Legislative Council Thursday 21 March 2019
We have a Bill before us that seeks to achieve a number of changes, the intent of which I fully support. Tasmania does need to be compliant with Commonwealth Law, in this case, the Marriage Act 1961, so the so-called ‘no forced divorce’ provision contained within this Bill does need to proceed as soon as possible as we are already non-compliant since December 10th last year.
When the debate last year didn’t occur on the second reading, all Members of this place made speeches on the adjournment regarding this and I won’t revisit that matter at this time. I was, like I assume most other Members were, ready to debate the second reading of the Bill but we didn’t even get that far.
Mr President, we are here to debate a Bill, as it has been presented in this House that is not supported by the Government. A unique and unusual occurrence. I, and other Members, do have a significant number of amendments to this Bill to deal with should the Bill make it into the Committee stage. So at this time I will be confining my comments to the broad intent of this Bill with some reference to these amendments as appropriate. Mr President, I circulated these amendments as soon as possible after the drafting of the amendments Members have copies of to enable full consideration and time to consult as well as to provide an opportunity for other members to seek further amendments to those I have presented, if they wished to.
The Bill has created a significant debate in the general public and that in many ways is good thing.
However, some of the mis-truths and in some cases outright lies that have been peddled by some in the public discussion last year has been appalling and led to a great degree of confusion for members of the public.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why we need to spread such hate and fear about a matter that will not directly impact the majority of Tasmanians.
Perhaps we should reflect on last years Victorian election where the politics of fear were rejected. An agenda based on exclusion, judgement and fear were rejected. I believe we should reflect on that as we consider this Bill and the policy intent behind it.
Mr President, to reflect briefly on the history of this Bill. This Bill originated in the other place by the Government to take action on addressing the national consistency requirement following the passage of legislation related to marriage equality and address the so-called ‘no forced divorce’ requirement that will result in the removal of an exemption for Registrars of Births Death and Marriages thus enabling them to solemnise marriages between two people regardless of their sex or gender.
The requirement to change to State and Territory Legislation to remove this inconsistency with Commonwealth law had been known about by all States and Territories for almost 12 months.
As the second reading speech delivered by the Attorney General stated:
On 9 December 2017, the Commonwealth Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 amended the Marriage Act 1961 to allow same-sex couples to marry. ...
The States and Territories were given 12 months, until 9 December 2018, to change their own laws to ensure they are consistent with the Commonwealth legislation.
So the Government have been well aware of these requirements since late 2017.
So last year, at the final hour of our last sitting week, we were seeking to address this necessary and time sensitive issue.
This Legislation before us, among other things, seeks to ensure transgender people who have gender re-assignment surgery, cannot be forced to divorce.
The Commonwealth Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 repealed the forced divorce exemption in subsection 40(5) of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and this Bill before us amends section 28A and 28C of the Births, Death and Marriages Registration Act 1999, to remove the requirement that a person applying to register their change of sex ‘not be married’.
The Bill as presented by the Government also included a range of amendments to other acts including the Civil Liability Act 2002, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1988, Criminal Code 1924, the Adoption Act 1988, and the Status of Children Act 1974.
Some have argued a number of these changes in the Bill as presented in the other place were not necessary, such as using the gender neutral term parent rather than father and mother.
Mr President, we all know that a number of other amendments were inserted into this Bill that directly relate to transgender and intersex people by parties other than the Government.
These amendments were supported in the other place by a majority, thus we now have the Bill before us. Whilst there was quite a degree of angst regarding some of the Government proposals in the Bill, there has also been a degree of public comment and concern expressed about the non-Government amendments.
Mr President, the majority of amendments to legislation that are supported in this place are also non-government amendments.
Sometimes these are not supported by the Government but are supported by this House and ultimately accepted by the Government in the other place and become law.
My job here is to assess the Bill before us on its merit.
Mr President, to focus on the additional changes made to the Bill in the other place, I note there is a long international history of need for change, similar to that proposed in the Bill before us.
Sweden was the first nation to allow legal change of gender in 1972. The current best practice in terms of international human rights is to leave gender markers off identity documents in the same way we leave off race.
The federal government also made changes to remove the requirement for surgery regarding areas covered by the Commonwealth, as has the ACT, Western Australia and South Australia in their State and Territory legislation.
