Controversy as Tasmania makes gender optional on birth certificates

by Rachel Savage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 16:11 GMT

A person holds up a flag during rally to protest the Trump administration's reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth, at City Hall in New York City, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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The Australian island is probably one of the first places in the world to dispense with gender on birth certificates

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, April 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tasmania made it optional to list gender on birth certificates on Wednesday, a move criticised by the Australian island's leader and Christian activists who fear it would endanger women.

LGBT+ rights group ILGA said Tasmania was probably one of the first places in the world to dispense with gender on birth certificates - which can be problematic for intersex babies born with atypical chromosomes or sex characteristics.

The reforms also allows trans people to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing sex reassignment surgery, a policy known as self-identification.

"These are nation leading reforms that will provide transgender Tasmanians and their families with recognition and respect under the law," Cassy O'Connor, leader of the Greens, one of the parties that supported the bill, said in a statement.

A growing number of U.S. states, as well as countries including Germany, Pakistan and Nepal, allow people to choose non-binary gender options on official documents.

Making it as easy as possible to officially change gender has long been a goal of trans rights campaigners globally, but critics fear that self-identification would allow predatory men to identify as female to access women-only spaces.

"What is incredibly concerning is that no consideration has been given to the impact on women's refuges, schools, and clubs," Dan Flynn, the Australian Christian Lobby's acting state director, said in a statement.

"Prisoners will be able to demand accommodation in prisons that accord with the gender they choose. That is not in the interests of the justice system or broader community," he said, accusing parliament of "capitulation to the trans lobby".

Australia's national government has allowed trans people since 2013 to self-identify on passports, without having surgery or hormone treatment, and to choose "X" as their gender marker. Rules vary for state-issued documents like driving licences.

Will Hodgman, premier of the rugged island, some 240 km south of the Australian mainland, said that his opponents had "rushed" the parliamentary vote.

"It is highly likely the parliament will need to fix up problems with the legislation," he said in a statement, without giving further details.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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