In the lead up to Victoria passing birth certificate reform last month, I attended a number of rallies with other members of the trans and gender diverse community.
We rallied in solidarity to show our support for the amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
One of those rallies stands out in particular. It was a Sunday afternoon and over a hundred of us had huddled onto the steps of Parliament.
The weather was horrible. Half a dozen speakers gathered to spread messages of triumph, resilience and hope. I remember huddling with some people I had just met, one umbrella between four of us, shivering in tandem.
As the winds got stronger and the rain came down, people could have been forgiven for leaving but not a single person did.
I remember thinking, “this is what it means to be queer.”
A hundred people braving the weather to stand and fight for a common cause. This is what it means to belong to a community.
When I heard the legislation had passed the Upper House, I thought to myself “finally.” Passing this legislation felt like a relief. Well at first it did.
During the so-called birth certificate debate I was sceptical about how effective this reform would be in changing social attitudes. I was worried that in practise nothing would change, that gender-based discrimination would continue, and that TERF voices would continue to have a soap box.
If I want to join an all-girls gym the staff could still try to refuse me membership because under the law in Victoria they are legally allowed to discriminate based on sex.
How many people walk around with their birth certificate in their back pocket?
So I’m still subject to discrimination if my birth certificate says female because I won’t always have it on me.
I believe very strongly that achieving birth certificate reform was vital and absolutely necessary for some people.
For older trans people who have been fighting for legal recognition for decades, for other trans people who can’t afford surgery or simply don’t want it and for non-binary and gender non-confirming people this is huge.
For younger trans people who are still in school this reform is important because your birth certificate is often your only form of legal documentation. Before now, when you enrolled in a new school you had to out yourself, if you applied for a job at fifteen you had to out yourself, and if you applied for a learners permit you had to out yourself.
I never had to go through that because I transitioned at nineteen. These reforms will benefit young trans people immensely, as they will no longer have to out themselves to strangers in order to engage with society in a positive way.
For older trans people these reforms may signify the end of your fight, they may have been the final step in your journey to get you wear you are now, and I commend you for that. Without your fight we may never had gotten here.
For me though, this reform changes practically nothing about my life. It does mean an acceptance by the Government of our right to self-determination and self-identification. But it would be ignorant to think that just because the Government says something then everyone will accept it.
It doesn’t strengthen anti-discrimination protections for trans and gender diverse people like Tasmania’s laws do. For me my fight it just beginning.
The marriage equality campaign in 2017 brought out the best in the queer community as well as the worst in the conservative opposition. Many arguments against marriage equality focused on “radical gender ideology” and had a strong focus on children and anti-trans sentiments. In 2019 it has become obvious those sentiments have only gotten stronger and are reaching a more widespread audience.
I attended a protest at my university because anti-trans academics had been given permission to use the university’s facilities to preach anti-trans hate and spread radical gender propaganda. The following week two buildings I use on campus were plastered with anti-trans hate, with stickers in the women’s bathrooms calling trans women like me “predators” and “paedophiles.”
No legislative reform will change that there are people in this world that don’t want trans people to exist.
For me, my fight ends when I can use a public restroom without fear. My fight ends when anti-trans slurs are removed from the vernacular.
My fight ends when trans people are afforded all the same rights as their cis counterparts. My fight ends when I no longer have to use my old name to navigate government bureaucracy.
My fight ends when the next generation of trans and gender diverse kids can express their true gender without prejudice from society.
My fight ends when true equality is reached.