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.
In Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community, a teacher reported losing her job after revealing she was transgender.
It is alarming to read that a teacher has lost her job because she revealed her gender identity and not for any failure to perform her duties as a teacher.
This sends a message that transgender people cannot freely express their gender in a workplace that is exempt from adequate anti-discrimination protections, thereby making their workplace unsafe for them.
Transgender people experience significant levels of discrimination in society due to intolerance, which feeds into elevated levels of suicidal ideation. Schools should be places of learning and knowledge, not intolerance.
If a teacher was sacked for revealing a Jewish identity this would be seen as anti-Semitism, yet it seems there’s another standard for Jewish schools when the act of revealing a gender can lead to termination of employment.
This is a clear case of double standards and is entirely unacceptable.
LAST week in The AJN there was a full-page colour advertisement, authorised by Paul Monagle of the Australian Family Association. This advertisement is a scare tactic deliberately designed to stop people from voting yes to same-sex marriage by suggesting that doing so would somehow lead to children questioning their gender, as if that’s a bad thing.
There is no evidence that same-sex couples getting married leads to children questioning their gender identity. However that the Australian Family Association would promulgate such nonsense is unsurprising really.
It is alarming to see the advert in The AJN from a hate organisation like the AFA, one that seeks to destroy the lives of same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender-diverse people.
It’s also alarming that the advertisement makes the inaccurate claim that a London Jewish school was threatened with closure due to not teaching about “gender re-assignment and sexual orientation”. I had previously looked into these claims, made by Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, and found them to be not only devoid of facts but outright misleading.
The primary reason why the Vishnitz Girls School failed three Ofsted tests was because they failed to provide a safe environment for their students:
In fact, the school had also failed to put in place the correct procedures for the safety of children. That is, there was no system in place for reporting neglect or abuse of the students. This is something that should be of great concern to all, and certainly an urgent need to be addressed as religious schools struggle with child sexual abuse.
This information is online and readily available for all to see in the Ofsted reports.
The school was not threatened with closure as a direct or indirect result of marriage equality in the UK and it certainly had nothing to do with transgender people getting married. In fact, the legislation in the UK makes many provisions for equality and religious exemptions.
In Australia, transgender people can currently and do get married under civil law as long as the birth certificate of one spouse indicates male and the other’s indicates female.
The Marriage Act currently excludes people who are in a same-sex relationship, along with those who do not identify as exclusively female or exclusively male.
This latter group includes some intersex people, gender neutral people, and gender-fluid people.
So really, this advertisement in The AJN, attempting to whip up hysteria and fear around transgender people, is wrong on every level. It is misleading, inaccurate and one that should be condemned by the entire Jewish community.
The advert finishes with the words “Don’t let the same thing happen here.” Don’t fall for this slippery slope nonsense. Jewish schools will not be closed down if same-sex couples are allowed to get married. What schools teach is quite independent of the Marriage Act, an act of Parliament that just regulates marriages, not school curricula.
What will happen if same-sex couples are allowed to get married is their children will have happier parents and a more stable home environment. Same-sex couples will be afforded the same protections under the law heterosexual couples currently have, currently denied to us. There are actually quite a few protections marriage offers that those in a domestic partnership (gay or otherwise) do not have. Also, the few cases of married couples where one partner has gone through gender transition will not need to get divorced for the birth certificate of the transgender spouse to be corrected. This current requirement for divorce is cruel and unnecessary.
Jews have known discrimination for millennia. We are a people who have endured the worst crimes against humanity and we know what pain and suffering is. We also say “never again”. We should add to that “and not to others”.
If ever there has been a time for a community to come together as one and show solidarity for all Australians, it is now. We must recognise that it is fundamentally wrong to deny people equality before the law, interfere in other people’s relationships, spread lies and misinformation, and deny people their dignity.
Vote Yes for equality.
Vote Yes for respect.
Vote Yes for dignity.
Vote Yes because it’s the right thing to do.
Michael Barnett is convenor of Jewish LGBTIQ support and advocacy group Aleph Melbourne.
Transgender teen becomes youngest, and first ever LGBTI person to receive prestigious ADC Making a Difference Award
November 15, 2016
16-year-old transgender teen Georgie Stone, who has campaigned for transgender rights and for greater tolerance, has become the youngest, and first, LGBTI person to win the prestigious Anti-Defamation Commission’s (ADC) Making a Difference Award given to individuals who through their actions champion social change, confront hatred, and empower others to create a more inclusive, respectful society.
Dr. Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the ADC issued the following statement:
“Georgie is a remarkable young woman. Her courageous advocacy for the LGBTI community, and her unwavering, uplifting dedication to create a kinder and more tolerant Australia perfectly mirror our core mission of combatting discrimination and bigotry. She is a one-of-a-kind inspirational advocate for social change and a positive role model foryoung people to stand up to hatred and bullying. Her passionate voice reminds us that we all have a duty to bring greater awareness to the impact of bias, to advance equality and opportunity for all people and to build bridges of understanding.”
In accepting the award Georgie Stone said:
“It was an honour to receive the Making a Difference Award from the Anti-Defamation Commission. We have made so much progress in the fight for transgender rights, but there is still a long way to go. Our combined efforts will hopefully bring about the change in laws and acceptance that we need to progress as a society.”
