If passed, the Bill will remove the existing requirement under s 23 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 (‘the Act’) — that a person undergo surgery as a prerequisite to altering their sex on their Birth Register. The requirement of surgery has been replaced by a requirement of ‘appropriate clinical treatment’. Although the Bill does not define ‘appropriate clinical treatment’, the Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, has stated that a psychiatrist or psychologist can provide proof of this step. Moreover, the requirement for ‘appropriate clinical treatment’ is absent for people identified as intersex under the Bill.
By removing s 23 of the Act (which contains a reference to ‘the opposite sex’), the Bill also removes the only reference to a binary and oppositional notion of sex in the Act. This move opens up the possibility of registering a sex beyond the ‘male’ and ‘female’. The ACT government has promised that a third category of sex will be made available on birth certificates for people who are intersex or identify as having indeterminate or unspecified sex. This will bring the categories available on the ACT Register in line with those used by the Australian Passport Office.
Finally, the Bill aims to extend the time available to parents for the registration of the sex of their child from 60 days to six months after birth. This allows additional thinking time for parents of babies who challenge the ‘male’/‘female’ categorisation when making the difficult decision of registering the sex of their child.
The Bill should be commended as a first step in the ACT toward dismantling the gender binary and renegotiating the appropriate stake of the medical institution in the legal recognition of sex and gender diverse people.
AMIR PASHA PEYROVI is a student at the Australian National University.