian women as recognised legally and the vulnerabilities of the female body.

Sall Grover is a Gold Coast businesswoman who heads a social media company called Giggle. Giggle is an app for females. The intention of Giggle is to provide a safe digital space for women and girls, where they can find a flatmate, organise socially, date (if they are same-sex attracted), and chat in an environment free of males. You can read Sall’s story for yourself, which involves her recovery from the well-publicised systemic sexual abuse problems in the Californian film industry.

In the early days of the Giggle app, Sall was faced with the decision to make the app for women as a sex or women as a gender. After a sustained campaign of abuse and harassment by people calling themselves ‘transwomen’, Sall decided to make the app exclusively for females, including trans-identifying females or ‘transmen’. On Giggle, it would be the possession of female body, regardless of identity, that puts you in the ‘in’ crowd.

In January 2022, Sall Grover received a complaint from the Australian Human Rights Commission. The complaint was lodged by Roxy Tickle and referenced a tweet exchange between Sall and Roxy in January 2021 in regard to the McIver’s Ladies Baths in Sydney. The complaint also referenced interaction on the Giggle app where Roxy allegedly gained access and was removed on the basis of sex.

In the Twitter exchange between Sall and Roxy (that is still up), Sall argued that the McIver Baths should be reserved for women. Roxy told Sall that trans women are ‘morally and legally women’. No one has been able to tell me what it is to be ‘morally’ a woman.

In another interaction between Sall and Roxy in February 2021, Sall pointed out that there were many lesbian dating apps that include trans-identified males and some that are exclusively for trans people. In fact, it seems that all lesbian dating apps except for Giggle include trans-identified males, with some users making no effort to hide beards, male pattern baldness, or other clear signs that they are male in every way but pronouns and a girly often ‘porn star’ name.

Roxy Tickle tweeted in response:

Most trans folk don’t want to interact only with other trans folk on social media and dating apps. Sounds boring to me.’

Internationally, the issue of women being forced to recognise males as females has spawned an army of feminists and ordinary women to organise and oppose gender identity in law where it overrides women’s sex-based rights. In Australia, this opposition seems to have come far too late.

The replacement of sex with gender began in Australia with Julia Gillard’s reworking of the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013. The amendment ordered to repeal definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ ‘so that they are not interpreted so narrowly as to exclude, for example, a transgender woman from accessing protections from discrimination on the basis of other attributes contained in the SDA’.

Whether the Act intended to allow the sustained harassment of women and lesbians and vexatious litigation, we don’t know. I would like to see Julia Gillard’s opinion on the traumatic abuse that Sall Grover has sustained since deciding to keep her app single sex, some of this from blue tick media personalities and journalists. In Gillard’s defence, when the legislation was drafted, self ID was not enacted. ‘Self ID’ is considered best practice legislation by LGBTQ+ groups and allows a person to be legally recognised as the opposite sex with only the completion of a statutory declaration and is law in several Australian states.

Sall Grover received the initial AHRC complaint by Tickle not long after she announced her pregnancy on Twitter. The complaint remains unresolved because Sall refused to attend gender identity re-education and open her app to males. Even though Sall has blocked Tickle on Twitter, Tickle has attempted to interact with Grover on the Giggle app and even gained her personal mobile number, texting and calling her before Sall blocked the number.

Tickle has now filed for a hearing in the Federal Court against Giggle and Sall Grover personally. The filing has coincided with the end of Sall’s pregnancy and she will very shortly give birth to her daughter; a daughter who may be born into a country that affords no special legal protections or rights for the vulnerabilities of a female body. A country where some are determined that there is not one single space for women and girls to meet without males.

In some ways, Tickle is the person we have been waiting for – the person who is prepared to go to the Human Rights Commission to demand dating access to lesbians on the basis that ‘trans women are legally women’, and test if the law is in anyway able to protect women and girls from the kind of males who adopt the legal fiction that they are female, particularly in public spaces.

If a woman is only a legal and moral entity, bodies are irrelevant to rights and protections. Unfortunately, in the real world of being female, it is our bodies that make us vulnerable, weaker, and a target for rape, violence, and discrimination; if the law cannot see this sexed body, it has no capacity or obligation to protect it, and maybe that is the intention.

Over the years since the Gillard change of the Sex Discrimination Act, the word ‘sex’ has been slowly replaced in foundation legal protections and policy documents with ‘gender’. These words are not the same. The word ‘gender’ has changed over the years, but it can mean anything from the social meanings we give to sex to the internal feelings people have about themselves.

Many women in the UK have crowdfunded for legal cases like the one Sall Grover is facing and have seen some success. But there is no indication we will see the same success here. In the UK, sex is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act and thanks to the Australian Labor government this is not obviously the case in Australia.

The trans lobby will fight tooth and nail against women establishing sex as a protected characteristic. The conflict between gender-critical feminists and the trans lobby can be seen as a spectrum with gender self ID at one end and sex as a protected characteristic at the other; the two are mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, this is by no means a fair fight. Gender identity is a top-down movement, and the push for sex-based rights is bottom-up. Tickle will seek assistance from affiliates of billion-dollar law firms like Dentons, while Giggle and Grover will look to crown funding predominately from ordinary women.

The trans lobby will base their case on the faith belief that ‘trans women are women’ and are no danger to ‘cis women’. The new binary of ‘trans’ and ‘cis’ places ‘cis’ as an oppressor class over trans. ‘Cis’ privilege is an imaginary power that obliges women to give way to our ‘trans’ sisters in every single building, space, law, or platform that our mothers have fought for to protect our bodies.

‘Trans women’ we are told must be trusted without question by women, mothers, lesbians, and children in exactly that same way as biological women are, not because, as in days of old, that these males are physically or chemically castrated, but just because they have a special female essence or morality. Like it or not, women don’t always trust men who claim to have mystical powers that make them innocuous.

‘Trans’ is no longer what we used to understand as a transexual. ‘Trans’ has become the priest class of a state religion. Women are expected to submit to this religion or be punished in the way Sall Grover has been; marginalised, abused, served with government papers, and if the gender gods are with them, bankrupted.

If Tickle wins, it will establish that males have a legal right, not just to the female sex category, but all female spaces, to view the female naked body in those spaces and to expose his male body to women and girls in public female facilities. It will also compel women to submit to the state-mandated definition of a woman, which makes her not just a subset of her own sex class, but an underclass.

Reflecting this in a dystopian tweet in February last year, Tickle insisted that Sall Grover should not refer to herself as ‘female’. Tickle said, ‘You keep on using the word “female” but I think you mean cis female?… with an F on my birth certificate … I am legally female in Australia. All of my cis girlfriends treat me the same as them.’

Grover replied, ‘For me, being treated as female is getting death threats.’

Edie Wyatt has a BA Hons from the Institute of Cultural Policy Studies and writes on culture, politics and feminism. She tweets at @MsEdieWyatt and blogs at ediewyatt.com

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