Gender markers have been off drivers' licences in all states for over a decade. The sun has still come up each day and there has not been any loss of awareness of gender.
Let’s look at what this Bill before us, particularly if amended as I seek to do, actually does, as well as what it doesn’t do.
1. This Bill will remove the requirement that a person applying to register their change of sex to not be married, that is, they can be married to another person of the same sex.
2. This Bill will give parents the choice of having the gender of their baby recorded on the birth certificate, or not having a gender noted on the birth certificate.
3. This Bill will enable a birth certificate to be issued with the current and relevant details, including the name and date of birth of the person, without other details such as an incorrect name and/or gender also being recorded on the birth certificate when issued.
4. This Bill will enable transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate without the need to undergo major and risky surgery when they identify as a gender different to that on their birth certificate at that time.
5. This Bill will not change the way trans or intersex people live or what they do from day to day. It won’t make people become transgender.
6. This Bill will not stop the Registrar recording the gender and other relevant birth details that the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages is legally required to maintain to ensure historical records are maintained.
7. This Bill will not enable details of birth as recorded to be erased from the historic Register that must be maintained by the Registrar.
8. And this Bill will not give transgender people who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery, access to any areas they cannot access now.
9. People who do register a change of gender will still be required to abide by all the laws of this State, as we all do.
There have been two main areas of concern raised.
First has been on the fact that gender might not appear on birth certificates. This upset some people, even though anyone who wants their gender noted on their birth certificate, or their child’s birth certificate, can easily do so.
I believe the vast majority of people will select this option and thus nothing will change. A birth certificate issued will essentially be the same as it is now.
Secondly, the other concern relates to whether trans people should be able to change gender without surgery. It seems everyone has an opinion, often a strong one.
I acknowledge and thank all those who provided briefings to us last year on this topic and those who have assisted in drafting amendments to the Bill before us.
Mr President, I have consulted broadly on this Bill and the amendments I have had prepared. I particularly wish to thank Robyn Webb from OPC for her professionalism, insight, attention to detail and steadfast approach to ensure our laws achieve the policy intend and do not create conflicts as much as any drafter of legislation can.
I have consulted with the Children’s Commissioner, the ACL and other groups and individuals opposed to these changes including representatives of Women Speak Tasmania.
For me, the most powerful group I and we heard from last year was the parents of trans kids. People with a very real lived experience and having a real insight into the need for this reform.
Mr President, over recent months we’ve met people like Roen Meijers, Martine Delaney and Dede River, people who also share a lived experience, who are older and articulate. I have had meetings with parents of trans children and young adults.
I have had many lengthy meetings with people who are experienced in and presenting arguments that are often technical about amendments, data processing, and so on. They have real expertise in this area and we should respect that.
These older members of the trans community have had years of dealing with these challenges and have worked in areas that provide insight into the drafting of legislation and data collection and storage for example.
It’s easy to forget that in many cases, the trans community are young people, and that they may feel insecure, or even threatened in being put in the spotlight. Almost all, if not all, trans people have experienced prejudice, discrimination and harm during their lives directly related to their gender identity.
They certainly have had to be brave, to assert their gender identity in schools, or with their parents. Parents don’t ask to have trans children. Children don’t really ask to be trans. It’s something they are, and often struggle with.
Saying to anyone, parents, peers, whoever, “I’m trans” or “I’m really a girl or boy” is an incredibly difficult thing for any child, or adult, to do. It’s likely to be an inner struggle to say to oneself, and then a major struggle with the world. It’s likely to lead to bullying and ostracism. Evidence suggests it may lead to threats and assault. It will almost certainly mean hearing hateful comments.
While these kids have to be brave, it is often an inner desperation, not courage that leads them to speak. And once they do, most just want to keep their head down. It’s not the way they want to have attention focused on them, not the kind of attention they want.
When they can, I think a lot of trans people prefer not to have to think about being trans. They just want to be themselves.
This is what this legislation before us is about. Allowing people, especially young people, to be themselves. Not putting a spotlight on them. Allowing them to be themselves without having everyone pry into their gender or genitals.
For many trans people, the most significant part of this legislation is the elimination of the requirement for surgery and medical approval. That, and the ability to say what their gender is.
The surgery requirement is the one that stops almost all trans people from changing their legal identity on a birth certificate.
