Australian jurisdiction to allow genders of choice without surgery on birth certificates

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will seek to pass a law ensuring transgender people don’t have to undergo surgery before they can be recognized as their preferred gender and will create a new category for intersex people and those of indeterminate sex

Australian jurisdiction to allow genders of choice without surgery on birth certificates
29 November 2013

The territory that houses Australia’s capital of Canberra will seek to remove a requirement that transgender people undergo surgery before they can change their birth certificates to reflect the gender they identify as – and plans to recognize intersex people and those of indeterminate gender with a new category on documentation.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government announced the plans yesterday and hopes to pass a bill enacting the proposed changes in the territory Legislative Assembly next year.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell urged other Australian states and territories to catch up on the issue and adopt the categories for birth certificates that were already used by the Australian Passport Office for documentation.

‘What we do know is that there are court cases being heard in other jurisdictions on exactly these same questions,’ Corbell told The Canberra Times.

"It would be far better for governments to respond to these important issues of personal identity by amending the law in a similar manner to the way the ACT has proposed.

ACT based gender diversity advocacy group A Gender Agenda welcomed the move by the ACT Government.

‘We strong welcome the proposed changes to the Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, which will eliminate the requirement for individuals to have reassignment surgery prior to changing the sex on their birth certificate,’ A Gender Agenda spokesperson Peter Hyndal said.

‘The changes also provide a clear mechanism for intersex people to change the sex recorded on their birth certificate, and bring the legal definition of "intersex" for the purposes of ACT law in line with the definition used in the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act.’

‘Previously, many gender diverse people have been forced to use birth certificates which show their sex as different from the way they identify and present. Intersex people have also not had a clear legislative pathway to amend errors made in the recording of their sex at birth.

‘This predicament has raised very real safety and privacy issues for transgender and intersex people when going about their daily lives. We are aware of specific cases where individuals have experienced discrimination, verbal abuse and been denied services because the sex on their birth certificate did not match their presentation and identity.’

‘The changes announced today are the most significant reforms affecting transgender and intersex Australians that we have ever seen in this country.’

Australian intersex peak body Organization Intersex International (OII) Australia cautiously welcomed the planned reform but was concerned that the ACT Government had not actively consulted with it.

‘The ACT government needs to fully consult with the Australian intersex community on issues around intersex, birth records and sex assignment,’ the group said in an online statement.

The move follows the ACT becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage last month and those laws will be tested in the High Court of Australia next month.

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