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Gender law reform described as flawed but an improvement

One of WA’s leading LGBTIQA+ support organisations has welcomed the Cook Government’s announcement that they will update the process people undergo to officially affirm their gender.

GRAI: GLBTI Rights in Ageing said the government’s proposed overhaul was a welcomed move, despite it not coming up to the standard of laws in other Australian jurisdictions.

Echoing the sentiment of Voltaire, GLBTI Rights in Ageing (GRAI) has the view that the Sex or Gender Changes Bill announced by the Government on Tuesday “isn’t perfect but it is progress in the right direction,” said David Gibson, the Chair of GRAI.

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The organisation highlighted that many people in the LGBTQIA+ community have long advocated that the current process for gender recognition is not only flawed but also deeply intrusive, outdated, and often humiliating.

They note that many older LGBTI individuals have endured re-traumatisation through experiences with a bureaucracy that had historically criminalised their gender identity or sexuality and may have been the catalyst that ‘outed them’ or resulted in criminal convictions all those years ago.

In their statement GRAI said they welcome the abolition of the Gender Recognition Board.

“It is a relic of unnecessary and invasive bureaucracy that has historically impeded the journey of transgender individuals. Its removal signifies a significant milestone towards a more respectful and inclusive approach to gender diversity in Western Australia.” Gibson said.

GRAI applauded the process undertaken by the Law Reform Commission of WA who generated a 2018 report into the state’s Equal Opportunity laws which also questioned the continued existence of the Gender Board.

“It is evident that comprehensive consultation occurred with the LGBTQIA+ community, including organisations like TransFolk of WA, Intersex Human Rights Australia, and GRAI, among others, all informing the recommendation to abolish the Gender Recognition Board.” the group said.

While the 2018 report did suggest removing the board, the Labor party initially committed to taking it away at their state conference the previous year.

Questions about the board’s relevance have been asked for over a decade. Former Liberal Premier Colin Barnett had proposed transferring its operations to the State Administrative Tribunal, and in its annual reports the board itself has repetitively questioned its existence.

Looking ahead, GRAI urges the government to consult widely with the LGBTQIA+ community and to engage with all diverse voices when considering future legislative reforms.

GRAI say while they had hoped for more extensive reforms to bring Western Australia to the standard of best practice, this bill undeniably shifts West Australia towards a more inclusive and equitable community, deserving acknowledgment.

However, GRAI has already identified some concerns it will raise with the Government.

“From my understanding of the bill, there is already an area of immediate concern. The potential ramifications of requiring both parents’ consent for gender recognition, if misused, could weaponise gender recognition during divorce or custody battles, with detrimental effects on the child’s well-being and the legal proceedings as a whole,” Gibson said.

The government will introduce the legislation into parliament later today.

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