Nine Days Into His New Job, Perth’s Lord Mayor Said He Doesn’t Think Trans People Exist
He's since apologised, calling it "radio banter gone wrong".
Just a little more than one week into his position, the newly elected Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas — a radio personality and sports journalist — has told trans people they don’t exist.
Zempilas’ comments came on Wednesday morning on his Perth breakfast radio show on station 6PR, which is owned by Nine.
As per Out In Perth, he and co-host Steve Mills were discussing a Vogue cover essay by model Emily Ratajkowski on her pregnancy, and why she wants to raise her child without a gender until it is eighteen, where, as an adult, it can decide for itself.
Zempilas scoffed at the idea, saying that genitals determine gender and playing a ‘buzzer’ noise in the background.
“How do you get through until you’re 18 by doing that? If the child’s got an ‘old fella’, that’s gonna make it a little difficult if that person’s trying to get into the ladies cubicles and the like. I mean, at school, I don’t know that they’re gonna be happy,” Zempilas said.
Mills said that goes against the ‘new era’ of thinking, to which Zempilas doubled-down.
“No. Wrong. Wrong. If you’ve got a penis, mate, you are a bloke. If you’ve got a vagina, you’re a woman. Game over,” he said.
Mills disagrees, to which Zempilas says he’s going ‘softy lefty, lamby pamby’. Zempilas then invited anybody who ‘has a penis but is a woman’ to call, with the promise of potentially winning a $100 voucher for home appliance store Retravision.
Mills then asked Zempilas how he will ‘handle’ meeting transgender City of Perth residents, to which the Lord Mayor quipped “handle the penis?” and said there were ‘more redheads listening than there is hermaphrodites’.
You can listen to the segment below or on Out In Perth‘s SoundCloud.
The comments come a week away from PrideFest, Perth’s largest LGBTIQ festival, and have been dismissed as harmful and ignorant by LGBTIQ groups and figures, as someone’s biological sex does not determine their gender.
TransFolk WA chair Hunter Gurevich called the comments “repugnant, bigoted [and] narrow-minded” and dangerous.
“[They] puts LGBTQIA+ people at increased risk of harm, when we are already a vulnerable group in society,” he said in a statement.
After his comments were widely criticised, Zempilas said he was ‘very sorry’ on today’s show, and that he is ‘mortified’ if anyone was hurt by his comments. He also told Out in Perth he’d apologise to anyone who was offended.
New Lord Mayor of Perth wasting no time in destroying the City's relationship with its LGBTQIA+ community. The shock-jock-as-mayor strategy is 9 days old. Just 1,088 days to go. https://t.co/R1e726C001
— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) October 28, 2020
“If anyone was offended that was not our intention, and I would apologise.” Zempilas told the LGBTIQ+ publication.
“I’ve caused people significant duress, and that was not my intention, but what’s more disappointing is I understand is indeed how people live their lives and I am aware of that. I was aware of that yesterday, but it was radio banter gone wrong.”
He also said he was looking forward to attending PrideFest, which comes after calls to move the festival away from the City of Perth. More than 1000 people have signed a Change.org petition to move the festival to Vincent due to Zempilas’ comments, “a more progressive and stable part of Perth”.
Zempilas was elected Lord Mayor of Perth last week with just a few hundred more votes than his nearest competitor.
His campaign was criticised for having the support of The West Australian, where he is a columnist, as well as the media pull of his daily radio show and his appearances across Channel 7. During his campaign, he was warned by the WA Electoral Commission that his columns must be authorised by his campaign, as they were essentially ads. Zempilas will step down from 6PR in the coming weeks, but can continue his column and TV appearances as a commentator.
He was elected on a platform of ‘zero tolerance’ towards ‘anti-social behaviour’, an increase of police and the city’s CCTV network, and also a ‘support’ of allowing homeless people to sleep in car parks.
Prior to running, he wrote a column in The West Australian saying that if he were mayor, he would “forcibly” remove homeless people from the city centre. Great dude.