On many human rights issues, Victoria leads the way; but on this issue, we’re lagging behind. Frameworks that allow a person to alter the sex on their birth certificates without surgery already exist in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, so it’s now time for us to catch up and make sure our laws reflect community expectations.
Some critics of the proposed changes suggest that they may compromise the safety of women-only spaces such as change rooms, refuges or sports clubs. And while ensuring the safety and security of women is critical, it’s important to note that the Bill does not change the ability of trans and gender-diverse people to access such spaces, which is already protected under the Equal Opportunity Act.
What’s missing from arguments against the proposed changes is an acknowledgement of the inherent vulnerability of trans and gender-diverse people, and the discrimination, unfair treatment and, sometimes, violence that many trans and gender-diverse Victorians face in their day-to-day lives.
For many of us, it’s easy to think of obtaining accurate identity documents as a simple, and even mundane, administrative task; but for many trans and gender-diverse people, this process has a profound significance. We saw this first hand at the recent Change Your ID Day hosted by St Kilda Legal Service – you couldn’t fail to see how obtaining a licence, passport or birth certificate that reflected one’s true identity was so powerful and affirming for the trans and gender-diverse people in attendance.
The proposed changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act take nothing away from other groups, but will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of trans and gender-diverse people in this state. It’s an important step towards equality for all Victorians.
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner
Mobile: 0447 526 642