In essence this legislative reform will allow transgender and gender diverse Victorians to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
This simple reform will make a huge difference to the lives of those people who are currently unable to easily align their birth certificate with their affirmed gender.
The Jewish community, along with other communities across the state, will benefit from this reform, as its trans and gender diverse people can start living fuller, more meaningful lives, participating in activities that other people take for granted.
Aleph Melbourne commends these reforms, but also notes they are substandard to the recent Tasmanian reforms that made gender optional on birth certificates.
Aleph Melbourne Contact: Michael Barnett / firstname.lastname@example.org / 0417-595-541
About Aleph Melbourne: Aleph Melbourne is a social, support and advocacy group for same-sex attracted, trans and gender diverse, and intersex people (and allies) who have a Jewish heritage, living in Melbourne, Australia.
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (12:18:48): I rise to make some comments on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2019 and note from the outset that there are many sensitivities, debate and some wideranging views in this legislation that is before the house. I also want to say that as somebody that has been a very proud supporter of the LGBTIQ community, when it comes to equality—whether it be of sex, race or religion—I have always sought to champion these causes. There have certainly been some very strong contributions made today, and very much the member for Oakleigh talked about ideally not being having labels and treating everybody as individuals, as one and all the same. I would certainly hope we get to a day when we can do that and we do not have to pass laws because of inequalities of action. But there are aspects of this bill that certainly the opposition has issues with, and there have already been contributions from some of my colleagues that have raised some of these issues. Firstly, can I say the issue of gender identification and the support for the rights of individuals to live their lives the way they wish to live according to their gender identity is certainly something that I support, but this is more than just gender identification; it does go to the crux of some of the laws that exist. As many have stated, there is a clear difference between how people identify their gender and how legal records are kept in the case of birth certificates. Birth certificates exist to record a person’s record of birth, and birth certificates are intended to record biological sex rather than gender identity. They are used for a whole range of record keeping through a number of different government agencies for a whole range of planning and so on in terms of the historical record of somebody’s sex at birth. The actual legislation is to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 to remove the requirements for somebody that has undergone sex affirmation surgery while allowing for applications to alter birth certificates also on behalf of children. Basically what this does is allow for self-identification of gender. Essentially we debated this bill back in 2016, and there has also been some commonwealth equality legislation that has been added to since then. Clause 8 looks at a person changing their sex without having to undergo affirmation surgery and how this works, with an application done in good faith. Also the bill permits application for a child’s record of sex to be altered in their birth registration. As with adults, children are not required to undergo treatment as part of this process. Also, where there is a dispute the court will be satisfied that the change is in the child’s best interests. As part of the briefing I understand the department advised that the test used to change the sex descriptor closely follows the process used for changing your name for administrative convenience, notwithstanding the fact that changing your name or your sex are two very different propositions, particularly when you are changing legal documents. Clause 13—and this is where I want to spend a bit of time in terms of my contribution—deals with changes when it comes to both adults and juveniles in detention and under supervision, such as prisoners and parolees who make an application to alter their recorded sex. As the Shadow Minister for Police, Shadow Minister for Community Safety and Shadow Minister for Corrections, this is something that I think is very important for us to spend some time with. The only additional condition is the prior approval of the supervising authority—for example, the Adult Parole Board of Victoria—who is to consider the application’s reasonableness, including the security, safety and wellbeing of applicants and others. This is a very sensitive area. I will also say at the outset that the trans community is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to community safety, both in the community and corrections facilities. We have seen a number of incidents in corrections facilities where a trans member has been attacked. Certainly there are a number of concerns for authorities when it comes to this. Also, in terms of the changes, concerns around looking at tracking sex offenders, prisoners and those on parole have been raised. On the provisions for serious sex offenders, prisoners and parolees, the information has been vague and lacks a lot of detail when it comes to this bill. There have certainly been a number of cases that have been raised. I know the Canadian case of trans woman Jessica Yaniv, who took 16 beauticians to the Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to wax her scrotum in a Brazilian wax. I know that has been raised. But there have been some even more specific issues in terms of within the prisons themselves. I note that prisons must balance the welfare of transgender offenders with offenders, particularly women, whose safety could be threatened by prisoners who were born male. An example that I want to cite is Karen White in the UK. Karen White was a convicted paedophile who now identifies as a woman. She assaulted two prisoners while in a women’s jail in 2017. This is absolutely a case where the safety of those in the prison was certainly not dealt with well. As Richard Garside from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies says, ‘We have a clash of rights’, and it is balancing those rights which is really, really important. But community safety should always be paramount in terms of whatever we look at. The member for Ripon raised a number of issues around women’s groups and women’s rights. I also note the comments I have received from the Victorian Women’s Guild, particularly around equal opportunity and protecting single-sex spaces—very, very important issues. Also, as the member for Ripon said, there are not many jurisdictions that have gone down this path, and it is great to be a leader in some respects in terms of what you do, but when you are changing such important legislation as this, it is important to have very broad consultation. I note that a number of those women’s groups were not properly consulted on this. We just need to make sure we get things right. We talk a lot about equal opportunity in this place and we talk a lot about trying to balance things when it comes women, and I think it is important that we have that proper consultation. Back to justice, interestingly enough what the UK prison system has done since the Karen White issue is set up a transgender wing, looking to resolve the clash of women’s rights. The prison service reckons there are about 139 transgender inmates in England, and they must balance the welfare of transgender offenders with those other prisoners, particularly women, whose safety could be threatened by prisoners who were born male. It cited the Karen White incident and has gone as far as to actually look at a prison system that protects both the transgender community and the broader community as well. These are really important issues that I raise, because in the justice system we do quite often see people that are very, very vulnerable. We do need to make sure that all of those processes are properly considered to ensure that people’s safety is absolutely paramount. These are some of the things we should be exploring. We need to understand in this Parliament when we change laws what the consequences are, and ensure that those consequences are always protected in terms of community safety. There is no doubt we need to do more. We need to do more in terms of equality, we absolutely need to do more in terms of the LGBTIQ community and we need to do more in terms of discrimination in a broader sense. But the issues in terms of this bill are certainly some that need further exploring to ensure that there are those safeguards and to ensure that we have got things right, because at the end of the day, when it comes to these sorts of situations, we do not get a second chance.