I would ask why we should require people to undergo major, invasive and complex surgery, with all the inherent risks if they don’t wish to, essentially to meet the expectation of broader society that expects them to look a certain way.
We don’t, and I don’t believe we should, require all morbidly obese people to have risky bariatric surgery to conform to what we view as a ‘normal healthy body’?
This current requirement impacts all people wanting to change their legal gender. It is major barrier for transgender men. It is a problem for non-binary people and anyone who does not feel their gender resides in their genitals.
Some people have other underlying medical conditions that mean they cannot have such major surgery. It is a problem for those who cannot do this for medical reasons. The surgery requirement is even a barrier for those who want such surgery.
I understand the cost of this surgery for transgender women, is over $25 000, and it is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance, and that is the base cost for the simpler form of surgery.
This cost does not include other costs associated with time off work or the fact that almost no surgeons in Australia perform such surgery, so surgery usually entails overseas travel with all the associated travel costs.
Granting of permission to have the surgery involves at least a year of living as the gendered identity while being monitored by a psychiatrist with regular visits and then getting a second psychiatrist to grant final approval.
I am not suggesting this should change, what I am suggesting is this this is a very long and convoluted process – living with an identification document that is not a true representation of who they are.
Enabling people to have their gender removed from, or changed on, their birth certificate enables them to live as they are, subject to all laws that apply to all of us.
Trans people who have not had surgery but may take the opportunity to remove or change their gender from the birth certificate will still require ‘Working with Children and Vulnerable People’ checks if they are working or volunteering in areas where children or vulnerable people are.
They will be subject to prosecution if they assault anyone for what-ever reason.
They will need to abide by policies set by schools, sporting organisations and any other organisation they interact with.
Just as we all do.
Currently, the law requires sexual reassignment surgery to change gender on a birth certificate. And in spite of what some suggest, a hysterectomy for example, and thus sterilisation, would not be enough. The law says:
sexual reassignment surgery means a surgical procedure involving the alteration of a person's reproductive organs carried out –
(a) for the purpose of assisting the person to be considered to be a member of the opposite sex; or
(b) to correct or eliminate ambiguities relating to the sex of the person;
A hysterectomy doesn’t rearrange the genitals in a way that assist[s] the person to be considered to be a member of the opposite sex.
That would require surgery that costs around $100,000 and takes a number of months, and I’ve been told this is not available in Australia. Many trans people may not feel they want or need such invasive surgery, even if they could afford it.
Removing this surgery requirement has been done federally and in the ACT, WA, and South Australia.
The change to gender markers on birth certificates will have a particularly strong impact on young people.
They are the people who need birth certificates to prove their age, and to generate photo ID.
If their birth certificate includes their original name and gender and the child don’t look anything like the gender on their birth certificate this can be very confronting and is unnecessary to prove your identity.
The ability to have no gender on a birth certificate means someone can check a child’s age, and take their gender to be exactly what it seems.
The ability to have the right name means the same. These changes will assist and positively impact on children the most.
It will help older trans people of course, young women and men. But they will often be using their drivers licence, or a passport for ID. As we age, a birth certificate becomes less important.
Of course, older people face problems when a birth certificate says they are a gender different to the way they look and opens them up to discrimination.
Mr President, a birth certificate is an identity document. It is not intended to confirm a person’s gender. It does not confirm or reflect genetic heritage. There is no paternity test undertaken prior to registration of a birth.
Because the parent(s) are not necessarily blood relatives, a birth certificate cannot be used for heritable conditions, except as ID for obtaining medical records.
Health records track health information for a child. The Registrar does not collect information regarding the health of a person.
A birth certificate is used in various contexts as an identity document. In those contexts it is used:
• For young people, as proof of age;
• For people requesting government services, as proof of citizenship, when place of birth is relevant; and
• For international travel documents, as proof of citizenship, when place of birth is relevant
A birth certificate has no identifying information tying it to a particular person, other than parent’s names. This is how people have stolen the identity of a person who died in childhood. It is a start of a paper trail.
For other legal purposes, legal identification papers are not changed without a legal process, application, and statements of change. Whether a change of name is on a birth certificate, or by deed poll, there is a paper trail.
When it is changed on a drivers licence, there is a paper trail. When it is changed on a passport, there is a paper trail.
