OPINION: Tasmania’s new gender laws recognise trans people at last

by Dede River | Transforming Tasmania
Monday, 15 April 2019 09:04 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Gender-optional birth certificates and other reforms will only affect gender-diverse and intersex Tasmanians

Dede River is the spokesperson of Transforming Tasmania

Tasmania’s gender laws made world news when they were passed in parliament last week, with headlines mainly emphasising that people can now leave gender markers off birth certificates.

With marriage equality, the only legal reason to include gender - preventing same-sex marriage - disappears. There are no legal implications to removing gender, and in all jurisdictions in Australia gender no longer appears on driver’s licences. This has been the case in most states for more than a decade.

No one noticed - except transgender people.

While the ability to leave gender off Tasmania’s birth certificates is a landmark move, the legislation should be seen as a whole, and in context. For one, it still falls short of international standards by having inclusion of gender as an option.

Reporting “balance” should also be fact-based, not including misinformation and false claims from anti-LGBT+ groups. For example, to display gender markers or not is an option. There is no default - it is not “opt in” or “opt out”.

The law is vital because it also allows trans people to change their gender without surgery and without medical certificates. These requirements are often a means of enforcing gender norms, of proving that someone is “trans enough”.

The law also eliminates the need for married trans people to divorce loved partners in order to gain legal recognition.

One of the most important aspects of this law is the ability of supportive parents to apply for children under the age of 16 to change gender.

For young trans people, particularly those who transition in early childhood, this allows them to live with a minimum of discrimination. Freeing legal gender change from surgery and medical requirements means there is less pressure for children to have unwanted intervention.

The law also lowers the age that people can apply for a gender change without parental consent to 16.

This is the age at which people can live independently and have a full-time job. It is also an age at which trans youth in conflict with parents may find themselves on their own.

Birth certificates, specifically, are often demanded as proof of age for 16-year-olds. Having the wrong gender on identity documents exposes these young people to discrimination and makes finding a job more difficult.

The previous laws were problematic and this week’s changes have been sought for many years. This was the first opportunity since 2001 to amend the laws governing birth certificate laws, for example.

But a series of delays in addressing the legislation meant that organised groups like the Australian Christian Lobby (an anti-LGBT+ group) the Catholic Church, and a trans-exclusionary women’s group conducted a campaign of fear and hatred, abetted by the media.

Yet the bill will impact almost no one except the gender-diverse and intersex community.

Fears of “men in dresses” in “women’s spaces” have been debunked. Trans people exist and use toilets now. Women’s services have been inclusive of trans people for years and have said there are no problems, and that trans women are victims, not perpetrators, of violence.

Trans children are in schools and have been there for many years. The police have policies of respect for LGBT+ people. Sports groups too.

Trans people exist, whether legally acknowledged or not, and organisations already work with that.

The only real change this will make is that trans people will be able to have ID that matches their lived gender. No one who is cisgender (not trans) will be affected. And no parent will be forced to have genderless birth certificates.