This Is Not About Toilets
In 2016, legislation that would have made it simple for trans and gender diverse people to change their birth certificates was voted down by the Victorian Legislative Council by one.single vote. It was devastating. Almost as devastating as some of the ill-informed, hate-filled debate that had preceded the vote.
On Tuesday, the 27th of April, the Victorian Upper House will get the chance to set that right, when a new Bill, which has already passed the Lower House, will comes to them for debate. The debate is guaranteed to get ugly and stupid in places. We've seen it preview in 2016, in the Lower House, and all over the media. Which means that first and foremost, if you're a trans or gender diverse person, you should feel free to look/step away from it. Self-care, first. As trans and gender diverse people we need to look after ourselves, and each other, and if it gets too much there is amazing support to be found via Switchboard Victoria and QLife
Secondly, if you know and love a trans or gender diverse person, make sure you check in on them during the debate. Trans and gender diverse people have been doing it tough lately, but the outpouring of support and allyship, particularly from other members of the LGBTIQ+ community has been incredibly heartening. Keep at it, please. Keep standing up with us, and for us. Thirdly, those opposed to change are going to put up a whole bunch of arguments against this Bill. None of the arguments will be new, all of them will, frankly, be pretty rubbish, and designed only to confuse, distract and stoke fear. Toilets, change rooms, & other single sex spaces will inevitably be raised as something people are “concerned about”. But that muddies the waters that this law is about changing birth certificates. I don’t know about you, but I have never, EVER had to show my birth certificate to access a public loo.
Some will argue in particular that this makes it easier for male sexual predators to access women’s spaces.
It won’t. Again - no one is checking birth certificates *today. Birth certificates do not function as some sort of paper based prevention of violence against women. Frankly, I think the idea that someone who is prepared to commit an abhorrent crime in a public space is first waiting for birth certificate laws to change before enacting that crime defies logic. And regardless of birth certificate laws or records, assault will always be assault. It will still be just as illegal. Also PS? If we’re going to talk assaults in bathrooms, then the research would show that it is in fact trans and gender diverse people who are particularly at risk of being the potential victims and not perpetrators. Public bathrooms and changing spaces can be terrifying for trans and gender diverse folks. Additionally, those arguing against trans women being permitted to access women’s spaces are both:
(1) being utterly horrible to trans women and
(2) living in absolute denial of the fact that men like me (aka trans men) exist. Well, I do. We do.
And if you want to argue against trans women in women’s spaces, then what you are arguing FOR is men like me being in women-only spaces instead. Honestly, I'm kind of okay with that. The men's bathrooms are always gross. But have a good look at my pictures. Is that really what you want? From personal experience navigating public space - that is most definitely NOT what a majority of women out in public want.
The fact is that this law isn't radical. Very similar versions already operate in other places around the world, and around Australia - including in South Australia, the ACT and the NT. There is no evidence that women are suddenly more unsafe in those places. In fact in many ways, Victorian law is *behind the real world practices of sporting clubs and health, homelessness & family violence services, which have been proactively working to be more inclusive of trans folks for years - with no ill effects.
And then there’s an argument about the proposed changes creating policing/security risks or challenges. This is almost too laughable to spend any time addressing - but I will anyway.
I don't know if it's just me, but I think that straight up, if changing the sex on your birth certificate is all it takes to utterly confuse and evade our police/correctional/intelligence (etc) services, then I reckon we’ve got far bigger things to worry about then these proposed laws.
And the alternative is that the status quo continues - one whereby many trans people walk around with a different sex recorded on their two primary forms of ID (birth certificate and passport.) I’m thinking this presents a far greater risk than what is proposed.
And the thing is, none of the services that are supposedly going to be thwarted, are raising concerns. They've managed just fine in the other States & Territories have change the law, the manage fine at the international customs and immigration counters - I think our Victorian services are also up to the job.
I’m sure someone will also claim to be concerned about the way this law proposes to deal with trans and gender diverse young people. They’ll claim to be concerned for those young people.
To which I say - if you really care about what trans and gender diverse young people need to be healthy and thrive, then STFU and listen to what they, their parents and their care professionals all say is in their best interests. Spoiler alert: they all agree that the law needs to change. Indeed, if you’re concerned about medical intervention on under 18yos, then you should support these changes. The current law *requires* irreversible surgery to take place. The proposed new law does not. That’s good. For everyone. (Though just to be clear - “regret” is extraordinarily low, and just really not a thing. Still, it’s easier to change a piece of paper then to undo medical intervention, so let's just go with that, shall we?) No.
What this Bill is really about, is making it as easy for a trans person to change their records as it is for a person who changes their name to do so.
And this matters because not having documents that match who we are creates nearly daily problems, from applying for jobs, to accessing services, to opening a bank account. It’s uncomfortable at best, sometimes it can lead to discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence.
This is about the safety, health, wellbeing and dignity of trans and gender diverse people, and literally nothing else. Least of all, toilets.