It was only recently that I discovered how behind Queensland was in terms of legal recognition for LGBT people – specifically those who are trans or gender diverse. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the issues, I just didn’t know that most other States and Territories were ahead of us in having fixed some of them.
I’ve put together a petition for Queensland parliament to call on the Attorney-General to fix the legislation and the processes of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You can find, and please sign, the petition here, but as there’s a word limit to those petitions I thought it would be important to go into more detail.
I’d like to acknowledge Lorelei Tuxworth who has put together an incredibly successful change.org petition covering part of this topic. I’d researched to see if there was any action on these issues previously and hadn’t seen this petition until after I’d started submitting my own. I’d love for these two petitions to both get attention, especially as the Queensland Parliament petition will definitely reach the Attorney-General for comment, and covers more issues. If you’re keen on my petition, please sign Lorelei’s too.
For starters, Queensland still requires trans people to undergo surgery before they can change the sex listed on their birth certificate. People should have the right to be legally registered as they self-identify. There are a few reasons why this is an issue. Surgery is not necessarily the right thing for every trans person. Some people don’t have genital dysphoria, or have medical or financial reasons not to have surgery, are too worried or anxious, or are waiting for surgery techniques to advance more. None of these reasons not to have surgery should prevent trans people from legal recognition as their identified gender.
Q: As it’s a legal document, shouldn’t it just reflect physical sex not identified gender – what about doctors and hospitals that need to know? A: Nobody is checking your birth certificate in a medical emergency. We don’t require people who have had a full hysterectomy to go around with it written on a legal document just to save doctors from speculating that they may have an issue with their uterus. That’s what medical records and doctor-patient conversations are for, and not needed to be seen by anyone who would otherwise see or have access to your birth certificate.
Q: Shouldn’t trans people’s sex be listed accurately so they can use the ‘right’ bathroom? A: This is incredibly debunked and I don’t know why I’m even answering it here. A birth certificate wouldn’t stop a predator from accessing a bathroom. We’re just trying to pee, leave us alone. And – if I recall correctly, there haven’t even been any cases where a trans person has sexually assaulted someone in a bathroom. This argument is just conservative pearl-clutching.
The way that Queensland currently updates birth certificates when you’ve changed your listed sex is that it is listed as an annotation, saying you’ve changed your sex from Male to Female or vice versa. This unnecessarily outs people and needs to be scrapped. Your trans status doesn’t need to be broadcast.
Q: Is it like that to serve some kind of bureaucratic function? A: No. Queensland is the only State or Territory that does it and it’s just unnecessary.
Several States and Territories issue what’s called a recognised details certificate, which is basically a document that says you’ve updated your gender if you can’t change your birth certificate because you were born overseas. Obviously this is pretty useful for some people, so I’m suggesting Queensland adopts these certificates too.
Queensland also does not recognise a sex/gender other than Male or Female, which is an issue for people whose gender isn’t covered there. Many other jurisdictions use a third “X” option for birth certificates and this is not a bad additional option – although you could go further and have more than just three options. Non-binary (used as a catch-all for genders other than male or female, whether or not one uses the label ‘non-binary’) people are valid and legally recognising them is essential. Intersex people whose physical sex may be ‘indeterminate’, that is, neither generally male nor female, may also prefer to use a third sex option (although I acknowledge the recording of sex on birth certificates is a hot topic in the intersex community, and don’t wish to speak for them on that regard).
Q: I don’t get this intersex/ indeterminate sex/ non-binary thing. There are only two genders! A: Intersex people make up around two per cent of the population, it is heavily documented and their existence is not political, it is scientific fact. Without getting too deep into it here, there are many factors that make up a person’s ‘sex’ and forcing it into a binary is objectively incorrect (if you want more information about intersex, please look elsewhere – I’m not the best person to teach this). And, if sex isn’t binary, why shouldn’t gender be? As an example, many non-Western cultures have more than two genders. Assuming a two-gender model is really just an argument from a limited, traditional perspective. Practise your use of they/them pronouns.
Another issue is the limit of one name change per year, which could be a roadblock for a trans person who has had to change their name for another reason, such as getting married or divorced, within the same year of deciding to change their name as part of their transition. It would be relatively simple to ensure that transition-related name changes should be put in exception to the one-per-year rule, or to raise the number per year in general.
This leads a bit into the next issue which is that the cost of changing one’s name or sex with the Registry is exorbitant. $190.90 for a change of name and $117.00 for change of sex. This functions as a tax on being trans. It makes it incredibly restrictive for people to simply have their records up to date, especially when trans people are more likely to be low-income. The result is increased stress and frustration for people whose lives are already being ruled by bureaucracy. I can’t understate how much of a struggle this stage of early transition is for a lot of people. Simply reducing or removing this cost would provide a great relief.
Q: Doesn’t the Registry need to get their costs back somehow? A: It is already free to undertake a number of other services including correcting an error on the registry or dealing with death certificates (the latter especially surely being free to be compassionate to people in a hard time – and haven’t I already mentioned how hard this time is for trans people?) The number of name and gender marker changes would be so low, the impact on the Registry’s budget would surely be irrelevant.
And we’re up to the final issue I’ve included on the petition. Parents are required to be listed as one mother and one father. This is obviously an issue when it comes to same-sex parents, or where a parent is non-binary and doesn’t prefer to be known as a mother or a father. A gender-neutral approach, such as simply listing ‘Parent 1, Parent 2’ would work here. Other States are far more open, and have options where you can list a birth or surrogate parent/s along with adoptive parent/s. In this case, the limit of only two parents is a bit restrictive.
Q: Aren’t terms like “mother” and “father” important biological terms? A: This isn’t really relevant to birth certificates. If a child is born from a trans man who is listed as “father” on the certificate rather than any argument towards “biological motherhood”, nothing is lost but you have the benefit of people being referred to by the language they prefer. In a case where people have chosen to mix sperm and/or eggs, or when using a surrogate, etc., the “biological” terms get very muddied. The most important thing on these documents is establishing the legal relationship of the people who are to parent or guard the child.
Here’s the link again in case you missed it from above.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to give my petition your support. These changes are all pretty simple really, but they make a huge different to correct the disenfranchisement of LGBT+ people. I’d also like to thank my MP Michael Berkman and staff, for sponsoring and supporting this petition.
The petition ends on the 23rd of March, and I appreciate any sharing and support you may be able to give it. Please use this post as a reference if you need, I haven’t exactly answered every potential question or objection but I feel it’s a good overview for anyone looking to understand more about what the petition is about.
Hopefully these changes are taken up by the Attorney-General and we can see things improved. To my siblings in the LGBT+ community, especially my trans and gender diverse brethren, thank you and keep fighting.
Featured image for this post was by Markus Spiske used from Pexels.