'It feels like coming home.' The law reform that's changing lives in the trans community.

Last week, Queensland's parliament passed laws that will allow trans and gender diverse to people update their gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. 

The only requirement going forward will be a supporting statement from someone who has known the person trying to alter their birth certificate for 12 months or more. 

And for young trans and gender-diverse people, the gender markers on birth certificates can now be updated with the consent of their parents or court authorisation. 

The legislation changes give people a greater say over their gender descriptors without having to undergo costly and invasive surgeries, and the news is being wholly welcomed by advocacy organisations.

Jeremy Wiggins, the CEO of Transcend Australia, said that the change is a historic moment that "reinforces the reality that transgender people should be able to live their lives as who they are, without cruel and outdated legal barriers or procedures."

Addressing Parliament, Queensland's Education Minister, Grace Grace – who is the parent of a non-binary child – said that the bill's passing was a huge step for the state. 

"Identity is very important," she said.

What this means for trans and gender-diverse people. 

Jackie Turner, director of the Trans Justice Project, tells Mamamia that passing this bill has been in the works for years, and Queensland has actually been lagging far behind other states and territories. 

"It's been advocated by community for a really long time as a really important change and the bill has been under consultation for a long time, too... It's still going to be another six months or so before all the changes are made, but for many of us, it's the end of a long journey of trying to get properly recognised on our birth certificates." 


Turner – who grew up in Queensland and has been living out of the state for more than six years – says that the passing of the bill has had a huge emotional impact.

"It feels really special to me... Part of the reason that I moved was that I was quite afraid to affirm my gender while I was living in Queensland. For me, I think this feels like a real homecoming – like my state is welcoming me back – and it makes me feel like my home state has really changed."

Turner says that young trans people in particular will see huge benefits from a document that can affirm their gender at an age when they do not have access to sexual reassignment surgery. The change means that young trans people do not have to experience stress when doing simple administrative tasks, like opening a bank account or applying to study at university.

Image: Supplied/Jackie Turner.


"The other thing is that, for many of us, our IDs have become all mismatched, which creates a whole bunch of logistical nightmares. For example, my passport and Medicare card, and even my application for marriage when my wife and I got married, they all say 'female' but my birth certificate still has my old gender on it. 

It just shows that those laws are really out of date and actually just need to change to catch up with the rest of the country." 

Joe Ball, a trans man and advocate living in Victoria, tells Mamamia that because he, like Turner, is originally from Queensland, he feels he has not been afforded the same rights as other people from his community because he has not been able to change his birth certificate up to this point.

Ball says that the experience has been "painful", and feels as though he has been living at the "mercy of a reform process". 

Listen to this episode of The Quicky, where advocate Deni Todorovic discusses how trans and gender-diverse people are feeling in the wake of neo-Nazi rallies. Article continues after podcast. 


Before this law reform, Ball would have had to undergo hysterectomy surgery in order to change his birth certificate, which he sees as completely unnecessary. These kinds of surgeries are also extremely expensive (sexual reassignment surgery can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 without private health insurance), and Ball sees the bill's passing as hugely beneficial for trans and gender-diverse people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

"I think the legislation before the reform was disadvantaging poor trans people and was something that needed to be corrected," he says. 

There has been some vocal opposition to the law changes, including from James Ashby, media advisor to One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, who recently told Sky News that it was evidence that the state had "completely lost all narrative". 

But overwhelmingly, Turner tells Mamamia, she believes that people support the trans and gender-diverse community's right to assert their gender and be given the same protections as everybody else.

Are the laws the same across the country? 

Most Australian states and territories now permit trans and gender-diverse people to alter the gender on their birth certificates without requiring sexual reassignment surgery. However, some states have fallen far behind. In order to change gender on birth certificates in WA, for example, trans and gender-diverse people have to apply to an archaic Gender Reassignment Board for a 'gender recognition certificate'.


And in NSW, the legislation still requires sexual reassignment surgery (including hysterectomy or orchiectomy) to make the change. Top surgery, breast implants, and facial surgery are not accepted under the state's current laws. 

Watch trans and gender-diverse people talk about their ideal nation below. Article continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia 

This can lead to a frustrating 'mismatching' of documentation (as mentioned by Turner), as some government records – like passports, Medicare cards, Centrelink details and Australian Tax Office details – do not require surgery, only a statement from a registered medical practitioner to verify gender.

Turner says that NSW's failure to catch up with the rest of the country on this legislation is frustrating, particularly considering that it is the host state of progressive LGBTQIA+ events. 

"They had World Pride there this year but they haven't done some of these really simple but really important changes." 

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia.

Image: Supplied by Jackie Turner/Canva. 

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