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Trans Queenslanders who want to change the gender on their birth certificate need surgery. That's set to change

Jan 30, 2023

Anne* decided to have gender affirmation surgery more than a decade ago.

Though she thinks she'd have ultimately come to the same decision, wanting to change the sex marker on her birth certificate meant she was required under Queensland law to have the procedure. That was a big factor in her choice.

"It definitely does limit you... I'm quite okay to a certain degree with my decision. But there are some regrets I do have about the surgery. I no longer have any type of libido," she told SBS The Feed.

"There is a lot of damage that's caused by forcing people to undergo these procedures.

"And I felt it was more important to me to become lawfully recognised as a female more than anything."

For years, Queenslanders wanting to change the gender on their birth certificates have needed gender affirmation surgery first.

This has been a problem for people who haven't yet had the surgery, do not want to have the surgery, or are unable to access the surgery due to financial or medical barriers.

For others, having a birth certificate that does not represent their gender has meant they might be forced to out themselves when the documentation is required. This can happen when they're applying for a job, or university, accessing support services or going to the bank.

Anne, who works with Trans Health Australia, a Facebook community supporting trans and gender-diverse people in Queensland, doesn't want another person to feel limited like she did.

For years she's been advocating for reform. Now, she's welcoming a draft bill before Queensland parliament.

Under the draft laws, a person wanting to formally register a change of sex would need a supporting statement from someone who has known them for at least 12 months. No surgery would be required.

If passed, the legislation will replace the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003, which has been in force since early 2004. Last week, Queensland parliament heard submissions from the public.

Transcend Australia CEO Jeremy Wiggins, who heads the youth trans advocacy group, said the change would remove an "unnecessary," "harmful" and "invasive" barrier for the community.

"It's not ethical to force people to essentially become sterilised in order to apply to have their sex marker changed. It's inhumane."

In a statement to The Feed, a spokesperson for Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said: "The current requirement unnecessarily medicalises the recognition of a person’s lived identity, and surgery can be inaccessible and unaffordable as it is not covered by Medicare."

"The new legislation will also allow both parents to be registered as either ‘mother’ or ‘father’, which currently is not the case.

"This will ensure that same-sex and gender-diverse parents are able to record a descriptor on their child’s birth certificate that correctly reflects their parenting role."

For altering the sex marker of a child under 16, the bill establishes two pathways. Parents or a guardian can apply directly to the registrar where particular criteria are met, or they can go through the Children’s Court. Parents can also choose not to record their child’s gender on their birth certificate if they wish.

“A key element of both of these pathways involves an assessment of the child by a developmentally informed practitioner who has an established, professional relationship with them,” Ms Fentiman said in statement in December.

NSW would be final jurisdiction to keep surgery requirement

The bill is expected to pass in Queensland, where Labor has a parliamentary majority. It will bring the state in line with the majority of Australia.

South Australia was the first jurisdiction to amend its laws in 2016, followed by the Northern Territory (2018), Tasmania and Victoria (2019), and the ACT (2020).

Mr Wiggins said the advocacy efforts which put the law before Queensland parliament have been long fought for. He said similar reform is expected to come from Western Australia.

"The WA Government currently have a gender recognition board, which is also a fairly outdated and convoluted process that subjects trans people to discriminatory processes, but the WA government have committed to birth certificate reform, and are intending to pass that," said Mr Wiggins.

The final jurisdiction which has not yet changed its bill is NSW. But with Sydney WorldPride taking place from 17 February to 5 March, Mr Wiggins is hopeful a discussion will come soon.

"I'm sure that this will become a large piece of advocacy work in the near future, with hopes that NSW follows the rest of the country to bring some sort of national consistency."


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