Right now, the NSW Government is consulting the community about whether to introduce new commemorative birth certificates, with proposed themes including ‘AFL, Olympic and Astrology Zodiac’ (yes, seriously).

At the same time, trans and gender diverse people in NSW continue to endure the most regressive birth certificate laws of any state or territory in Australia, which require people seeking to update their identity documents to first undergo genital surgery – something many do not want, and even more cannot afford.

It is offensive that I might be able to access an astrology-themed birth certificate (Leo, don’t judge) before many of my trans and gender diverse friends can obtain identity documents that simply reflect who they are.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act is far from the only NSW law that treats LGBTIQ people as second-class citizens. There are many ways in which LGBTIQ people in this state wake up each day confronted by their own ‘horror-scope’ of discrimination and mistreatment.

For LGBTQ students at religious schools: You could be suspended or expelled today simply because of who you are. [Or, as we saw last week, you could be denied the ability to bring your partner to the school formal because they are the ‘wrong’ gender.] But there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it.

For LGBTQ teachers at religious schools: You could lose your job today, and it has nothing to do with your ability to perform your role.

For bisexual, non-binary and intersex people: You could be discriminated against or vilified as you go about your everyday activities, but don’t bother complaining to Anti-Discrimination NSW – the Anti-Discrimination Act doesn’t protect you.

For LGBTQ people seeking to access publicly-funded disability, health, homelessness, and other community services operated by religious organisations: Closed doors could be a constant in your day – because the services you need can turn you away just for being you.

And for vulnerable young LGBTQ people: Watch out for people or groups seeking to change or suppress your sexual orientation or gender identity – even though what they offer is psychological torture, it’s still totally legal here.

Despite being the home of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and recent host of World Pride, it’s no exaggeration to describe the state of LGBTIQ laws in this state as abysmal. Indeed, none of the above scenarios have changed since before the Sydney Olympics, leaving us with the worst legislation in Australia.

NSW is the gold medal winner in anti-LGBTIQ bigotry. Although somehow I doubt we’ll be able to get that on any ‘Olympic’ themed commemorative certificate.

Right now, there are two Bills before NSW Parliament that would remedy this situation: strengthening protections against discrimination, finally providing trans and gender diverse people with access to identity documents that reflect their gender identity, and prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity conversion practices.

The Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023 and Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill 2023 were introduced by independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich in August.

They were drafted following consultation with the community, including trans and gender diverse people as well as survivors of conversion practices.

In many cases, they would simply drag NSW law up to minimum standards that have existed in other jurisdictions for years, or even decades (with LGBTQ students in religious schools protected against discrimination for upwards of twenty years in Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory).

The NSW Government is currently considering whether to support them. It is imperative they do – and seize the opportunity to bring many of the state’s LGBTIQ laws into the 21st century.

Even if they do, however, the job of achieving full protection for the LGBTIQ community will not be over. Sadly, the Bills currently before Parliament do not follow the ACT’s precedent in addressing one of the most extreme human rights violations against any part of our community: the ongoing involuntary surgeries and other medical interventions performed on children born with variations of sex characteristics (intersex children).

Nevertheless, the reforms contained in Greenwich’s Bills are essential, and should be progressed. 

So, as the Minns Labor Government decides whether to support the fundamental protections these Bills offer, they should read their own horoscope for today:

You have the chance to make a tangible difference in the lives of LGBTIQ people across NSW. And it’s much more important than introducing star sign-themed birth certificates.

*****

You can call on Premier Chris Minns to support the Equality Bill and Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill by contacting him here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/premier-of-nsw/contact-premier

Chris Minns (centre) marching in this year’s Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

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