Australian transgender man Paige Phoenix will challenge his home state of Victoria’s policy of only allowing those who have undergone a full surgical genital sex change from changing their sex on their birth certificates in the United Nations after it annulled his marriage against his will.
Phoenix is recognized by the Australian Government as male and has a male passport but his state’s registry of births, deaths and marriages will not recognize him as male unless he undergoes the surgery – which could be life threatening for him due to a previous medical condition.
Phoenix was able to use his passport to convince a celebrant they could legally perform the ceremony and in 2012 he and his wife were married and issued a marriage certificate.
However when it was lodged Births Deaths Marriages Victoria cross referenced it with his birth certificate and wrote to the couple to instruct them to return their marriage certificate for ‘destruction.’
Phoenix has refused to comply with that direction and plans to take his case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee after lodging his complaint in 2013.
He will argue at the UN that a person should not have to undertake irreversible invasive surgery in order to change their gender on a government form.
‘Culturally, we have such an emphasis on defining gender by genitals but if you walked past me on the street you wouldn’t know that I hadn’t been born male,’ Phoenix told The Canberra Times this week.
‘I’m not female and I should have the right to have my documents reflect that.’
Deputy Director of Australian Marriage Equality Ivan Hinton said Phoenix’s situation, and those of other transgender Australians who live in states with stricter guidelines on changing legal gender than the Australian Government, could be easily avoided if Australia adopted a gender neutral definition of marriage.
‘It is devastating that a State law can intervene to effectively terminate a loving marriage,’ Hinton said.
‘Marriage is the union of two people who have chosen to build a life together based on love, commitment, respect and hope for a future. It isn't about gender.’
‘It is ridiculous that a state institution ignores Federal documents that recognize the opposite sexes of this couple while attempting to enforce Federal marriage laws, currently opposed to same-sex couples marrying.
‘By a single act by Federal parliament this situation could be resolved. Equal marriage would remove this issue entirely and provide dignity for all Australians.’
In 2011 Phoenix became the first ever transgender contestant on Australia’s version of The X Factor.