It is not necessary to include former names on a person’s ID.
Law enforcement agencies rarely need to go to a birth certificate to identify someone, unless the paper trail is in doubt, or in cases of identity theft.
They go to more recent documents, preferably with photos and facial recogniton.
Identity has become a more central issue in policing, and there are currently a raft of elements to help build an identity profile of a person, including facial recognition software, voice recognition, and data-matching with phone records, social security, taxation, land ownership, car and boat registration, and bank records to identify and track flows of income for example.
So who will these changes impact why does this matter so much, and who does it matter to?
In some cases, the need for these changes go beyond the exclusion or harassment trans people experience.
Mr President, it matters for people like Rosemary Harwood and her daughter, Marjorie, known to her as Marty.
For Marjorie Harwood it meant that in spite of policies intended to keep trans people from harm, Marjorie was sent to the Risdon Men’s Prison.
She had transitioned in the 80s, and faced a lifetime of bullying and discrimination, and ultimately turned to drink and petty crime.
Marty’s change of gender was not recognised by the justice system in Tasmania when she found herself facing imprisonment for these crimes she had committed.
This matters because in spite of pleas from her mother, she was apparently sent to the male section of Risdon Prison on the strength of the gender listed on her birth certificate.
Mr President, while there, according to Lawyer’s Weekly she “allegedly” was gang-raped resulting in injuries severe enough to require a colostomy bag.
I ask members to try to imagine and reflect on the brutality of these rapes and violence she experienced to cause so much physical harm…..
According to the article, although she was hospitalised, the prison hospital did not report the assault.
Marjorie, who had also suffered from childhood with a kidney disease, ended her own life by refusing dialysis or other treatment. Her stated intent was to die, and in July 2017, she did so.
I understand there are policies in place aimed at preventing this sort of event. However, if one puts a trans woman into a men’s prison, assault is almost inevitable, rape is highly likely, and death is possible.
Likewise, putting a trans man, who because of the current requirements of surgery is likely to have a vagina, into a men’s prison will also almost inevitably lead to assault, probably lead to rape, and possibly the death of that person.
This is why prisons need to take trans people on a person-by-person basis. The primary obligation in prisons is the duty of care.
So Mr President, this Bill matters to people like Marty and the law needs to change to create a safer society for transgender people.
Mr President, it matters to the parents of transgender children and well as those children themselves.
This law reform matters to the 15 year old transgender person seeking their first job that they can be taken as they are, who they are rather than be ‘outed’ by a birth certificate that is wrong and misrepresents them and creates the very real risk, and in many cases, the lived reality, of discrimination.
Mr President, this is the real and lived experience of the people this Bill will impact.
Mr President, one of the parents who met with us last year emailed me following the meeting. I will share just a small de-identified section of the email to highlight why this is important, from the heart of a parent:
… I feel I need to do everything I can to help my child so I write to you now to back up what we said today about this legislation change being a way to make the world a safer place for our children. Our children didn't make a choice to be the way they are, it is in their genetic makeup and their identity is their own. They cannot deny who they are. These amendments will allow them to change their birth certificate without having to have invasive surgery to remove their reproductive organs - what a barbaric thing to expect them to have to do.
This parent also mentions the principles of harm reduction writing:
… it is inevitable that enlightened people will also see that people should not be forced to have invasive surgery to prove that they are the gender they identify as, … in fact the majority of people will not even know there is any difference, these changes simply won't affect them. But for the 2% of people who are transgender or born with indeterminate sex or intersex this will have an immense benefit in improving their lives and easing the stress they go through negotiating a world that holds a lot of prejudice towards them.
I know we have all received many emails both in support and opposing these changes. Many opposing have been on the basis of the removal of the terms mother and father and a number showing an unfortunate lack of understanding of the intent of the proposed amendments.
Mr President, unfortunately, at the time this Bill was presented in this place, many of these matters were being misrepresented in the media with much comment on these important matters being anything but accurate.
Personally I believe this has been deliberate. Comment from senior politicians, right up to the Prime Minister have fuelled this misinformation.
This confusion has led to emails from Tasmanians expressing concern.
I have personally called a number of constituents who have expressed concern regarding the Bill before us, to talk to them about the proposed changes and by and large when they understand the application of these proposed changes they accept they have misunderstood, as their concern has been based primarily on media comment.
