Victorians now able to change sex on birth certificate without surgery

Transgender people in Victoria will now be able to change the sex on their birth certificate without having to undergo surgery.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill passed by 26 votes to 14 in the Victorian Upper House on Tuesday (local time) and will become law once it has royal assent. Tasmania, Northern Territory, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have all passed similar laws. 

Australian trans activists, many of whom travelled to parliament to hear the passing of the Bill, are celebrating it as an important step toward a society more accepting of gender diversity, using the hashtag #MyIDMyIdentity.

MPs who voted in support of the legislation have stressed it's a small tweak to the law that will mean a world of difference to the transgender community. Previously, Victorians had to prove they'd undergone gender-affirming surgery before being able to change the marker on their birth certificate. 

The new Bill requires applicants to make a statutory declaration of the sex they want their certificate to reflect, and must provide a statement from an adult who's known them for a year or more and believes they want to make the change in good faith. 

These provisions seem intended to prevent people from fraudulently claiming an identity in order to enter spaces designed for another gender, which opponents to 'self-ID' laws have said will threaten women's safety despite little evidence of such 'gender fraud' actually happening. 

Earlier this year the New Zealand Government put the brakes on a similar law after an outcry from trans-exclusionary radical feminists (pejoratively called TERFs) such as lobby group Speak Up For Women, who claimed men would pretend to identify as female to invade women's toilets and changing rooms. 

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said the public needed to have more input before the Bill could proceed. 

Gender-affirming surgery is often an impractical or impossible choice for many trans people, as it is very expensive to have done privately and patients going through the public system face incredibly long waits. 

While New Zealand was once a world leader in the availability of gender-affirming surgery, the waiting lists for complex procedures involving genitals swelled after our only specialist surgeon retired in 2014.

The previous Government funded three male-to-female surgeries and one female-to-male surgery every two years, leaving many trans people with wait times of more than a decade. The cap was lifted last year and has become the new minimum number of surgeries to be performed every two years. 

Gender-affirming surgery can include procedures such as top surgery (breast removal for trans men), facial feminisation and hysterectomies. 


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