Jun 6, 2018

Australia’s gender recognition laws are a mess. It’s time for radical change.

Transgender and gender diverse people around Australia are being affected by controversial and confusing state laws. Does it really need to be this hard?

Liz Duck-Chong

Freelance writer


On November 15, 2017, the word "yes" rang out across the country; the postal vote in favour of marriage equality was the symbolic victory of a wider campaign for equality. The Coalition's bag of dirty tricks was empty. December 9, 2017, then marked the day the legislation was passed; when we more or less agreed sex or gender would no longer affect the right to marry.

In practice, the fine print painted a different picture, in which states and territories had an additional 12 months to repeal “forced divorce” laws. This process is underway with the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales having now passed legislation as required. A bill is also before Queensland parliament. But there are still many ways that transgender and gender diverse people around Australia are being affected by controversial and confusing laws.

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10 thoughts on “Australia’s gender recognition laws are a mess. It’s time for radical change.

  1. [email protected]

    I am having difficulty keeping up with the 86 different genders. I guess a lot of children and adults will have difficulty with this as well as government!

    1. Zeke

      You don’t have to keep up with all the different genders. The government merely has to remove the sex marker from identity documentation.

  2. AR

    Actually YES did not ring out – 48.5% of voted that way and in many electorates the answer was resoundingly NO, 70%+ in “certain” areas.
    Those who self exclude cannot whinge about being ignored.

    1. AR

      …”- 48.5% of the electorate voted that way”

  3. Lisa Mullin

    We still have the absurdity in many States where currently married (under their birth assigned gender) transgender people cannot change their legal gender unless they get divorced…so much for marriage equality.

    The requirement for GRS* for transgender women, steadily being dropped all over the world, excludes those transgender people who cannot for health related or (commonly) financial reasons have it.
    This is especially unfair as neither State hospitals or Medicare cover GRS. It is a totally private procedure. Mine cost me $26,000 and even with private health coverage (and not all funds cover it) you are up for $10,000+.

    This is because it is seen as a ‘cosmetic’ procedure at the same time as many State laws state that it is a legal requirement to change gender. This is contradictory, how can it be a ‘cosmetic’ procedure if it legally required? If this is seen as just ‘cosmetic’ why pick on GRS, when there are many gender confirming procedures that transgender people go through, such as electrolysis, breast reductions or implants, HRT, etc.

    This requirement goes right back to the old idea that a transgender woman was expected (in fact it was a requirement by the old ‘gatekeepers’) to be male attracted and to be able to have heterosexual sex after they transitioned. At that time transgender men were simply not even recognised as existing (hence the confusion over them). Similarly surgery on intersex babies and infants has always been under the justification that it makes them more ‘suitable’ for heterosexual sex.

    And all this has created a weird dichotomy, where it can be possible for a transgender man to change legal gender after only having HRT and breast removal surgery, but a transgender woman cannot do the same after having HRT and implants…..

    Not just transgender people being affected by this. This gets particularly challenging for those intersex people assigned an incorrect gender at birth, often with non consensual surgery being performed on them as a baby or infant, then trying to change their gender later and finding it impossible to meet the State requirements (even if they could afford it).

    And this highlights yet another absurdity, non consensual GCS** is performed on many intersex babies and infants in State hospitals for free, yet the same intersex people who want to reverse it have to fund it themselves.

    * GRS, Genital Reassignment Surgery.
    **GCS, Gender Conforming Surgery, covers a range of procedures, for intersex babies/infants it includes things like sterilisation, vaginaplasty and clitoris trimming.

  4. Andrea

    Any move that encourages the legal and social acceptance of a person for who they identify as without having to resort to major surgery is a good one.

    1. AR

      Personally, I identify as a Betelguesian but alas, nobody will acknowledge my inalienable (…) right to do so and thus constantly oppress me by not making the traditional, Betelgeusian obeisance to my cultural needs.

      1. Andrea

        I had to laugh at this. It all gets a bit much sometimes. On a serious note I’m uneasy with people cutting their healthy bodies up.

        1. Lisa Mullin

          Apart from genital reassignment surgery for transgender women (been around for 80+ years and is a refashioning of genitals, not removal) no surgical or medical procedure undertaken by trans women, or trans men, is not done is far, far greater numbers by cis people for both medical and, more commonly, cosmetic reasons.

          If you are concerned about this then you should first be objecting to
          (a) The non-consensual surgery on intersex babies and infants (including clitoris reduction, sterilisation and vaginaplasty, etc).
          (b) Those far greater number of cis people undertaking cosmetic medical and surgical procedures (botox, breast reduction, breast implants, facial surgery, vaginaplasty …and all the very many rest). To take just one example, more women in the US have breast implants every year than all the trans women that exist there (and is probably the same here in Australia).

          It really does annoy trans people for being somehow criticised for having the exact same medical/surgical procedures that all so many cis people do … all without comment.

          1. Andrea

            Im not sold on most of those surgical procedures, where you are sedated and go under the knife and there is no need. However I said I was uneasy not completely against and my definition of need is broad – it includes mental well-being.

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