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Thousands back transgender law change

There is a groundswell of public support for stronger legal protection for transgender people, writes Lincoln Grey.

A petition calling for a change in the Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1984 making it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone based on their sexuality or gender identity has reached more than 10,000 signatures.

The petition was created by Andrea Thompson in an aim to bring the Sex Discrimination Act in line with the Racial Discrimination Act. This would make harassment and abuse unlawful in an attempt to assist specifically with “unnecessary hate” faced by transgender people, writes Ms Thompson.

The Sex Discrimination Act currently makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their gender or sexuality, and applies in an employment or education setting, or when using goods and services. This does not cover acts in public that may “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate”, unlike the Race Discrimination Act, which protects people of a race, colour or ethnic group against such treatment.

Show of support at the Transgender Day of Visibility in Melbourne in March. (Photo: Matt Hrkac)

Transgender woman Clarity James said she believed the government did not do enough to support transgender people.

“The system isn’t ready for us. Nor does it seem to be making much attempt to be ready for us,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to change my name for three years,” she said. “It’s so adversarial ... whether it’s actually malicious, or whether they’re just being stupid, it doesn’t matter.

“My entire life is made harder by the fact that some people don't know I exist. And yet I'll go down the street, some days, and you know, get slurs yelled at me.”

This petition comes in the midst of an increase in outspoken governmental support of transgender people and their rights.

Following the Neo-Nazi rally in Melbourne on March 18, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, along with other members of the Victorian Labor government tweeted their support for transgender rights.

“Our Government will always support you,” Mr Andrews tweeted. “Because your rights are not negotiable.”

Eden Spiteri, another transgender woman, said Andrews government support for trans people was part of the reason the transgender community felt more comfortable in Melbourne.

“The closer you get to the city centre the more packed it is and the more forced you are to interact with people who have come from different backgrounds and lifestyles,” she said.

Ms Spiteri said she believes the petition and subsequent bill would be a positive change, but that it may be more useful for the conversation it would raise.

“Do I think it's a good idea to change it? Yes, unequivocally yes. To have that written in our laws that that kind of discrimination in the streets will not be tolerated? Excellent progress,” she said.

“Do I think it will change anything? Absolutely not.”

Ms James said she believed Australia was heading towards a point of decision for the transgender community.

“Australia is about to have this very big conversation," she said.

“I think a bill like that might just start the conversation rolling.”


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