.

  • Written by Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne
Under the proposed changes, TGD people in Victoria can change the gender on their birth certificate without having to undergo medical intervention. Shutterstock

The Victorian government is considering changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996. The changes will mean transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people can change the sex recorded on their birth certificate without having to undergo medical or surgical intervention.

Other Australian and international jurisdictions have recognised the value of this kind of reform. Earlier this year, Tasmania passed laws similar to the ones being considered in Victoria. The Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia have also removed the requirement for surgical intervention.


Read more: Explainer: why removing sex from birth certificates matters to gender diverse people


There is no evidence that these changes have had negative effects in any of these jurisdictions. Despite this, these legislative amendments have prompted fierce debate.

Why are these changes necessary?

A person’s access to legal documentation that accurately reflects their identity should not depend on first having to undergo body modification procedures. In some cases, these may be unwanted and may also cause unwanted effects such as sterilisation, given that “sex affirmation surgery” requires modifying reproductive organs.

TGD people also have diverse needs: some need or want to use surgery to help affirm their identity, others do not. Moreover, surgery is expensive, tightly regulated by medical practitioners, and often inaccessible for many TGD people.

It is unfair and discriminatory for appropriate legal documentation to be offered only to those who want and/or are able to access these surgeries for financial, social or other reasons.

Should this reform pass, it will represent part of a broader shift towards removing discriminatory recognition barriers for TGD people.

Do these changes conflate sex and gender?

Critics have claimed changes like the ones proposed collapse sex with gender. “Sex” is generally a term used to refer to a range of biological markers and is often understood in terms of “male” versus “female”.

However, contrary to popular belief, biological sex is much more complex than these two binary categories. Determining “sex” is highly debated and may be based on a range of factors, including chromosomes, sexual organs, secondary sex characteristics, and hormone levels.

Gender is generally used to refer to the social and cultural interpretations of “sex”, as well as an individual’s identification with such categories. It is also more complex than the often presumed binary of “man” versus “woman”.

The relationship(s) between sex and gender are deeply contested. Despite a common assumption that sex and gender are the same thing, historically feminists have articulated the need for a distinction between sex as biology and gender as cultural.

Crucially, “sex” as it is recorded on birth certificates operates as a social marker of gender (as identity), not simply as a marker of biology.


Read more: What’s the point of sex? It frames gender expression and identity – or does it?


For TGD people, a perceived discrepancy between the “sex” recorded on their official documents and their stated gender identity can “out” someone as transgender or gender diverse. This can lead to extra scrutiny, surveillance and stigmatisation and can be used to deny access to government and other services.

For this reason, “sex” as it is recorded on birth certificates and other legal documents is best thought of as a legal gender marker. As some have argued, it may be better to remove “sex” from birth certificates altogether, to avoid any concerns over conflation of biology with identity.

This is a debate for another time. For now, it is imperative that TGD people are offered an even playing field when it comes to accessing appropriate legal documentation.

Will these changes increase the risk of sexual violence?

Another critique that has been raised is that this kind of reform leads to increased sexual offending against cisgender women, particularly in public toilets and other “sex”-segregated spaces (again here, “sex” is often deployed in ways that conflate biology with gender identity).

This critique has several strands: that male offenders will change their legally documented sex to access women’s spaces; and/or that women will be less able to challenge men who access women’s spaces.

Sexual violence is extremely common, with an estimated one in five women experiencing it in their lifetimes. Any potential risk to women’s safety should, of course, be taken very seriously.


Read more: Marriage equality was momentous, but there is still much to do to progress LGBTI+ rights in Australia


However, we need to critically interrogate these claims. First, is it possible that sexual offenders could use the reforms in these ways? And, second, how likely is this?

The answer to the first question is “yes” – we can never rule out the remote possibility that someone could take advantage of the reforms in this way. However, possibility alone is not sufficient grounds for good policy.

Rather, we need to focus on the relative likelihood of this occurring. To answer this, we turn to the research on what we know about sexual offending.

