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Pressure on government to drop 'inhumane' birth certificate rules

Media Academy

Queenslanders who identify as transgender have to go through reassignment surgery if they want to change their birth certificate.

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Gender reassignment surgery, a procedure or series of procedures to align a person’s physical characteristics with their gender identity, is required before the Queensland government will change birth certificates. But for those who identify as trans, such intrusive and expensive surgery may not be an option, effectively leaving them with inaccurate identity documents and ongoing difficulty being accepted for who they are.

Some other jurisdictions do not have such requirements, and community pressure in Queensland has now forced the Palaszczuk government to consider legislative reforms by the end of the year.

Trans teen Mason Morris, from Centenary High School, is one of many concerned at having to take unnecessary risks with medical procedures in order to meet government requirements.

“It sounds horrifying, if something goes wrong it can affect things from going to the toilet to sex, and it can get infected,” Morris said.

“It’s also expensive. Top surgery is about $10,000. So, getting bottom surgery done as well and then paying a good hundred or so for the sex change on licenses etcetera could send many into poverty just to feel like themselves.”

Such requirements and bureaucratic red tape can also affect the wellbeing of trans people, particularly young people, who might regard it as an impediment to transitioning rather and a barrier to having an inclusive society.

Queensland activist Esther Vale started a petition to lift the surgery requirement and introduce other changes to birth certificates to promote a more inclusive society. The petition to State Parliament closed in March with 10,838 signatures.

In response, Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said reforming the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act was a “top priority” for the government and a bill to be introduced this year would “address many of the issues raised, and other important matters, in the petition”. Fentiman did not give any specific details.

Fentiman also wrote to Vale directly, saying “legislation can improve legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people, in response to changing community attitudes and understanding about gender”.

“The reflections you have provided reinforce for me how integral a person’s gender identity is and this being reflected in legal documents is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom,” Fentiman wrote in the letter, which was posted on Vale’s blog.

Lorelei Tuxworth, a trans teenager from Queensland, has created a separate petition on Change.org that has already attracted more than 24,000 signatures. It calls on the government to “ditch this unnecessary and inhumane requirement and allow transgender people to have their gender legally recognised without the need for surgery”.

Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker, meanwhile, has created a petition expressing her views on people who identify as trans, specifically children, and how they need to be “protected”. More than 6,000 people have signed her petition demanding the “right to protect children from hormone treatment and surgical procedures”.

While Stoker, a conservative Christian who last week attended right-to-life rallies in Brisbane, rails against what she calls the “transgender agenda,” her petition also serves to highlight the issues with Queensland birth certificates.

For Mason, having the government acknowledge his gender is important.

“Honestly, I would get it (gender reassignment surgery) just for the change in birth certificate. It’s an intrusive surgery but as far as I can tell it’s the only way I can be acknowledged by the government as a guy.”

InQueensland’s Media Academy is a partnership involving Education Queensland and UQ, teaching high school students about critical thinking and the journalism skills needed to develop the next generation of public interest journalists. Their stories will be published regularly by InQueensland.

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