Gender is set to become optional on birth certificates in Tasmania under new laws

Gender is set to become optional on birth certificates in Tasmania under new laws

New laws are set to be passed as early as next week, allowing Tasmanian people to change the gender on their birth certificates. The legislation was passed on Thursday night, with eight votes to six, and reportedly is to be formally approved next week, before returning to the lower house to receive approval to become state law.

This means that people over the age of 16 can apply to change their gender through a statutory declaration at the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry. Before, a Tasmanian who wanted to change their gender status on registrars was required to undergo sexual reassignment surgery first. The proposed bill was formulated after a 2016 Equal Opportunity Tasmania report suggested numerous amendments to gender discrimination laws in the region.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor claims that the changes to legislation will reduce discrimin­ation against transgender, intersex, and non-binary people, stating: "The flow-on effects of being able to have your birth certificate either gender neutral or changed to your correct gender are profoundly life-changing. At the moment in Tasmania, if Jasper wants to have his birth certificate changed he will need to have a hysterectomy, and that is cruel and unnecessary."

Meanwhile, Tasmanian transgender activist Martine Delaney told The Mercury that the new laws are a cause for great celebration among Australia's LGBT+ movement, stating: "When historians come to write about how Tasmania adopted the best transgender laws in the nation, and the world, they will say the quietest voices spoke the loudest."

However, the move has been criticised by TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and by Christian fundamentalists. For instance, Bronwyn Williams, a representative of Women Speak Tasmania, stated: "Birth certificates are historical records that serve a number of demographic functions and inform both government policy and legislation on a wide range of areas. This fiction has already eroded the rights of women and girls to female-only spaces and services. If male-bodied people are permitted to be legally recognised as female on the basis of self-identification alone, as proposed by groups like Transforming Tasmania, women’s sex-based rights will be a thing of the past."

Meanwhile, Mark Brown, state director of the Australian Christian Lobby, claimed: "If you are ­legally a transgender woman, even if you have a penis you can go wherever you want in terms of women’s safe spaces. Amending a legal document in this way would have many unintended consequences, like jeopardising women only safe-spaces and encouraging potentially dangerous competitive inequalities in sport."

He added: "The sex a child is born with is a scientific and immutable fact. Birth certificates are used to detail such historical truths. A person’s biological sex is changed or removed it greatly diminishes the significance and usefulness of birth certificates. Such changes, therefore, should be off-limits. [sic]"