I have also informed members of the public that I recognised a number of concerns regarding the current drafting and as I mentioned earlier, I sincerely that OPC for the significant assistance with drafting a set of amendments that maintain the policy intent and maintain the integrity of the Register.
The pleas from members of the public to support this change have come from a wide range of people, with the majority of people being directly impacted one way or another being transgender, intersex or non-binary themselves of having a family member who is.
An example of the type of email requesting support includes, in part, these comments:
We are fifty-six and sixty years old respectively and while childhood is a long time ago neither of us can recall a time that we or anyone close to us required a copy of our birth certificates to establish our sex. ...
lt is pretty clear to us though that having details of their sex at birth on people's birth certificates has made life very difficult for a number of people in our community. These people already face lots of hurdles and problems …
What I find interesting is the level of misunderstanding within the community about this issue in a broader sense. Some seem to believe that they will have to fill out a statutory declaration confirming the sex of their baby at birth or other times to register the baby’s birth and/or to get a birth certificate.
Others believe that no gender will be recorded at all in the birth details.
Others believe this will prevent them from including gender on their own birth certificate or the birth certificate of their children or other children.
Many people opposing these changes appear not to appreciate the very real challenges parents of intersex babies face when being required to identify the sex of the baby and decide on a name for the baby within 60 days and that it may be that the sex of the baby cannot be determined until much later.
The Registrar does have the power to accept a late registration and power to correct an entry where necessary so I am not sure extending these times to 120 days may make it more problematic for the Registrar to contact parents for information that needs to be provided at a later date. I will consider this more fully in the Committee stage.
I absolutely support the view that parents should not be forced to make a determination about the sex of the baby when it is unclear and no baby should be subject to so-called corrective surgery until they are in a position to give consent.
Many parents also wish to or need to apply for a birth certificate for their child to access services. Mr President, removing the requirement to include a gender marker on the birth certificate will assist the child and the parents at a challenging time.
Gender was removed from Drivers Licences over a decade ago.
The only time it has potentially been used in the past for this purpose was prior to the passage of legislation supporting marriage equality where a celebrant may have needed to confirm they were not marrying a couple who were the same sex.
This requirement is no longer necessary – and this is the reason we find ourselves here dealing with this legislation, including the original Bill from the Government, so there is no need at all to include it.
Allowing people the choice of whether to include gender on the birth certificate enhances and provides real parental choice and will have absolutely NO IMPACT on those who wish to have it included.
This change WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on parents of intersex babies, parents who chose not to list gender, for whatever reason, and importantly, young people who are transgender who are required to use their birth certificate to gain employment, enrol at some schools, open a bank account or a range of other requirements where they need to prove their identity – that is their name and date of birth.
These are all occasions where they are currently being disadvantaged and discriminated against by having a former, and no longer accurate, name and gender recorded at the top of the certificate.
Parents have explained the desire for these changes describing the experiences of their child seeking employment.
One parent wrote:
She recently enquired into the application processes for the local employers in our area, and all have required ID in the form of her birth certificate and/or passport. Her birth certificate, despite having gone through the process of a legal name change at significant financial cost, records at the very top of it her former name and an incorrect gender.
It is a useless document for her - as it 'outs' her immediately - leaving her open to potential discrimination, bullying, and unnecessary public scrutiny, in relation to her private gender identity.
And sections of another sharing the lived experience of their child:
We write to you as proud parents of an equally proud transgender daughter.
We are the minority who this past week have continued to witness examples of the hatred that we fear our innocent daughter is inevitably going to experience throughout her life. The hatred that to date we have been able to shelter our child and her siblings from while at the same time delivering a message of acceptance to those that we encounter who might display reluctance to accept who our family is.
The opportunity which you currently have is one that can deliver a message to our children that their welfare is as important as every other child by helping to prevent the discrimination that those before them have had to endure and in turn lay the foundations in the community that acceptance and tolerance is more important than what's written on a piece of paper.
While the majority of people will not be affected by the changes before you, the benefits to those impacted are immeasurable. They will be afforded a chance of normality and the freedom of being who they are and choosing who they share their story with, something which admittedly, most of us take for granted.
We want what every other parent wants and that's for our children to experience everything that life has to offer. The changes proposed will allow us this.