Survivors overwhelmingly experience sexual violence in the context of interpersonal relationships. And the majority of this violence takes place in private locations. Perpetrators are most often someone known to the survivor, such as a current or former partner, friend, family member or acquaintance.

In contrast, the critiques raised above are based on the misconception that sexual violence is only perpetrated by a stranger in public spaces. This reinforces damaging and narrow understandings of what “real” sexual violence is, and of where women (and other survivors) face the most risk.

This critique also assumes “sex”-segregated spaces are currently safe or protective ones for women. However, sexual violence has been documented in public toilets.

These (relatively rare) cases suggest that perpetrators already access these spaces to offend. The cases documented in research and media reporting also suggest it is the isolated nature of these sites that facilitates perpetration.

Such instances have nothing to do with what “sex” is officially recorded on someone’s legal documents. Ultimately, good policy should be founded on research-based evidence, not on remote or unlikely “what ifs”.

TGD people are at higher risk of violence

Also missing in this debate is acknowledgement of the extent to which TGD people experience disproportionate rates of sexual (and other) violence, including within interpersonal relationships and in public spaces.

While we lack a robust evidence base on sexual violence experienced by LGBTQ+ communities in general, the best available evidence indicates that these communities experience this violence at rates similar to, if not higher than, cisgender heterosexual women. Transgender women experience particularly high rates of sexual violence.

There is no evidence that TGD people pose a greater risk of perpetration than cisgender men or women.

Toilets (and similar sex/gender-segregated spaces) have also been identified as heightened spaces of violence, abuse and harassment for TGD people, particularly transgender women. For example, in research by one of the authors, one participant discussed how her trans partner often experienced sexual and physical violence from cisgender men who believed they were using the “wrong” toilet.

Other research has shown how the strict regulation of space through binary understandings of “sex” results in harassment, abuse and violence against people who do not present their gender in a normative way, regardless of whether they identify as cis, trans, or otherwise.

In other words, “sex”-segregated spaces are themselves often sites of victimisation, particularly but not exclusively for TGD people.

These reforms are important and should go ahead

All of this suggests that concerns raised in relation to the proposed reforms are largely based on misplaced understandings of sexual offending, while ignoring the extent to which TGD people already experience violence. This is also concerning given that the strict policing of binary and narrow understandings of both sex and gender contribute towards sexual violence.

These reforms will not only affirm TGD people’s identities and remove barriers to navigating their daily lives more safely, but also help to make gender categories in general less strictly defined.

They will contribute to the broader feminist project of dismantling the oppressive patriarchal system that reduces gender to a narrow and limiting binary. In disrupting these norms, we all have the potential to benefit.

Anyone needing support can contact 1800 RESPECT or Qlife: https://qlife.org.au/

Bianca Fileborn has been actively involved in political campaigning in relation to the proposed changes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (1996)

Hannah McCann has been actively involved in political campaigning in relation to the proposed changes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (1996)

Priya Kunjan has been actively involved in political advocacy in relation to the proposed changes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act (1996).

Matthew Mitchell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/victorian-changes-to-gender-on-birth-certificate-will-not-increase-sexual-violence-heres-why-122125

Primary Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Office Space in Philadelphia

Choosing your first office space is thrilling. The excitement of finally setting up your own office is so satisfying. When you start scouting around to select your office space, there are so many fa...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

Freedom And Flexibility - How A Virtual Office Allows For Greater Adaptability

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and economic conditions is essential in business. For entrepreneurs and startups who want to maximise their chances of success regardless of outside cir...

News Company - avatar News Company

Eat your heart out: native water rats have worked out how to safely eat cane toads

Water rats in Western Australia are safely hunting cane toads. Author providedAustralia’s water rats, or Rakali, are one of Australia’s beautiful but lesser-known native rodents. And these...

Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne - avatar Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Curious Kids: where do phobias come from?

Phobias are an intense fear of very specific things like objects, places, situations or animals. ShutterstockIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconv...

Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University - avatar Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University

Best Family-Friendly Zoos In America

Zoos have always been part of family travel destinations. This is where your kids get to see the animals that they only often see on their books. Visiting one also provides a learning experience for...

News Company - avatar News Company

Activists are using the climate emergency as a new legal defence to justify law-breaking

The phrase “climate emergency” became part of the political lexicon this year. Governments at all levels made declarations of a climate emergency, as did various organisations such as the ...

Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University - avatar Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University

Don't tear it down: the idea behind Labor's National Rental Affordability Scheme is worth saving

The Grattan Institute has condemned the National Rental Affordability Scheme as a $1 billion windfall to developers. www.shutterstock.comLabor’s Rudd-era National Rental Affordability Scheme (NR...

Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary  , University of Melbourne - avatar Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary , University of Melbourne

City share-house rents eat up most of Newstart, leaving less than $100 a week to live on

Even when sharing a house, the average cost of rent means very little is left over from the Newstart allowance for food and living costs. shutterstock.comIn all Australia’s capital cities, avera...

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University - avatar Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University

Users (and their bias) are key to fighting fake news on Facebook – AI isn't smart enough yet

On its own, human judgement can be subjective and skewed towards personal biases. The information we encounter online everyday can be misleading, incomplete or fabricated. Being exposed to “fa...

Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland - avatar Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland

Fairest and best? Status counts in the Brownlow Medal

Tonight is the AFL’s annual night of nights, the red-carpet spectacular known as the Brownlow Medal vote count. The Brownlow is awarded to the season’s “fairest and best” play...

Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University - avatar Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University

How Australians talk about tucker is a story that'll make you want to eat the bum out of an elephant

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDNot to put a damper on things, but Australian food hasn’t always made us happy little Vegemites. One needn’t look further than the humble meat pie ...

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University - avatar Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

In a chatty world, losing your speech can be alienating. But there's help

People who have trouble with their speech, say after a stroke, can find it challenging. But a speech pathologist can help. from www.shutterstock.comSam is a high school drama teacher — articulat...

Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney - avatar Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney

From crime fighters to crime writers - a new batch of female authors brings stories that are closer to home

In Dervla McTiernan’s book, The Scholar, published earlier this year, women are consistently used as the “fall guys” for men with high aspirations. Two young women are killed when th...

Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England - avatar Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England

10 ways to get the most out of silent reading in schools

Children need time and space to enjoy the books they choose to read in schools. Shutterstock/wavebreakmediaReading aloud can help young children learn about new words and how to sound them. There&rsqu...

Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University - avatar Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University

'Edible forests' can fight land clearing and world hunger at the same time

A Nepalese woman collects mushroom in a forest. Jagannath Adhikari, Author providedReducing emissions from deforestation and farming is an urgent global priority if we want to control climate change. ...

Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW - avatar Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW

Comic explainer: young disabled New Zealanders on the barriers to a better life

Our research project explored the everyday lives of disabled young people, aged from 12 to 25 years, with mobility, vision and hearing impairments. We measured and asked them about factors that enable...

Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University - avatar Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University

View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison

Scott Morrison was frank, when quizzed at a news conference during his visit to Washington, on whether he would be seeking to travel to China in the next year. “Well, you have to be invited to ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the family law inquiry - and the UN climate change summit

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan discusses Scott Morrison’s new family law inquiry with Michelle Grattan. They also speak of the developments in the Tamil family from...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Climate explained: why don't we have electric aircraft?

CC BY-ND Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If yo...

Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney - avatar Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Yvonne Allen: Eight ways to super impress someone on a first date

According to Yvonne Allen well known relationship mentor, psychologist and matchmaker, a first dat...

Picking The Right Crystal Yoni Egg: Tips And Instructions

When you are ready to pick your own crystal yoni egg, you need to decide what you will use it for...

Top 5 Tips for Paddleboarding In Whitewater

Paddleboarding can be relaxing as well as intense. If you occasionally want to do something differen...

3 Most Promising Career Occupations for Graduates in 2019

Studying in college is a great adventure which opens up lots of career opportunities. Yet, at times...