A bill to allow transgender and gender diverse Victorians to change the sex marker on their birth certificate without surgery has passed its final vote.
Trans rights advocates cheered the passage of the amendment to the state’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act in the state parliament’s upper house on Tuesday night.
Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the new laws meant “a world of difference” to transgender and gender diverse Victorians.
“These new laws are about ensuring everyone can live their life as they choose,” she said.
“That includes having a birth certificate that reflects their true identity.
“The current surgery requirement sends a painful and false message that there is something wrong with being trans or gender diverse that needs to be ‘fixed’. That’s why we’re removing this cruel and unfair barrier.”
Transgender Victoria spokesperson Brenda Appleton cheered the passage of the bill.
“Trans rights are human rights and we welcome the passing of this bill,” Appleton said.
“It is important that we can all have documents which reflect who we are and enable us to get on with our lives with pride rather than hiding in the closet.”
The successful outcome helps “heal the damage” from the transphobic debate around a similar Victorian bill’s failure by a single vote in 2016, Appleton said.
We’re so excited to announce that Birth Certificate Reform has passed in Victoria! This is a huge step forward in fairer access to accurate documentation, equality, and recognition for trans and gender diverse people in our state! #myidmyidentity #transrights pic.twitter.com/fEhSLDXjWR
— Transgender Victoria | TGV (@transgendervic) August 27, 2019
Victoria joins other states to pass similar reforms
Equality Australia’s Anna Brown also welcomed the bill’s passage 26 votes to 14 on Tuesday night.
“Being forced to use ID that doesn’t match your identity creates daily problems when applying for a job, going to Centrelink or enrolling to study,” she said.
“A birth certificate is the first document a person has. It says who you are, and where you belong.”
Other Australian states have made similar changes to birth certificate laws benefiting transgender people. But unfortunately, Queensland is lagging behind.
Still excited about last nights incredible vote to allow our trans, gender diverse & non binary friends, young people & children to amend their birth certificate with dignity & respect. What a testament to the advocacy of some wonderful people made this happen. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/tSupsHQTlV
— Felicity Marlowe (@FelicityMarlowe) August 27, 2019
When this bill was voted down years ago, we promised to come back and get it done. And tonight we did.
Our birth certificate reforms have FINALLY passed to allow trans and gender diverse Victorians to have a certificate that reflects who they are. #springst #oneofthegooddays pic.twitter.com/NzsQWrBKB1
— Martin Foley (@MartinFoleyMP) August 27, 2019
How will the Victorian bill help transgender people?
Currently, a transgender Victorian can only change the sex marker on their birth certificate after undergoing “sexual reassignment surgery”. They must provide statutory declarations from two medical practitioners verifying this.
But such surgeries are out of reach of many transgender people for various financial, medical, faith or personal reasons. The law also means that children under 18 generally can’t change their sex markers.
As a result, transgender and gender diverse Victorians are forced to ‘out’ themselves whenever a birth certificate is requested. This can cause embarrassment and raise privacy, safety and discrimination concerns.
The Bill will remove these barriers for trans and gender diverse people. Applicants must provide a supporting statement from an adult who has known them for at least 12 months.
For children under 18, parents can apply on their child’s behalf with a statutory declaration. They must also provide a supporting statement by a doctor or psychologist.
Where parents disagree, the dispute will be resolved by a Magistrate’s assessment of what is in the child’s best interests.
The Bill will also allow people to self-nominate the legal sex on their birth certificate, including a gender diverse and non-binary descriptor of their choice.
But the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages will be able to refuse to a descriptor deemed obscene or offensive, or not reasonably established as a sex descriptor.