Fight to be themselves in gender law campaign
ROEN Meijers can’t wait to marry the person they love. And when they do, they want to be recognised as themselves.
The Transforming Tasmania spokesperson is part of the lobby looking to change Tasmanian laws that have gender markers printed on birth certificates and require invasive surgery to have sex on the identity document changed.
“I nearly got married when my birth certificate said I was female and I realised that was the wrong thing, because when I ultimately get married to the person who matters most to me we both want to be recognised as ourselves when that happens,” Roen said.
“We want to be our full and complete most honest selves going into that. Without those changes we can’t.”
The changes referenced by Roen have been the topic of debate nationally after they were revealed last month during debate on State Government legislation that would stop forced divorces for transgender Tasmanians.
Labor and the Greens signalled a series of amendments to the Government’s Bill that would further reform the law for transgender and intersex Tasmanians.
It was a motion from the latter party that caught the eye of many: the amendment that would have sex wiped from birth certificates.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the proposal had been brought to her party by transgender advocates.
“When you think about it of course it’s not necessary — your birth certificate is proof of your birth,” she said.
“When people who are transgender have the wrong gender on their birth certificate, life becomes really hard and they’re constantly reminded that the world doesn’t accept who they are.”
One mum has spoken to the Mercury about her transgender daughter’s difficulty in finding a job because of the current laws. It is for cases like this that reform has been advocated.
But one group said it had concerns about the proposed change.
Women Speak Tasmania spokeswoman Bronwyn Williams said she had long been a feminist and was horrified to be asked whether she was conservative. To her, the Tasmanian push for transgender rights represented several things, among them that men were trying to access women’s spaces, and the growing divide between old and new feminism.
“It’s distressing to see the rights second-wave feminists fought for women being dissipated by younger feminists,” Ms Williams said this week.
Ms Williams said Women Speak Tasmania represented many feminists who were worried that removing gender from birth certificates would allow men access to femaleonly sport, women’s shelters and women’s health services.
She said she was worried about women’s safety.
“Not all men are crap … but you’ve got to be honest, there’s a lot of men who are,” she said.
Four specialist women’s services, including the Hobart Women’s Shelter, this week came out in support of the proposed reforms. All of them disputed the proposed changes would impact on their services.
Labor’s approach to gender markers is slightly different to that of the Greens.
Shadow attorney-general Ella Haddad said Labor wanted parents to be able to choose whether gender was recorded on birth certificates. The Op- position would also push for people who change genders to be able to amend their birth certificate without having reproductive surgery, she said.
“What Labor supports and what we’ll be putting forward in the debate is if there’s a baby born and you want gender recorded on the baby’s birth certificate, that’s fine,” Ms Haddad said.
“If you have a baby born and you don’t want gender recorded on the birth certificate that’s fine. Conversely, when you’re an adult, if you want to have your birth certificate with no gender marker on it then that’s possible.”
The Government appears unconvinced. Transforming Tasmania approached the Liberals with their proposed reforms without luck. AttorneyGeneral Elise Archer has repeatedly accused Labor and the Greens of trying to sneak the amendments through without consultation.
Ms Archer wants the proposed reforms considered through the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute to check for “serious unintended consequences” and has also called on Labor to release its full set of amendments, which were yesterday still being drafted.
One woman who has been lobbied hard on the laws is Speaker Sue Hickey.
“I haven’t really got a final view at the moment but I am very interested in the debate and how it’ll play out on the floor,” Ms Hickey said.
For Ms O’Connor it’s not just political — it’s personal. Her child is transgender and she cried when asked how recent debate had affected her as a mother. “Jasper’s situation helped me understand things that I had no idea of before, no comprehension. No comprehension of how hard it is for these kids to function, to feel good about themselves,” Ms O’Connor said.
“The mum in me feels very strongly about this, but the legislator also recognises it’s a body of reform work that needs to be done.”
Transforming Tasmania is convinced most Tasmanians are in support of the proposed reforms. “For most people it’s not an issue,” Transforming Tasmania spokeswoman Dede River said.
“For trans people it is an issue every time somebody comes to any kind of situation where they have to give an ID and it says something different than what people are seeing.”