Mr President, I could read many other accounts including the voices of families directly impacted and I know all other Members have received these letters with their heartfelt pleas. Mr President, these real and lived experiences must be considered in our decision making. If we do not stand up for people from minority or marginalised groups, who will?
Mr President, the examples of such personal experiences are more common that I believe many members of the public realise. These young people and children experience challenges we, who are not transgender, cannot fully understand.
Mr President, of course we must also listen to those who have opposing views as they can also shed light on some of the potential challenges a change to legislation may bring. I have done this as well and responded to a number of those who have raised legitimate concerns.
Mr President, I have listened intently to all people who have spoken and communicated with me on this matter and this has assisted in the preparation of the amendments I propose to move if we get into the Committee stage.
The best we can do is believe those with the real lived expereince, believe in them, do what we can to remove obvious avenues for discrimination and disadvantage and support them to be themselves and achieve their full potential.
After all Mr President, isn’t this just what we all want for our own children, our nephews, nieces and grandchildren?
Mr President, there has been some comment, mainly in the briefings from some who oppose these changes, about the “threat” of people using the ability to self-declare they are trans without surgery.
According to some, this change will be used by men wanting to prey on women.
We, and the broader public need to remember that legally changing gender means doing so in your full legal identity. It is not confined to one piece of paper. And even with a birth certificate, a person will only get so far if they seem to not be serious.
There is talk, ignorant talk, about men using legal gender change to allow them to enter “women’s spaces”. First, men rape and assault women, in women’s spaces or otherwise, without wearing women’s clothes or taking on aspects of a female identity.
Members may recall the shocking incident that occurred in Western Australia in 2006. A little after 4pm on the 26th of June, 2006, Dante Arthurs followed 8 year old Sophia Rodriguez-Urrutia Shu into the toilet in Livingston Shopping Centre, Canning Vale, WA, where he sexually abused and killed her.
He didn’t wear women’s clothes.
On the 15th of December 2017, a man sexually assaulted a 7 year old in the toilet of a Sydney dance studio. He was stopped by the intervention of another man, who was stabbed in the struggle before others overcame the attacker. Again, the assailant did not wear women’s clothes.
Mr President, one woman a week, and sometimes two a week, are killed by their male partner who does so often in their own home and does not need to dress as or claim to be a woman to do so. Violence against women is wrong.
Trans people, regardless of whether they seek to change their registered gender and whether or not their gender is noted on their birth certificate, will still be subject to our laws. Assault and rape are crimes, regardless of who, where, and when the crimes are committed.
Men don’t need to, nor do they wear women’s clothes to assault women. Men don’t wear women’s clothes to enter a woman’s toilet. The idea that someone would go through the trouble to not only dress up, but to legally change their gender, is ludicrous.
No one needs to legally change gender to wear a disguise. Men who assault women don’t disguise themselves as women. No one asks for a birth certificate before entry into women’s spaces.
Mr President, claims being made that these changes will mean there will see men complete a ‘stat dec’ to enable them to enter women’s spaces such as women’s toilets, women’s shelters and other spaces are therefore nothing more than fear mongering and wrong.
So I ask those people, how will it enable this? I have never been asked to show a birth certificate to prove I am female to access one of these spaces.
I have never been asked to show my birth certificate to access a male toilet which I have done in the past, both deliberately and accidentally. If a man, with malicious intent, wishes to do this – they can now as evidenced by the above examples.
If this occurs it is of course a serious matter and needs to be deal with accordingly. Allowing these proposed changes will not alter that.
The reality is that trans women are more likely to be assaulted than non-trans women, both assaulted as women, and assaulted because they are trans.
There have been various cases of trans women being assaulted as women, and killed when they were found to be trans women who had not had surgery.
Research from overseas has clearly shown that there is no evidence that trans people represent a danger in bathrooms.
These claims that some men will use this opportunity to access safe women’s spaces including women’s health and legal services has also been clearly addressed in a letter we received co-signed by a two women’s service providers. This letter states in part:
It is our position that transgender women are women and they are welcome at our services.
WST also argue that transgender women pose a threat to women’s safe spaces.
There is no research or service experience to suggest that men who seek to harm women change their gender or masquerade as transgender women in order to do so.
