Fight to be them­selves in gen­der law cam­paign

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - EMILY BAKER

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.”

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