The Anti-Defamation Commission, founded in 1979, is Australia’s leading civil rights organization fighting racism through educational programs that combat bigotry, prejudice and all forms of hatred.
For further information please contact Dr Dvir Abramovich on (03) 9272 5677.
With the increasing visibility of gender diverse people in the Australian Jewish community, it’s important to get an accurate understanding of how many identify beyond the gender binary of female and male.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has advised that in the 2016 Census, respondents may identify a non-binary gender if they so choose. This applies to people who do not always identify just as either one of male or female.
There are two official ways to achieve this:
If you are using a paper census form, leave the Female and Male box boxes blank and write in your preferred gender identity in the space next to them.
If you are using the online census form, call the Census Inquiry Service on 1300‑214‑531 and request a special online form that has an Other option for gender on it.
“The Good Son tells the poignant story of a young Israeli man … who takes the radical step of changing his gender: without telling his family first.” – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 2013.
This is the incredible story of Or, a 22-year-old Israeli man who plans to secretly have sex reassignment surgery. Or’s own home videos make up the first part of the film – the emotionally gruelling lead-up to the procedure, lying to his family about his acceptance to university abroad and stealing from them to pay for the operation in Thailand. Then he teams up with filmmaker Shirly Berkovitz, who not only documents the remainder of Or’s lonely and guilt-ridden journey through recovery and personal reinvention, but also acts as friend and confidant. Berkovitz captures Or’s first steps in her new life as a woman, talking with fellow transgender people and finally, confronting her family and the price of seeking her true identity. This is an extraordinary tale about overcoming self-doubt, conflicted loyalty and being true to one’s self.
To mark the end of Mental Health Week and yesterday’s National Coming Out Day, Marco Fink pens a piece in which she comes out as trans, after realising she is not alone and that support is always available. Marco Fink — October 12, 2014
YESTERDAY, I told the world that I’m a girl.
First, through a conversation with my parents, second by a Facebook post, and now via this article.
I’ve been thinking for a long time about the right way to talk to everyone about something so big. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of figuring out, but I’m ready and I want to be open and honest.
Growing up, everyone always said to “be a man” and others always told me I was a boy. Even though I didn’t always feel as though it really fit or felt right, I went along with it anyway.
As I got older I started to figure things out more. I was probably about 10 or 11 when I discovered the idea of a “transgender” person.
I was pretty freaked out. All the transphobia and horrible stereotypes I saw on TV and in movies had given me a pretty warped idea of what it meant to be trans*, and as an 11-year-old kid it was overwhelming. I hated it.
I buried my feelings and tried to make myself forget. It was the only way I could cope. I figured denial was easier, pretending I was fine and just forcing myself to power through. My logic was maybe if I ignored it and tried to force myself to “be a man”, maybe eventually I’d just “learn” to be like everyone else.
That didn’t work. Maybe for a few months, even sometimes a year or two, I’d be okay, but it would always come back. I’ve never been able to shake it.
When I was younger, I struggled with depression for many years, and like anyone battling mental health problems, I had some dark and low moments. Then one day one of my friends came out as a trans man. I’d met him through Minus18 a few years back at one of their summer social events. He was a year older than me and a close friend, I really looked up to him.
It was the first time I’d actually knowingly met another trans* person.
All the misconceptions I had about what it meant to be trans started melting away. My friend was still the same nice, kind, funny person as always. The only thing that changed was the name and pronouns we used when talking about him.
Up until that moment I hadn’t been able to accept myself. I had refused to accept myself because that meant admitting I was “different”. I thought it meant being alone. I thought it meant being excluded and mocked. But watching people love and accept my friend for who he was changed everything. It showed me how wrong I was about it all.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that my friends wouldn’t reject me, that society wouldn’t despise me, that my family would maybe even be able to accept me, just like his family did.
For LGBT youth it seems that that’s always the hardest part; feeling alone and isolated. So many people aren’t even aware of just how many other people are out there that can relate and share similar stories.
I found these stories by joining Minus18. It changed my life, and suddenly I was exposed to hundreds of other young people who “just got it”, who could help me through everything, and who would rebuild my confidence.
I finally worked up the courage to come out this week. I’d been waiting eagerly for National Coming Out Day.
My parents were shocked for sure, but they told me they loved me no matter what. The reactions on Facebook have been just as incredible. It’s been so freeing to finally be able to be myself and tell the world this is the girl I’m meant to be.
The sense of community and support Minus18 has given me has been enormous, and has provided that for thousands of other LGBT young people all over Victoria and Australia.
Sadly, the incredible support and love I’ve received by coming out as trans* isn’t the norm for Australian youth. With 66 per cent of gender-diverse and trans* young people experiencing transphobic abuse, there’s still such a long way to go before we can say they’re safe.
Minus18’s next big step, the Atrium, is a safe space where young people can meet other LGBT youth. It’s a space where young people come from all over Melbourne can come and be themselves. If I can provide just one more trans* young person with the amazing, supportive space that I was given, it’ll be the most incredible thing in the world.