Probably few Tasmanian voters going to the polls on May 1 will be aware that their recently dissolved Parliament was responsible for some of the most radical (and incoherent) legislation in the world concerning gender issues. Remarkably, it was passed from opposition by Labor and Greens MPs in 2019. It was supported in the Legislative Assembly by Speaker Sue Hickey, a member of the Liberal Party at that time, who voted against the position of the Government. The changes were also supported in the Legislative Council by a sufficient number of independents.
The legislation was the Justice and Related Legislation (Marriage and Gender Amendments) Act 2019 . It allows a person 16 years or older to register ‘a gender’ which has the effect of amending the birth register, and for parents to do so for a child under 16. The application must be accompanied by a “gender declaration”. This is a statutory declaration in which the person declares that he or she identifies as being of the gender specified and lives, or seeks to live, as a person of that gender.
The problem with the Tasmanian legislation is that it begins from the premise that sex and gender are different, and then concludes that gender is the same as sex once someone fills in a form which is accepted by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Through an application to an administrator without more, a person can, in essence, change their sex for legal purposes in Tasmanian law.
The intentions of the Parliament to make it possible for transgender people to identify as another gender without sex reassignment surgery could have been fulfilled in a range of ways without embracing unscientific and highly controversial beliefs. People who self-identify as the opposite sex could have been given a gender recognition certificate for the purposes of indicating gender on driving licences or other such official documents. This does not impact upon the rights of anyone else.
Is it so unreasonable for Tasmanians to want their birth certificates to be what they are meant to be – a record of their birth? If 99.98% of the Tasmanian population have no difficulty with their sex or gender, and have not sought to change official records, should policy be dictated by tiny minorities who would like to see sex at birth erased from public records?
The Tasmanian Parliament, recently dissolved, lost its way in a fog of ideological confusion and unscientific beliefs. The new Parliament needs to do better, and to take account of the beliefs of the large majority of people who do not have degrees in gender studies.