Transgender people in Victoria can now change the sex on their birth certificates after a bill overwhelmingly passed parliament this week.
The much-anticipated birth certificate reform passed the Victorian legislative council 26 to 14. The bill abolishes the current condition which requires trans and gender-diverse Victorians to undergo gender affirmation surgery before they can update the sex on their birth certificates.
Beyond ‘male’ and ‘female’, trans people will be able to choose any ‘reasonably established’ term they best identify with, according to the bill.
The bill mandates that people make a statutory declaration — a statement with total legal recognition — before they can change the sex on their certificate.
Individuals will also need to present a statement from an adult who has known them for at least one year, who supports the gender marker change, and who concurs that it is being made honestly and sincerely.
We're so excited to announce that Birth Certificate Reform has passed in Victoria! This is a huge step forward in fairer access to accurate documentation, equality, and recognition for trans and gender diverse people in our state! #myidmyidentity#transrightspic.twitter.com/fEhSLDXjWR— Transgender Victoria | TGV (@transgendervic) August 27, 2019
Equality Minister Martin Foley said the bill’s passing marked a pivotal moment in state history.
“It will make sure that gender-diverse and trans Victorians have the same rights as everyone else for their foundation identity document to reflect who they are,” he told reporters at parliament.
When this bill was voted down years ago, we promised to come back and get it done. And tonight we did.— Martin Foley (@MartinFoleyMP) August 27, 2019
Our birth certificate reforms have FINALLY passed to allow trans and gender diverse Victorians to have a certificate that reflects who they are. #springst#oneofthegooddayspic.twitter.com/NzsQWrBKB1
While the bill received overwhelming support, some independent and Liberal members were not convinced.
"A birth certificate is supposed to report somebody’s biological sex, but gender identification is a different concept,” Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien stated, according to the Australia Associated Press. “What the government has done in this bill is turn a document which is designed to record biological sex into something which reports a person’s gender identification.”
For Sally Goldner, the treasurer of advocacy body Transgender Victoria, the impact of the bill’s passing is two-fold.
"In practicality, we can now get a birth certificate that reflects who we are on a day-to-day basis. This will keep our privacy more intact and will save anxiety, stress, and ridicule,” she told Global Citizen. “The other side is that sense of affirmation. Society, sadly, for a long time has been against trans people, but now our government has said, ‘Hey, we are with you.’ That’s really fantastic.”
Sometimes change scares people. I get that.— Jackson Taylor MP (@JacksonTaylorMP) August 19, 2019
And I understand that some in our community may disagree with the change to the Births, Deaths & Marriages Act.
But for those in the LGBTQI+ community, this small change means a hell of a lot.#LGBTIQ#equality@EqualityAu#springstpic.twitter.com/lOflBN79Xk
Our birth certificate reforms have passed the Parliament! These overdue reforms will ensure that trans and gender diverse people can have a birth certificate which reflects their true identity.— JillHennessyMP (@JillHennessyMP) August 27, 2019
A small thing to many, but it means a world of difference to someone else.#springst
This change, Goldner added, is an important step in working to reduce discrimination — something that often has life or death consequences for trans people.
"The research that exists is overwhelmingly strong about the high levels of depression, anxiety, and self-harm for trans people,” she explained. “Forty-eight percent of trans young people attempt suicide before 25. That is just horrible, and it happens overwhelmingly because of the discrimination they face.”
A survey of Australian LGBTI people showed 60% and 50% of trans men and women, respectively, suffer from depression.
Almost 90% of trans individuals also reported having experienced some stigma and discrimination, namely either verbal abuse, social exclusion, or physical violence.
A separate 2016 survey of 23 nations shows Australia sits in equal eighth place when it comes to national attitudes toward trans rights. The survey asks people on their opinions on six policy questions, including whether they believe trans people should be protected from discrimination by the government or allowed to use the public bathroom of the sex they identify with.
While Victoria has taken this momentous step, the same cannot be said for all of Australia.
"We remember that there are still three states and territories where birth certificate laws could be significantly improved, being Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales,” Goldner told Global Citizen. “We hope that this bill passing can give some momentum to get those three ticked off in due course.”