BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – If legal and human rights groups in Canberra, Australia, have their way, transgender people will soon no longer be required to undergo sex reassignment surgery to change the record of their sex, the Canberra Times reports.
That recommendation is part of a report, Beyond the Binary: Legal Recognition of Sex and Gender Diversity in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), released by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council on July 9. The report's proposals also call for intersex to be an option on birth certificates, for the time period for registering a child's sex to be tripled from 60 to 180 days, for public authorities to allow selection of the choices male, female, intersex or none of the above if required to determine someone's sex, and for government to fund education programs for the public sector about sex and gender diversity.
There were some concerns raised about the recommendations relating to intersex people.
Dr Helen Watchirs, ACT's human rights and discrimination commissioner, advised the attorney general on some of the recommendations two years ago, noting in particular that the genital surgery requirement was "inhumane" and a violation of equality and privacy rights.
According to the Canberra Times, Watchirs said FTM surgery was not performed in Australia, which meant that people would have to travel abroad for access to the costly procedure.
If approved, the changes would bring the ACT into conformity with national changes that recognize gender identity in Australian passports without sex reassignment surgery, the Times notes.
Peter Hyndal, of the sex and gender diverse support group A Gender Agenda, told Canberra Times that the proposals were hardly new, pointing out that since 2003, there had been a number of reports calling for the abolition of the surgical requirement.
"It's been a really, really long time since the issue was flagged and it would be nice to see the government move quickly," he said.
In South America, Argentina has moved decisively on the issue. In May, the country's senate voted 55–0 in favour of legislation that allows people to change their names and sexes on official documents without first having to undergo gender reassignment surgery or get prior approval from the courts.
At a July 2 ceremony officiated by Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in Buenos Aires to mark the passage of the groundbreaking law, several transgender people received new government IDs.
The blog Blabbeando quotes Kirchner as saying, "I do not want to use a word that bothers me greatly: Tolerance. No. I do not believe in 'tolerance.' To tolerate is to say I'll allow you to be because I have no other choice. I want to talk about equality and I want to talk about all of you who will now have the same rights I have enjoyed from the moment I was born and the rights that so many millions of Argentinians have enjoyed from the moment they were born. This is the society we want."
She added, "All these issues we are acknowledging today in a legal way are nothing new. They stem from the history of humanity and it's time for us to accept that reality is not how we'd like to be. If I think in a certain way, or someone else wants it to be, but that reality is what it is."
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