Acknowledging in law the human rights of transgender people does not reduce the human rights enjoyed by non-transgender people. Protecting women’s rights and supporting transgender people are not mutually exclusive.
Through our collective experience of providing legal, health, domestic violence and housing services to women, we are already successfully supporting transgender women who, it should be noted, are often themselves victims of violence and targeted by people who use abusive behaviour.
Arguments such as those promulgated by WST only result in greater danger, including physical assaults to transgender women, non-binary individuals, and women who do not conform to stereotypes of femininity.
These attitudes also stand as barriers to gender diverse people accessing services and as such, they remain at greater risk to violence and abuse.
Our organisations have always been a safe and welcoming place for all women and they remain so.
Mr President, women’s health and/or legal services and refuges for women currently enable access to these services for all women including transgender women and this won’t change.
Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, I am unaware of any instances where individuals have been asked to produce a birth certificate to access gender specific areas such a public toilets, women’s services or other spaces. This will remain unchanged.
There is a lot of fearmongering. The reality is that even without the medical barriers, changing legal gender is not easy. Either one must live as the gender on documents, or face the situation where documents point to a different gender.
Again, it means changing gender, and usually one’s name, on all records in a person’s life, and facing the questions and attitudes of people as one does so. It is not, and never will be, something a person does casually.
Mr President, it is also disappointing when claims are made in relation to this matter in the absence of checking the facts of the matter.
Many of the claims made by representatives of Women Speak Tasmania, suggest that we are on a ‘slippery slope’ if we pass this law. A number of their claims are based on taking information out of context.
An example used in a briefing from WST related to language used by various midwifery organisations, including organisations in Australia, UK, USA and Canada.
The use of gender inclusive language is accepted and widely used.
It is important when issues arise, that may not be covered in current policy documents of organisations providing services to women and men, these documents should be reviewed to ensure matters that need to be addressed are addressed.
All of the organisations referred to, continue to include the words woman or women, breast and breast feeding and other female related terminology in their policy documents.
Some include advice to assist in determining gender neutral language to care for transgender men who have not has gender reassignment surgery and can give birth and breastfeed.
This advice is specific and appropriate in the terms of its intended use. There were questions asked, rightly in my view, about this inclusion to ensure women, and women related language, is not removed.
In the policy documents of these organisations, women centred language has not been removed as suggested. I am happy to show members a response to the letter referred to by the representative of Women Speak Tasmania supporting the inclusion of gender neutral language where appropriate.
Scare mongering and use of information out of context does very little to give credibility to an argument Mr President.
Concerns were also raised about the competitive advantage that transgender women may have in competitive sports.
I acknowledge and accept this can be the case and as a result organisations from Olympic level, the AFL and other key sporting bodies, are working on policies to work with this reality. Of course it will take some time, and may need amending over time, but this is already being addressed and is currently the case for transgender people who have had gender re-assignment surgery.
This is a matter being considered and dealt with now – this change will not impact on this.
An email I received claimed that:
This Bill will have serious ramifications for sports where women will be the big losers! Biological men can just say they are women and clean up in every field and perhaps seriously injure someone.
Mr President, I am not aware of any man who just turns up at a footy club, claims to be a woman so he can compete in a women’s team. On the issue of serious injuries - we see serious injuries and occasional tragic deaths at all levels of sport now, including in women’s team sports.
We continue to take measures, such as improved helmets for cricketers, changes to AFL rules to protect players heads, etc., and in my view this ongoing review will continue to deal with the very real risk associated with contact sports.
Another claim made was that:
This will seriously compromise the safety of children in schools when it comes to teacher supervision, change rooms, dormitories and accommodation on school camps. It also puts teachers in jeopardy and at risk of having serious sexual allegations made against them if they have to supervise children that are not of the same gender.
Mr President, I am personally glad we see more male teachers in our primary schools. It is a reality that many children lack the influence of positive male role models in their lives at this important age and this is being provided more now in our schools.
All teachers have WWC Checks and have professional standards to maintain. Changing this law will not change that. This is a matter that is managed every day in our schools now. All teachers regardless of their gender, must comply with all laws of this State.
And another claim Mr President, that I really can’t explain that being that the Defence Force will be compromised along with so many other areas.
Mr President, I cannot for the life of me understand how the Defence Force will be compromised as so much work has been done in this service to foster inclusion, diversity and acceptance.
