Woman trespassed from Ministry of Social Development office in Dunedin after getting upset over gender-inclusive poster

  • 19/10/2022

The Media Council upheld complaints about this Newshub story under Principle (12) for 'the delay and unsatisfactory correction.'   The complaints were not upheld on Principles (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), or (9).   You can read the full ruling on the Media Council's website here

A woman has been trespassed from a Ministry of Social Development (MSD) office in Dunedin after she got upset over a poster inviting visitors to tell staff their pronouns.

The woman was at her appointment on Monday at the MSD office on the corner of Hillside Road and Rankeilor Street in South Dunedin, when she became upset and angry at two posters in the building.

The office reportedly had a rainbow poster and another poster inviting people to tell staff their pronouns if they wanted to.

In a video the woman recorded and posted online, she said she approached staff to ask "why there was a poster up promoting child sterilisation and males in female-only spaces". 

In New Zealand, the minimum age for gender reassignment surgery is 18 years old. Younger people can be prescribed by a health professional puberty blockers, which is a safe and reversible medication used to halt the progress of potentially unwanted puberty-related physical changes, according to Ministry of Health guidance.

MSD southern regional commissioner Steph Voight told Newshub the service centre manager spoke with the woman about her concerns and explained that MSD wants everyone to feel welcome and respected when they visit their service centres. But Voight said the person's behaviour prompted the manager to ask that they leave.

The woman, however, refused and the police were called.

A police spokesperson said officers escorted her from the building and trespassed her from the premises as she was exhibiting "disorderly behaviour" and was refusing to leave.

In the video, which was filmed outside the building, the woman said she wouldn't leave until the poster was removed. 

"They called the police on me, they wanted to arrest me, which I said was completely fine," she said.

One officer is then heard telling her: "You've been asked to go home."

The woman said she can "get a bit heated when it comes to this stuff", but added she's "more than happy to be arrested for stuff like this".

Voight said MSD is committed to providing services to clients and interacting with the public in sites that are safe, secure and fit for purpose.

"We want to provide services that reflect who people are, so they feel included and respected. We encourage all our staff to make an effort to respect identities by checking what pronouns people use."

This story was amended on November 2 to remove a reference to false arguments used by anti-transgender people.