Western Australia has opportunity to implement best practice birth certificate laws

Western Australia has opportunity to implement best practice birth certificate laws

The Western Australian Government has an historic opportunity to do away with outdated and unnecessary laws that prevent trans and gender diverse people from being recognised as who they are, according to a submission by Transfolk of WA together with the Human Rights Law Centre.

“A birth certificate is the first document a person owns. It says who you are, and where you belong. When this important ID doesn't match your identity it creates daily problems like applying for a job or enrolling to study,” says Lee Carnie, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.

“There is no reason why our gender needs to be included on a birth certificate. We haven’t had gender recorded on our drivers licences for years, and we don’t record other personal details such as race or religion.  Trans and gender diverse people should be respected as who they are, without the need for onerous tests or medical procedures,” added Lee Carnie. 

Currently people can only change their gender if they have had medical treatment and are over 18, and successfully apply to the Gender Reassignment Board. These laws are currently under review following a discussion paper from WA’s Law Reform Commission, which has recommended no longer recording a child’s gender on their birth certificate. This is strongly supported by trans and gender people in Western Australia.

“We feel a sense of relief and excitement about the prospect of having the current barriers to self-determination and recognition being removed, and the positive impact that these seemingly small changes will have on our mental health,” said Misty Farquhar, Vice Chairperson of TransFolk of WA.

Trans and gender diverse people have spoken about the practical challenges of having an ID that matches their identity, and the unnecessary stress and hurt caused by having to appear before the Gender Reassignment Board under the current system.

“I’ve got an extremely thick skin, slings and arrows bounce off me. However, I’ve never felt so humiliated and degraded as the day I was questioned by the panel in that huge room. I felt very small and out of control of the entire situation,” said Nick Lawrence, Chairperson of TransFolk of WA.

With gender removed from birth certificates, the reforms would also allow people who want a Gender Identity Certificate to be able to apply for one through a simple administrative process.

“Current processes for gender recognition in WA are dehumanising, traumatic, and unnecessary. The proposed changes will put everyone on a level playing field, including non-binary folk who do not currently have an option for this kind of recognition,” says Misty Farquhar.

Some of the other changes proposed by the WA Law Reform Commission, and supported the authors of the submission and, include:

  • Removing the need for a person to undergo invasive and unnecessary surgery in order to official change their gender their birth certificate,

  • Including an additional category of “non-binary” on ID certificates, and

  • Introducing a new ‘gender identity certificate’.

You can read TransFolk of WA and the Human Rights Law Centre’s joint submission to the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia here.

For interview:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519