An e-petition started on the 15th of February by Esther Vale and sponsored by Michael Berkman, the Greens MP for Maiwar, has seen remarkably large number of signatures with it being one of the fastest growing active e-petition on the QLD parliament website. The e-petition seeks to recognise LGBT+ people in the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration act. There are a few changes the petition states as being needed to recognise LGBT+ people, these being: removing the requirement to undergo SRS to change a persons gender on their birth certificate, not having these changes be annotated, recognising non-binary genders with an ‘X’ marker on documents, eliminating the ‘trans tax’ on changing birth certificates, changing the limit of one name change per year, and finally the recognition of same-sex and non-binary parents on birth certificates.
These are certainly a lot of changes, but certainly not unwarranted. Far from it with most states already having implemented these changes. What is perhaps most telling though is that, of all the petitions currently on the parliament website, this e-petition is one of the most popular. Most other petitions have less than a thousand signatures with only three petitions having over ten thousand signatures, and this LGBT+ rights petition being one of them. This is especially impressive when you consider that of these three, the petition on LGBT+ recognition is the newest.
Esther, a recent graduate from QUT, originally started this petition after being shocked how Queensland was behind the other states and territories, saying “I knew that these rights weren’t there for us, but assumed most of the country hadn’t improved it yet”.
When asked about what the chances are that this petition is successful, Michael Berkman said: “I think we’ve got a good chance of making some ground on this, because the Attorney-General has already responded to the petition and indicated they’ll introduce legislation this year, after finalising a review of the Births, Deaths & Marriages Registry Act.”
The petition having already reached over ten thousand signatures is a great step but as Michael Berkman puts it: “What we really need to do now is demonstrate to Labor and the Attorney-General that there is strong community support for all the reforms in Esther’s petition”. There are a few things you can do if you’ve already signed the petition (which closes on the 23/03/2021, so there’s still time to sign if you haven’t yet!).
“If you’ve already signed the petition, sharing it is wonderful as the more signatures, the better! You can also email the Attorney-General at firstname.lastname@example.org and urge her to take the requests of the petition into account as they work on reform of the BDMR” says Esther.
“You could also contact your local State MP and likewise urge them to support the changes suggested in the petition”
In the interests of being completely transparent, I have signed this petition. However, this petition will have almost no impact on me because I was born in New South Wales and so my birth certificate is registered there instead of Queensland. Despite this, this petition still matters to me for two main reasons. Firstly, it’s about solidarity. Just because it does not impact me doesn’t mean I should just let the rights of others be ignored. I can only expect others to stand up for me when I am ready to stand for them. And secondly, this is still an issue that indirectly affects me. New South Wales has a similar rule where to have your gender marker changed on your birth certificate, and therefore on all other forms of identification, you need to be surgically sterilised. If the law changes in Queensland, that will increase pressure on other states to update their laws to fully recognise LGBT+ people.
Why does changing your gender marker matter so much though? Well, for me at least it is a constant embarrassment. Whenever I have to show anyone my id, it’s there for the world to see. I feel outed and ashamed. But perhaps you, as the reader, have the position that this doesn’t really matter. It’s just embarrassment, not the end of the world. In that case, consider the danger that this brings. Violence and discrimination against transgender people is still a cultural reality. Even on the humanrights.gov.au website does it state “However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia can experience discrimination, harassment and hostility in many areas of everyday life.” Given that, what is the purpose of forcing transgender people that can’t get or don’t want to get bottom surgery to be outed? And then consider what it is like to travel as a transgender person. 37 countries have effectively criminalised being transgender and many more have high rates of violence towards transgender people. By outing them people this way, our government is unnecessarily putting trans people at risk. That is why this petition matters so much to me, and if this petition changes those restrictions in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, I hope that New South Wales will soon follow suit. I’d also like to add that this petition is not where trans rights begins and ends. It is a step in the right direction, but there is still plenty left to do such as cultural changes that make society less hostile to LGBT+ people.