Victoria takes another tentative step closer toward earning the new found tag of the Rainbow State as it eases regulation by moving to allow gender change on birth certificates reflecting the gender reality of the nation as a whole. The State Labour government began introducing legislation to make it easy to alter the gender status on birth certificates as of 18th August, 2016.
This particular bill fulfills a 2014 election promise to end ‘forced trans divorce’ and gender reassignment surgery requirements for those wanting to amend the sex on their birth certificates. It is considered to represent a step in the right direction in regard to respecting the rights of all Australians and as one trans gender member frankly put it “getting with the times”. Not all trans-people go through with surgery for a variety of reasons, including cost for starters in addition to emotional issues and family pressures etc.
The Attorney General Martin Pakula introduced the Bill into parliament last Thursday “To ensure equality for all Victorians. This is about removing barriers for trans, gender diverse and intersex people” he explained to Huffington Post Australia. “A birth certificate is more than just a piece of paper” he added.
“Nobody should be forced to undergo major surgery or get a divorce just to have a birth certificate that reflects who they are.” Many countries across are considered to be streets ahead in the policy stakes concerning the trans gender community and although there will always be a certain level of opposition, the general consensus is that this was an important day for Australian Politics that sends a supportive message to not just the trans gender community but all minority groups rallying against the pressures of a closed minded section of the population.
Bill for Gender Change on Birth Certificates in Victoria
Transgender Victoria has also welcomed the move which comes after similar laws were enacted in the ACT in 2014 and legislation was introduced in the South Australian parliament on August 4. Victoria has in the past been thought to be a little slow off the mark on this issue but in recognizing that they were falling behind several of the other more progressive states in terms of affirmative action etc, it has been a very welcome initiative and paves the way for further advances in human rights and freedom affirmation for a community that is at last being allowed to express itself in a modern and wholly pragmatic sense. “The trans and gender diverse community just want to get this done because it is long overdue”, Transgender Victoria’s Executive Director Sally Goldner, told Huffington Post Australia. Eddie Jim of Fairfax Australia agreed it was nothing less than a benchmark initiative that gave all the correct messages to a very real, very important, growing community that wasn’t going to sit back and be continually trodden over for much longer. “It just reflects the reality of trans and gender diverse lives most of all” insists Sally Goldner, “And full credit to the Victorian Government for recognizing that some fundamental changes were required there to balance the scales of common sense and public dissent etc.”
Under the changes, a Victorian could alter the sex descriptor in their birth certificate/registration as male, female or specify a gender diverse or non-binary descriptor. People wanting to change their birth certificates won’t need a supporting statement from a doctor. “Anyone over the age of 18 will need to make a statutory declaration and obtain a supporting statement from an adult who has known them for at least 12 months to make an application” the Attorney General Martin Pakula said. Parents or guardians could alter a child’s birth certificate/registration with the consent of the minor but will need a supporting statement from a doctor or registered psychologist. In addition, children over the age of 16 will be assumed to have capacity to consent.
It has been no secret that not being able to change birth certificates to reflect true gender identity has been distressing and confusing for individuals. Sally Goldner expects the change, if enacted, will bring practical benefits for people of all ages. Essentially it is really about empowering Australian citizens with the same rights as all other Australians and with the kind of freedom to express oneself that quite frankly most would consider a birthright. “We have had reports for example of young people who want to get a school holiday job but for some reason they are asked for a birth certificate and then they just don’t get the job or don’t get an interview because they have effectively outed themselves” Sally Goldner continued. “(And) people getting their 100 points for a bank account. This will help with documentation line up. Make it easier for them and, to be fair, for bank staff. So it is a win-win there.”
Incidentally, the bill still has to pass parliament but most would agree that Australia’s politicians have got it right on this one and won’t be making any unexpected U-turns anytime soon. Sally Goldner concluded by assuring the Huffington Post “This is a big ticket item. Obviously it has got to get through parliament and we respect that process but we would see that there are benefits really for everyone. Naturally we and other trans and gender diverse people will be happy to talk to politicians once things get underway and just work through any questions that people have.”