‘Demeaning’ anti-trans merch sold for female-only app

Belad Al-karkhey |

Giggle for Girls founder Sall Grover defended blocking a trans user from the female-only platform.
Giggle for Girls founder Sall Grover defended blocking a trans user from the female-only platform.

Profits made from selling “offensive” branded merchandise went towards supporting a female-only platform that denied a trans woman access, a court has heard.

Giggle for Girls founder Sall Grover took to the stand in a landmark transgender-rights case in the Federal Court on Wednesday, when she defended her actions in blocking Roxanne Tickle from the platform.

Ms Tickle is suing the app on the grounds of gender-identity discrimination after having her access restricted in September 2021.

Ms Grover refused to acknowledge the ex-user’s gender identity, despite a birth certificate listing her as female, the court heard.

Her company has received crowdfunding from the sale of “Team Giggle” merchandise on an Etsy storefront since the case was launched.

One of the items displayed is a scented candle labelled “Sweaty Balls Team Giggle” that bears a cartoon image of Ms Tickle.

Ms Grover giggled when she saw pictures of the merchandise in court, a reaction Ms Tickle’s lawyer Georgina Costello criticised due to the “deeply offensive” and “demeaning” content.

The Giggle for Girls chief executive said Ms Tickle might feel upset, but what could be considered offensive was a subjective issue.

The merchandise was produced by a supporter initially unknown to Ms Grover, but who had since become a close friend.

“I’ve only ever gone on there once to buy the T-shirt – one for myself and one for my daughter,” she said.

Mugs and T-shirts displayed on the site bear the words “Team Giggle”.

Ms Costello earlier said Ms Grover’s denial of her client’s identity by repeatedly referring to her as a man bordered on gender discrimination.

But Ms Grover defended her statements, saying it was unkind “to expect a woman to see a man as a woman”.

Roxanne Tickle arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney
Roxanne Tickle is suing Giggle for Girls after her access was blocked to the female-only platform. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

The court previously heard Ms Tickle had lived as a woman since 2017, including having surgery, taking hormones and telling family and friends of her decision.

“Up until this instance, everybody has treated me as a woman,” she said.

The app uses gender detection software to examine a selfie uploaded by the user and rejects applicants deemed to be male.

Ms Tickle was initially admitted but later excluded when a human moderator assessed her photo.

Ms Tickle sent eight emails between October 4 and November 5 after being blocked from the platform, while Ms Grover responded once.

In that reply, the Giggle founder requested that the blocked user send her phone number so that she could personally investigate what happened.

Ms Costello said Ms Grover had created an “unfair characterisation” of Ms Tickle when she labelled her emails and phone calls a form of harassment in interviews with UK and Australian media outlets.

But Ms Grover said no other app user had ever called her and she had not previously received emails of a similar nature.

When asked if she would have an issue if a woman – based on her definition – contacted her in the same way as Ms Tickle, she said the question was difficult to answer.

“I wouldn’t be in this position with a female … there would be no reason to,” Ms Grover said.

It is the first time the Federal Court has heard a case alleging gender identity discrimination.

The hearing continues.

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