The Australian Passport Office has reviewed its policy to make it easier for those seeking a passport in their preferred gender.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided information on its website indicating a more flexible approach to determining gender on passport documents.

In order to obtain an Australian passport in a reassigned gender, a person must present a revised birth certificate or gender recognition certificate that an Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) has accepted.

The problem is that state RBDM laws can be impossible if a person has not undergone specific gender reassignment surgery or is married.

Current Australian laws do not allow a person’s sex to be amended on a birth certificate following sex reassignment surgery if a person is married, and a person must divorce for their birth certificate to be changed. This causes problems as a birth certificate is mandatory proof of identification when gaining a passport.

Transgender people travelling overseas for the purpose of gender reassignment surgery can obtain a limited validity passport in their preferred gender.

The changes come after a push from the WA Gender Project which raised the case with the Australian Human Rights Commission, and subsequently the Federal Government 18 months ago.

WA Gender Project chair Aram Hosie used himself as an example in the call to DFAT for changes -“ unable to have -˜male’ stated on his passport after problems with state laws.

Hosie said changes to the way DFAT views information provided by applicants will have a positive impact.

-œIt [now] means that people who couldn’t access passports before now will be able to, and that’s a really big deal -“ I know personally when I couldn’t access a male passport, it didn’t stop me from getting a female passport, but there was no way I was going to be travelling anywhere on a female passport.

The passport issue has been tangled mess between federal and state legislative definitions -“ something Hosie said had to do with too much emphasis being placed on surgery.

-œWhat’s happened is a broadening of the compassionate clause that already exists, he said. -œMy argument was around why I couldn’t meet the surgical requirements for West Australian legislation which in WA you have to have had a hysterectomy.

TransGender Victoria spokeswoman Sally Goldner said she welcomed the changes.

-œIt’s a highly practical step forward – utopia would be to have birth certificates based on permanency of transition and not a form of surgery – also it’s another argument for marriage regardless of a box on the birth certificate, she said.

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