Gender is set to be removed from Australian State birth certificates

Gender is set to be removed from Australian State birth certificates

In a move that has been lauded as an important step by the LGBTQ community, the state of Tasmania in Australia has proposed to remove gender from birth certificates. The proposal is intended to be submitted to the Australian parliament later this year by the Labor and the Green parties, and if the bill is passed it will ensure that registrars of births, deaths and marriages are prohibited from collecting information about the gender of a child, unless given a specific court order.

Currently, someone in Tasmania who wanted to change their gender status on registrars is 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.

Cassy O’Connor, the Greens leader whose son is trans, claims that the changes would help to reduce discrimin­ation against transgender, intersex, and non-binary people. O’Connor stated: "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."

An image of the Australian flag. Credit: Getty

However, the move has been criticised by Christian fundamentalists, as well as certain feminist activists, who believe that the bill will compromise the safety of women. For instance, Mark Brown, state director of the Australian Christian Lobby, claimed that: "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]"

Meanwhile, Bronwyn Williams, spokesperson for 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."

The vote on the proposal is due to take place next month, in Tasmania’s lower house. It's clear that the subject has polarised many voters, but only time will tell what the result will be. Personally, I think a person should be able to do whatever they like with their own birth certificate, and really, how relevant is it to mention your birth sex on it?