Birth certificate reforms will deliver respect and recognition for trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians

The Victorian Legislative Assembly will debate proposed birth certificate reforms that will remove barriers for trans, gender diverse and intersex people accessing birth certificates that reflect the gender they live as.

Transgender Victoria's Chair Brenda Appleton, said the reforms would have enormous benefit for trans and gender diverse people.

"This is a profoundly important reform for our community, as many of us are currently prevented from changing the most basic form of documentation to reflect our true identity," said Ms Appleton.

Currently individuals are required to undergo surgery on their reproductive organs in order to change their birth certificate and must be unmarried. The Births, Deaths & Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 (Vic) would:

  • allow adults to change their legal sex through an administrative process without the need for medical treatment;
  • end the need for those applying for new birth certificates to be unmarried;
  • enable recognition for people who identify outside the male and female categories; and
  • allow trans children to change their birth certificates with the support of their parents and doctor.

"Gender diverse people face problems everyday accessing services and facilities most Australians use without thinking twice, because their identity documents do not match the gender they live as," said Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation at the Human Rights Law Centre.

“In other countries where similar laws have been introduced – including Ireland, Argentina, Malta and Uruguay – the changes have delivered enormous benefits for trans, gender diverse and intersex people by allowing people to access official identification that matches who they are. International experience shows these reforms work," added Ms Brown. 

Transgender man Aram Hosie was able to change his birth certificate in Western Australia to match his gender identity and says the impact was life changing.

“Having documents that reflect who I am has made a huge difference to my life. Previously I would have trouble convincing people of my identity because of the extreme mismatch between what they saw on paper and what they saw when they looked at me. Having identification that matches who I am means I now no longer need to worry about this happening - whether it's when I'm applying for a job, renewing my licence, or opening a bank account. I am so glad that this law will make it much easier for other trans people in Victoria to enjoy the same thing.”

The requirement for surgery currently prevents the bulk of trans and gender diverse people from accessing birth certificates in the gender they live as.

“Surgery is expensive and always carries some risk. I have a history of complications when I've had prior surgeries. It would be reckless and dangerous to have any further medically unnecessary surgery simply for the sake of paperwork,” said Mr Hosie.

The removal of onerous requirements to produce medical evidence has also been welcomed by intersex advocates.

“A formal process that does not require me to see yet more doctors and psychological experts or submit myself to an onerous bureaucratic process would be indescribably wonderful,” said Gina Wilson, intersex advocate, who was born with a mix of male and female physical sex characteristics.

“I say that as a person who has for all my life been the subject of medical interventions and psychological assessments on account of my Intersex. I say it as an elder who would take that document into my old age where it would no doubt smooth the passage into all those things ageing and aged folk need, in home care, medical treatment, aged care accommodation and perhaps palliative care. I can’t think of a corner of my life that would not be changed for the better if I was at last able to produce documentation that reflected my real sex and gender,” added Gina Wilson.

Under the proposed reforms people who do not identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ would also be able to have a birth certificate issued with their correct sex or gender.

“For the Victorian Parliament to say ‘we give you here a document that acknowledges the truth of your life’ would be life changing,” said Gina Wilson. “It is very difficult to explain to someone who has never struggled to fit in the way Intersex people often have to how much joy and relief that would bring.”

The law would also allow children to apply, with protections to ensure they have the capacity to understand and it is in their best interests to do so. Children under 16 require parental support and confirmation from a medical professional to change their sex or gender on their birth certificate.

“This law affects our family. My daughter Evie is transgender. She is a wonderful child who is full of life. However, Evie's birth certificate states that she is Male - this document will shadow her wherever she goes, and is already a source of fear and worry for her,” said Meagan McDonald, Spokesperson at Parents of Gender Diverse Children.

 “Unless the law changes, Evie will forever be in the position of having to ‘out’ herself as transgender when she gets her Learner's Permit, furthers her studies, applies for a job, goes overseas or buys a house. She will always have to provide her birth certificate that doesn't match what people see. As a mother, I worry this will put her at great risk of hate, discrimination and violence. I fear that it may make her avoid these situations and miss out on all that life has to offer,” added Ms McDonald.

Community advocates urged parliamentarians to educate themselves about trans, gender diverse and intersex people ahead of the debate in parliament.

"This Bill is fundamentally about the mental health and wellbeing of some very vulnerable people. We urge MPs to consider the research and facts and not play political games with people's lives," said Ms Brown.

For media queries, contact:

Brenda Appleton, Chair, Transgender Victoria, 0404 480 416 

Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, 0422 235 522

For interviews with Meagan McDonald, Aram Hosie or Gina Wilson please contact Michelle Bennett: 0419 100 519

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