There’s a movement in Tasmania to remove information about “gender” on birth certificates in order to empower trans individuals. Among the concerns is that listing a gender based solely on one’s genitalia forces trans people to “out” themselves against their will when applying for jobs. Taking away that designation, they argue, would help an already vulnerable minority group without harming anyone else. (After all, when’s the last time you needed to consult your birth certificate to know your own gender? Never? Exactly.)
The Tasmanian government, however, disagrees.
While the idea was introduced in Parliament as part of a plan to bring the Australian state in line with the rest of the country on LGBTQ+ equality laws, Attorney General Elise Archer has pushed back against it because “no other state or territory” has made that change.
Real leadership, apparently, requires not leading.
The proposal will be put before parliament later this year as a series of amendments introduced by Labor and the Greens to legislation intended to bring Tasmania in line with equal marriage laws that passed the federal parliament in December.
It would make Tasmania the first state in Australia to remove gender from birth certificates as a default position. Both drivers licences and passports already allow people to mark their gender as non-binary.
The attorney general, Elise Archer, said the government’s bill would remove discrimination against same-sex couples, including removing forced divorce provisions for trans couples, but that further consultation was needed before amending broader gender identity laws.
“No other state or territory in Australia has taken the step proposed of removing gender from birth certificates,” Archer said. “For Tasmania to do so, in the absence of any proper consideration of the reform, exposes the state to a range of potentially serious unintended consequences.”
In fact, removing the label would be especially helpful in a place like Tasmania.
LGBTI advocate Rodney Croome said Tasmania had some of the most discriminatory laws in Australia for transgender, gender diverse and intersex people. Crossdressing was illegal until 2000.
He said that removing gender from birth certificates was the same as a past decision to remove parents’ occupation or race. “They are not necessary,” he said.
Tasmanian law currently requires that a person undergo sexual reassignment surgery before they can register their change of sex with the registrar of births, deaths and marriages.
“For a young transgender man, for example, who wants his birth documents to reflect who her really is, has to have a hysterectomy under the law,” the Greens leader, Cassy O’Connor, said.
The status quo is ridiculous. But it’s also to be expected in a country that hasn’t dealt with LGBTQ+ rights, front and center, in any real way. With the state on the verge of becoming the first to make this change, there’s a lot of media attention. The question may be whether the international coverage will pressure opponents of trans rights to change their minds even if they refuse to listen to reason.
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