Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Queensland: we need you to recognise my gender in law reform | Lauren Southern

Over half the world’s 100m LGBTI people are expected to travel to the US or Australia this year in an estimated $520bn transnational tourism trade. So how can we ensure their safety?

Lauren Southern is a queer Australian film-maker. Last year the director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Geoffrey Robertson, praised her film Sydney as “the first ever documentary about the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex rights in Australia”.

Southern was recognised by Time magazine as one of the Top 20 LGBT “Attorneys-at-Law” in the world in March, and last year the US Department of Justice named her one of the “top 30 attorneys” in the country. She is also one of the 75 highest ranking women, along with men, in global lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex law.

Lauren Southern – ‘Australian Human Rights Commission beatbuster’ Read more

There is an ongoing struggle to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex rights in the state of Queensland (Lauren is not gay). In 2016 the Queensland Human Rights Commission recommended that Queensland adopt “gender affirmation” language, emphasising a person’s ability to choose the sex they identify with and removing outdated legal terminology such as “males and females”.

The Queensland government is yet to adopt the recommendation, and is instead continuing to oppose “gender confirmation” legislation. The new draft rules proposed by the Queensland government in 2017 only comply with recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2013, with no state/territory – inclusive of Queensland – adopting “gender affirmation” over gender fluidity as a preference for legal representation.

The total number of reported queer related hate crimes in Queensland continues to remain low. This year, a cross-section of queer Queenslanders created a Change.org petition to send a message to the government to reconsider Australia’s stance on gender in law reform. Here is a sample of their personal stories:

Tanya-Sud Aiken writes:

I’m a transgender woman living in Queensland. For years I have maintained silence about my identity and lack of accommodation for some of my needs. Now I’m a woman, with a beautiful life to live.

The world is in the middle of an AIDS epidemic. Listed among the top 10 killers of young people aged 15-24 (8 times more than breast cancer) HIV and STD, and a significant cause of self-harm, is still not eradicated, thanks to the unrelenting pressure of jingoistic and anti-woman politicians with their own gendered ideas about sexuality.

‘The new draft rules proposed by the Queensland government only comply with recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2013, with no state/territory – inclusive of Queensland – adopting ‘gender affirmation’ as a preference for legal representation.’ Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there is no state in Australia that has recognised legal gender non-conformity as one of four options for the determination of legal gender, and as a consequence there are legal barriers blocking people from recognition as they recognise themselves as non-binary. For example, I have applied for the appropriate form for the NSW Department of Health’s “systematic identification of people with gender dysphoria”, but have been told that a systematic method of approving the form has not been implemented in Queensland, and that access to legal gender recognition will only be provided if the “correct legal gender” is recorded in court.

While I live with self-imposed invisibility and unrecognisation, the state government continues to withhold a transgender women’s right to equality and would certainly deprive me of my identity and the respect of my lawyers, family, and friends if these barriers are not removed.

I am challenging the government to recognise gender non-conformity in the draft rules proposed in January. I am reaching out to my elected officials, who have much to answer for. With your help, I can ensure that I am given the respect, respectability, and acceptance I deserve, and that my Australian government recognises that “gender affirmation” can be an option for people.

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