Lord Mayor backs off bigotry
Perth’s Lord Mayor has apologised for comments he made about transgender people on breakfast radio.
Basil Zempilas was elected Lord Mayor earlier this month after a campaign marked by alleged favouritism by his media employers.
This week, he told listeners of his 6PR breakfast show that it is “wrong” for someone to identify their own gender.
Mr Zempilas suggested that someone else’s identity is a matter for him, and is defined by crude and simplistic measures.
“If you've got a penis mate, you're a bloke,” he said on Wednesday.
“If you've got a vagina, you're a woman. Game over,” the Lord Mayor said, before laughing off the suggestion that he would come into contact with transgender people in his new mayoral role.
Mr Zempilas offered a $100 store voucher to any woman with a penis that called in to his show. None took him up on the offer.
When his co-host informed the Lord Mayor that many did not share the same bigotry, Mr Zempilas replied: “Well mate, if you want to go softy, lefty, namby-pamby”.
TransFolk WA chair Hunter Gurevich slammed Mr Zempilas's comments.
“These comments are repugnant, bigoted, narrow-minded, parochial and fundamentally deny contemporary science,” he said.
He suggested the Lord Mayor undertake transgender awareness training.
Pride WA president Curtis Ward said Mr Zempilas's comments could fuel stigma and “rampant” mental health issues among transgender people.
“I think people need to be educating themselves about what they're speaking about and if they do have that stage, and they are commanding such a large audience, they should be making educated statements,” he said.
Mr Zempilas issued an apology, saying; “The comments were inappropriate and I apologise. It was early morning radio banter gone wrong”, in a text message to reporters.
“The comments do not reflect how I feel. I did not intend to cause any offence and I am sorry. It will not happen again.”
He gave a more expanded apology on his radio show. He used a frequent defence for those caught by their own words, saying that the words he said were not the words he meant.
It is difficult to judge the genuineness of his apology, given that he appears to have a habit of speaking entire sentences that he does not mean.
“I understand that that is indeed how people live their lives … I was aware of that yesterday,” he said.
“Those comments don't reflect my values, they don't reflect the values of 6PR or Channel 7, they don't reflect the values of the City of Perth.
“I had a very strong talking to from my wife last night. They don't represent her values. Her best friend is gay.”
Mr Zempilas has been pushed to apologise for comments in the past, including saying he would “forcibly remove” homeless people from Perth's streets, labelling them a “blight”.