Mr President, these claims are based on fear and misunderstanding in my view. I am happy to hear the views of others and listen to their concerns and I hope those who make them will also be happy to hear my views and whilst we may need to agree to differ I would hope we can at least have an honest debate.
Mr President, many are saying this matter has not been properly considered and there has been no public consultation.
That is not the case. This is an area of law reform that was subject to review and report by the former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. This review included public consultation including with organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby and other mainstream churches.
This is not a new issue. Transgender people have been meeting with Attorney’s General since 2004 seeking to update our laws. The Government has been consulted numerous times, including on amendments to reflect the changes we now see in the Bill before us.
Our friend and former colleague, the late Hon Dr Vanessa Goodwin did commit to making a number of these changes and since her very untimely death the Liberals have not acted on these changes.
The Government has also left dealing with the necessary “No forced divorce” provisions that they knew had to be finalized by December 9, until the last sitting week of 2018. They had the opportunity with this Bill and at other times to progress the changes Vanessa had committed to.
These matters have been discussed with all Attorney Generals since 2004 and with the current government including having similar amendments to what we see in this Bill proposed back in May with no action.
There have also been reviews done in other jurisdictions including Western Australia and Northern Territory where similar recommendations were made.
Mr President, the challenges facing trans people are real and removing some avenues for discrimination is important in a tolerant and inclusive society.
It is particularly young people these reforms will help.
I am certainly not suggesting that these reforms will stop violence and transphobia.
What they will do is reduce the situations where being trans becomes the issue for young people.
Mr President, the reality is that some people are trans. It’s not a choice. Most trans people say being trans is difficult, but that it is far better to address their issues. They are happier when they do.
We’ve seen the parents of trans young people. We’ve met older trans people. We are far more a problem to them, than they are to us.
The parents we met are the ones who support their children, and see that when they allow them to be themselves, they can flourish. Although they may face challenges, with supportive schools and supportive friends, they can just get on with becoming happy, productive people.
Mr President, the reality is that trans people are just people. Some people happen to be trans and are part of the diverse humanity to which we all belong.
Like sexual orientation it is not something people choose. It is part of who they are. It is how they identify and it is their identity. Throughout history, there have always been trans people.
Trans people are not seeking to erase sex or gender as is being suggested by some; they know sex is something we are born with. What they seek is an inclusive society where they are free to be who they are without judgement, just as I am as a woman and each of you are as you are.
They are seeking a freedom to live as they are without unnecessary and potentially harmful discrimination in ways that harm no-one else.
Providing choice for all parents including parents of trans and gender-diverse people is a positive step. This Bill expands choice rather than diminishes it.
Mr President, I support the intent of the Bill as presented to this House and will certainly support it into the Committee stage as I believe amendments are necessary to address some areas of concern I have had with the Bill as presented. Much of this could have been avoided if access to OPC had been granted to those in the other place seeking to make amendments.
Mr President, the provisions in this Bill will enhance choice for parents and adults. The provisions in the Bill won’t hurt anyone and will help some people.
Mr President, there have been a lot of comment in the media that completely misrepresents the policy intent and impact of this proposed change. Much of the commentary has been untruthful, scaremongering and very harmful to members of our community – who are Tasmanians.
I wish to conclude with some words of Tim Soutphommasane, an Australian academic, a University of Sydney professor, a social commentator and former Race Discrimination Commissioner made in recent days related to an act of extremism, hate and prejudice as these words also apply here.
"Sometimes the most powerful thing for those feeling vulnerable is to know that there are people who stand beside them.
"Those who feel vulnerable can often forget that the majority of people are people of goodwill and understanding.
"If you hear or see something hateful, and it's safe to speak out, you should do so. It makes a big difference for people to hear that others will stand up for what's right.
"It's powerful to hear others reject intolerance or prejudice.
"It's not always as simple as having good intentions. There are plenty of examples of people meaning well, but missing the mark.
"Avoiding that is best done when people take the time to listen closely to what those affected by an issue feel and experience.
"Extend the hand of friendship. Have a chat. It doesn't have to involve rocket science."
Mr President, the Bill, if supported with some amendments, will advance our just, tolerant, inclusive and diverse society and that must be better for all of us.Go Back