Qld, WA finally move to reform gender recognition laws

February 15, 2023
A rally for LGBTIQ rights in Sydney, December 2021. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Under pressure from transgender activists and allies, nearly all states have adopted progressive gender recognition laws.

Two states have not, however: Queensland is in the process of doing so and Western Australia has promised to draft such a bill. Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman tabled a bill last December to allow transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate, without requiring medical intervention.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill 2022 strengthens legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people and better recognises contemporary family and parenting structures.

It allows people to change their gender without a requirement for medical transition, creates a “recognised details certificate” for people born overseas, who cannot legally change their gender and allows for parents of multiple mothers, fathers, non-binary parents, surrogates and more than two polyamorous people, to be recognised.

Gender recognition laws have been greatly improved to account for the needs of transgender people.

Currently, Queensland law requires the person to be 18 years old and have two doctors complete a statutory declaration to confirm the gender reassignment surgery.

Western Australia’s Gender Reassignment Act 2000 is more bureaucratic. It requires applicants to submit evidence to a Gender Reassignment Board that they have undergone a gender reassignment procedure in the state.

The Gender Reassignment Board has to be satisfied that the person “believes that his or her true gender is the gender to which the person has been reassigned; has adopted the lifestyle and has the gender characteristics of a person of the gender to which the person has been reassigned; and has received proper counselling in relation to his or her gender identity.

Pressure from activists and outrage at the backlog of applications prompted the Labor government to promise to abolish the board last December.

WA Attorney General John Quigley said on December 21 that the government “will progress legislation to repeal the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 and abolish the Gender Reassignment Board (Board)”. Further, he said WA would move into line with other states and introduce a bill to create a “new, streamlined administrative process for sex and gender recognition”.

He said the reformed law would no longer require applicants to demonstrate that they have undertaken surgical or medical intervention. They will be able to provide a certificate from their medical practitioner or psychologist confirming they have received clinical treatment in relation to their sex or gender identity.

He also said that WA would speed up the processing of gender recognition applications to deal with the backlog after the Gender Reassignment Board’s president resigned in September.

The Queensland bill allows people to change their gender on a birth certificate by a simple declaration, without a requirement for medical transition. It allows Queensland residents who were born overseas to have their gender recognised through a “recognised details certificate”.

It also allows queer families to be recognised as parents on birth certificates, including polyamorous families and gay families who have conceived through surrogacy, IVF or other means.

Right-wing anti-trans campaigners are attempting to weaken the Queensland bill. They are pushing for a gender recognition certificate, separate to a birth certificate, arguing that the former could be amendable while the latter would not.

Such efforts are aimed at delegitimising the gender of trans people. They are also aimed at creating complicated legal questions regarding gender versus sex. Adopting such a twin system would create opportunities for organisations to discriminate against trans people on the basis of only recognising sex on the birth certificate and not the gender certificate.

It would also create opportunities for trans people to be outed, through non-matching identity documents, and create a second class of trans people under law.

While recent gender recognition laws are a significant step forward for trans rights, there is still work to be done.

[Nova ‘Jade’ Sobieralski is a member of WA Socialist Alliance and campaigns for trans rights.]

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