Current Victorian law requires people to undergo surgery to change their birth certificate. This creates issues for those with another health aspect who cannot be on an operating table being denied surgery. Cost is also an issue: the current out-of-pocket cost not covered by Medicare or private cover for trans women is $16000 and for trans men (those assigned female at birth who identify as male) is $70,000. The latter figure only covers one stage of that surgery. Trans men are also required to undergo a hysterectomy, which is often denied due to prejudice and inaccurate beliefs that result in a vicious circle of discrimination.
The demand for surgery means some trans people are instantly being forced to breach their own privacy and then explain themselves to total strangers whenever they produce their birth certificate – for example for a police check.
Further, the lag in Victoria reforming its laws when compared to inclusive federal passport regulations can lead to the same person being recognised differently by different jurisdictions. This has led to the scenario of a person being unable to complete an identity check online within an hour for a job. Rather, it took 15 days and meant having to send documents by post. In a tight job race, this could mean missing out on a job when possibly being equally or better qualified. These situations only compound the distress and unemployment often faced by trans people due to other forms of prejudice and vilification.
Of significant importance is the need to allow inclusive and accurate descriptions in relation to gender. According to the Trans Pathways study in 2017, close to 50 per cent of respondents identified as other than male or female. To have a document where details differ from the person’s self-affirmed gender causes similar anxiety to the situations mentioned above.
The law around the need for someone to sign off on the declaration for an adult to change their marker should be changed so that this signature can be provided by any adult who has known the TGD person for at least a year. The idea that TGD people need a health professional to “approve” how their gender is recorded is demeaning, and also a double standard – the broader population are not treated in this way.
In relation to minors, the current law needs to be updated to allow for a change of marker (currently there is no possibility of that), with the further step being the appropriate approval of parents or guardians. Many children and teens, on affirming their gender, are being inappropriately denied access to services (including schools) because they can’t produce an official document displaying their affirmed gender (even though such a request contravenes state and federal anti-discrimination laws). Parents are then in the horrible position of seeing their child unhappy at school or having to go through the unwanted effort of finding alternative service providers or changing schools.
Updating the birth certificate laws would result in ease and consistency for all.
Like many small groups, trans and gender diverse people often are the subject of misinformation, cliche, generalisation and at times outright vilification. Now that we have the experience in other states and territories as a guide, it is time to for Victoria to tackle these inequites and ensure a fair go for all Victorians when it comes to the issuing of birth certificates.
Sally Goldner is the acting executive director of Transgender Victoria.
Transgender Victoria and St Kilda Legal Service will hold a “Change Your ID Day” on May 15 as part of Law Week.