canberra_parliament_houseTHE ACT has made significant steps towards better legal recognition for transgender and intersex people, with historic changes to the Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

The proposed changes will remove the legal requirement for reassignment surgery before a person can change their sex on their birth certificate, a battle long fought by trans advocates.

The bill also makes it easier for intersex people to change their legally recorded sex, and aligns the ACT’s legal definition of “intersex” with the definition used in the federal Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill passed earlier this year.

Peter Hyndal from ACT-based intersex and gender diverse advocacy organisation A Gender Agenda welcomed the changes, which are based on recommendations coming out of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council report, Beyond the Binary.

“Previously, many gender diverse people have been forced to use birth certificates which show their sex as different from the way they identify and present. Intersex people have also not had a clear legislative pathway to amend errors made in the recording of their sex at birth,” he said.

“This predicament has raised very real safety and privacy issues for transgender and intersex people when going about their daily lives.”

The ACT LGBTIQ Advisory Council also applauded the move, urging change in other jurisdictions.

“We encourage other states and territories to take similar action in reviewing their birth registration systems, with a view to improving recognition of all transgender and intersex Australians,” said council chair Heidi Yates.

Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia spokesperson Gina Wilson told the Star Observer OII was relieved the ACT had not adopted Beyond the Binary‘s recommendation for the creation of a sex category specifically for intersex people.

“We would not want to see any legislature make laws that placed only intersex people in a separate sex category. It’s our view that all people should be able to opt out of male and female into an unspecified category, and that categories that only identify intersex are unhelpful in the same way that separating out separate races under apartheid was unhelpful,” Wilson said.

Wilson also echoed the advisory council’s call for other legislatures to adopt the ACT’s changes.

“I think they represent a best practice model in adopting the definition of intersex as contained in the federal anti-discrimination law, and then harmonising with that,” she said.

“I think the issue of non-specified is probably best left for a separate consultation where a more considered view might be taken. I suppose that would be the next step for the ACT, but I think if all the other states adopt what the ACT has adopted, that would be a substantial revolution in its own right.”

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