April 10, 2019 / 5:21 PM / 6 months ago

Controversy as Tasmania makes gender optional on birth certificates

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tasmania made it optional to list gender on birth certificates on Wednesday, a move criticised by the Australian island’s leader and Christian activists who fear it would endanger women.

LGBT+ rights group ILGA said Tasmania was probably one of the first places in the world to dispense with gender on birth certificates - which can be problematic for intersex babies born with atypical chromosomes or sex characteristics.

The reforms also allows trans people to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing sex reassignment surgery, a policy known as self-identification.

“These are nation leading reforms that will provide transgender Tasmanians and their families with recognition and respect under the law,” Cassy O’Connor, leader of the Greens, one of the parties that supported the bill, said in a statement.

A growing number of U.S. states, as well as countries including Germany, Pakistan and Nepal, allow people to choose non-binary gender options on official documents.

Making it as easy as possible to officially change gender has long been a goal of trans rights campaigners globally, but critics fear that self-identification would allow predatory men to identify as female to access women-only spaces.

“What is incredibly concerning is that no consideration has been given to the impact on women’s refuges, schools, and clubs,” Dan Flynn, the Australian Christian Lobby’s acting state director, said in a statement.

“Prisoners will be able to demand accommodation in prisons that accord with the gender they choose. That is not in the interests of the justice system or broader community,” he said, accusing parliament of “capitulation to the trans lobby.”

Australia’s national government has allowed trans people since 2013 to self-identify on passports, without having surgery or hormone treatment, and to choose “X” as their gender marker. Rules vary for state-issued documents like driving licenses.

Will Hodgman, premier of the rugged island, some 240 km south of the Australian mainland, said that his opponents had “rushed” the parliamentary vote.

“It is highly likely the parliament will need to fix up problems with the legislation,” he said in a statement, without giving further details.

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