A trans woman’s lawsuit against the women-only networking app Giggle will challenge the protections of gender identity under the Sex Discrimination Act.
Founded by Gold Coast businesswoman Sall Grover, Giggle was created to allow women and girls to chat online in a gender-free environment.
It requires users to upload a photo of themselves and “biometric gender verification software” then determines whether the person is female.
Trans woman Roxanne Tickle, who was denied access to the app, is suing Sall and Giggle in Federal Court for unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Commission Act.
The landmark case aims to test the conflict between sex and gender identity in Australian law, with Sall claiming that the Sex Discrimination Act is constitutionally void.
Trans woman Roxanne Tickle (above) joined the women-only app Giggle in early 2021 when a selfie she uploaded passed automatic gender recognition technology. Rosanne was removed after Giggle founder Sall Grover thought the photo was of a man
Changes made to the Sex Discrimination Act by the Gillard administration in 2013 made it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of sex and removed the definitions of a man and a woman.
Sall’s legal team will argue that those amendments go against the Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women (CEDAW), which the law was created to take effect.
Roxanne has been trying to access Giggle since early 2021, when she got through automatic gender recognition technology.
The 53-year-old was removed from Giggle when a standard manual check was performed.
Sall said that at the time she deleted Roxanne, she didn’t know she was transgender, only seeing an uploaded photo of a person she thought was a man.
Roxanne, from Lismore in northern New South Wales, emailed and texted Sall asking why she had been removed.
Giggle was founded by Gold Coast businesswoman Sall Grover (above) to allow women and girls to chat online in a gender-free environment. It requires users to upload a picture of themselves and the software then determines if the person is female
When Sall refused her entry, Roxanne filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
Sall rejected the mediation, and federal court documents were served last October.
Tickle had made the same claim in July last year, but withdrew it before the case went to court.
In Roxanne’s application for Giggle membership, she said that although her gender was male at birth, her birth certificate was re-issued to say she was female and a letter from her doctor confirmed that her gender was female.
“I am legally allowed to identify as female,” she wrote.
Roxanne said she felt “increasingly uncomfortable” with statements made by Sall on Twitter and in interviews with local and international media outlets, as well as posts from Sall and others on the Giggle app.
In a new lawsuit filed in December, Roxanne said she was seeking damages, a written apology and access to Giggle.
Sall’s legal team argues that there is a clear conflict between women’s gender-based rights and the rights of those claiming a gender identity.
In Roxanne’s application for Giggle membership, she said that although her gender was male at birth, her birth certificate was re-issued to say she was female and a letter from her doctor confirmed that her gender was female. Roxanne is in the photo
They claim that Sall and Giggle did not discriminate against Roxanne based on gender identity, but rather based on her gender.
Discrimination on that basis is protected by law when deemed necessary to protect or achieve equality for women.
The case had its first hearing on Feb. 18 when Giggle’s attorney Bridie Nolan told the court that Sall intended to raise “constitutional matters” and that the attorney general might want to be heard.
Judge Robert Bromwich said: ‘This is the sort of case, without going into the ins and outs of it, where there are likely to be … strongly opposing views.’
Rachael Wong, CEO of Women’s Forum Australia, said the case would be the first opportunity to resolve the conflict between sex and gender and test whether sex is still a “protected attribute” in Australia.
“If the laws that undermine sex-based rights are found to be unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, laws across the country that protect gender identity could become invalid,” Rachael said.
Giggle is set up as an online environment without men and boys
“As a result, gender-based protections for women and girls would be restored in terms of their rights to women-only spaces, services, sports and so on.
“Any other instance where a man tries to force himself into a women-only space would be considered wildly inappropriate.”
Holly Lawford-Smith, an associate professor of political philosophy at the University of Melbourne, said the Sex Discrimination Act protected transgender people from discrimination based on their gender identity.
“It will be interesting to see if the courts interpret this to mean that they cannot be recognized or treated as their gender for any purpose, either by AI (artificial intelligence) or by companies offering same-sex services,” Holly said.
“There has been confusion among many service providers about how to deal with the interplay between sex and gender identity.
Can a women-only app exclude all men? Or just the men who don’t also identify as women? This case is important because it will bring clarity to that issue.”
Rachael Wong, CEO of Women’s Forum Australia, said Roxanne’s case against Giggle would be the first opportunity to resolve the conflict between sex and gender and test whether sex is still a ‘protected characteristic’ in Australia. Rachel is in the picture
Holly said the case would determine whether sex and gender identity should be confused in the law, as it had done since the Gillard administration struck down definitions of man and woman in the 2013 Sex Discrimination Amendment Act.
“This case dramatizes the problem at the heart of gender identity theory: that gender identity is private, so the individual is the authority over it,” she said.
‘An AI that detects ‘gender identity’ can only guess; a service provider of the same sex should defer to the customer. This effectively makes offering same-sex services impossible.
“Hopefully the judge will take the opportunity to address this bizarre and unsustainable situation.”
Roxanne said she was unable to comment and her lawyers, Barry Nilsson, also declined to comment on the case.
A spokesman for Australia’s Human Rights Commission said it was not appropriate to comment on the case, which is set for trial on April 28.