15 September 2011

Gender identity

The Australian Foreign Minister and Attorney-General have announced new guidelines "to make it easier for sex and gender diverse people to get a passport in their preferred gender".

The Guidelines are not currently available on the Passport Office site, an indication that adoption of the 'open government' or 'government 2.0' philosophy still has some way to go. Search on that site and the message is -
The policy for sex and gender diverse applicants wishing to obtain a passport in their preferred gender is being reviewed. Advice on the new policy will be released shortly.

In the interim, sex and gender applicants who require information or advice on how to obtain a passport in their preferred gender should email Passport Strategy, Policy and Coordination Section on passports_policy@dfat.gov.au
The Ministers' media release states that -
Under the guidelines, sex reassignment surgery will no longer be a prerequisite to issue a passport in a person’s preferred gender.

“Sex and gender diverse people now have the option of presenting a statement from a medical practitioner supporting their preferred gender,” said Mr Rudd.

“This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance.”

The initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Most people take for granted the ability to travel freely and without fear of discrimination,” Mr McClelland said.

“This measure will extend the same freedoms to sex and gender diverse Australians.

“While it’s expected this change will only affect a handful of Australians, it’s an important step in removing discrimination for sex and gender diverse people.

“Importantly, this policy addresses a number of the recommendations contained in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files report.”
In reporting the development the ABC states that -
People will be able to choose what gender they want to be listed as on new Australian passports, even if they have not undergone a sex change.

In the past, Australians could only change their gender on their passports if they had had a sex change operation or were travelling to get one.

Now the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has introduced new guidelines so that instead of surgery, all that is needed is a letter of support from a medical practitioner.

The changes mean Australians can identify their sex of choice and select Male, Female or X.

Labor Senator Louise Pratt says international travel can be downright dangerous for people whose appearance does not match the gender listed on their passport.

"There have been very many cases of people being detained at airports by immigration in foreign countries simply because their passports don't reflect what they look like," she said.

"It's very distressing, highly inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous."

Senator Pratt is the first member of Federal Parliament to have a transgendered partner, who was born female but has transitioned to male.

"This is really pleasing for people like him. It now means we can travel overseas without any problems." ...

Passports are considered secondary documents of identification.

Birth certificates are the most important and they come under state law, which in most states says they cannot be changed without accompanying surgery.

Connor Montgomery has undergone hormone treatment and now lives as a man. He welcomes the passport changes, but says the national right to alter a birth certificate has to follow.

"You know, having that little bit of paper, to some people it seems insignificant but for us it is so important, it feels like the last missing piece of the jigsaw," he said.
Identity is important to individuals rather than just to states.