It’s time for WA to stop gatekeeping trans identities

Max Pick is concerned that Western Australia is lagging behind reform when it comes to trans people
Max Pick is the #TransEquality Project Coordinator at Equality Australia. Photo: supplied.

Western Australia is the only state in Australia where transgender people must apply to a medical review board before they can legally update their gender. It’s past due for that to change.

WORDS Max Pick

On paper, our community’s experiences couldn’t be more different. I’m a trans non-binary person – my experience may be a bit alien to a cis gay man’s.

But there is one thread that connects us all. At some stage in our lives, we discover who we really are. And for many of us we show that part of ourselves to the world.

We call it coming out.

It’s a process of re-introducing ourselves to the world that leaves us raw and vulnerable. It gets easier with time, but that vulnerability lives on in daily encounters, like getting a coffee or a haircut.

It’s the reason why we’re taught to have ‘Pride,’ because it takes courage to be visible.

Western Australia held their annual WA Pride Parade in November. It’s like Mardi Gras, in that it’s held in a state with some of the worst laws in the country for LGBTIQ+ people.

In WA, religious schools still hold a licence to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ staff and students, and harmful conversion practices remain legal.

But what makes WA really special is that it’s the only state in Australia where a ‘Gender Reassignment Board’ – a body of doctors and psychologists – decides if a trans person can legally update their gender.

This process requires applicants to medically ‘prove’ themselves to a board of strangers to legally transition.

Coming out by choice is one thing. But to have your legal rights hang on being believed by people who have more power over you and your body than you do, is deeply dehumanising.

The end result is that people in WA are essentially forced to undergo medical procedures to be recognised for who they are.

But surgery and hormones are costly. Not all trans and gender diverse people are able to undergo it, or simply don’t want to. And if you fall outside the binary, your existence can’t be acknowledged on a birth certificate.

This means that for many trans and gender diverse people in WA, being recognised for who you are is impossible.

To their credit, the WA Government pledged to abolish the board last December, and remove the barriers faced by trans and gender diverse people who wish to update their birth certificate to accurately reflect their gender.

But that was 12 months ago. The Board has seen two presidents come and go in that time, and trans and gender diverse people are still waiting for the reforms to be introduced.

This is not just an issue of recognition; this is about ensuring that promises made to our community are given the priority they deserve.

Right now, for trans and non-binary people in WA, a fundamental part of our humanity is still seen as lesser, and the promises of change made to our community are yet to be fulfilled.

So, as WA Pride rolls around the corner, it’s well and truly time to Bin the Board, catch up with most other states and territories, and ensure the WA Government delivers on its word.

If you want to take action you can send a message of support to the WA Government to make changing your ID about dignity and autonomy via the Equality Australia website.

-Max Pick (They/Them) is the #TransEquality Project Coordinator at Equality Australia.

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