When it comes to Tasmania’s plan to become the first state to erase a baby’s gender from a birth certificate, please doff your cap to our federalist forefathers. They deserve more credit than we often give them. The federal system set down in our Constitution means one state can conduct a social experiment while the rest of the country looks on and learns.
The federal structure has the other added bonus of offering a shorter distance between the rulers and the ruled, at least on matters reserved to the states. That won’t save a state from foolish politicians, but as a matter of democratic will we cannot fault the gender-bender politics of Tasmania’s parliament. If most voters cannot agree on who should govern their state, instead opting for a motley crew of politicians more interested in social experiments than economic policy, well then, that’s democracy.
People get the politicians they deserve. And in Tasmania, the Liberal Hodgman government relies on the casting vote of a Speaker elected to the position with Greens and Labor support. The original bill is sensibly aimed at ending the need for transgender people to divorce before they can change their gender on official documents. The Greens and Labor then went further, pushing for amendments to remove gender from birth certificates, with Speaker Sue Hickey’s support.
If the bill passes, watch that other magnificent part of democracy: blowback from voters when politicians overstep the mark. And people in mainland states have the luxury of watching this social experiment unfold and the chance to harness sensible arguments so we do not follow Tasmania’s folly.
Where do you start when it comes to talking about sex and gender? I tried delving into the academic world for some clues. That was a mistake. I discovered a morass of ivory tower posturing, confusion and weird new words meant to uncover some old and apparently persistent evil. Calls to erase sex and gender as a way to topple the white/cis/hetero/patriarchal supremacy and normativity sound better suited to a horror movie than reasoned argument.
I bumped into feminists who think that transgender people who alter their gender reinforce sexist gender roles. And others who say that transgender people challenge oppressive gender norms. I found some academics who think that if you were a man, you experienced male privilege, so it is impossible for you to be a real woman. I found mind-numbing academic references to phallocractic technology and “the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist”.
I discovered intra-feminist conflicts between women, including lesbians who feel threatened by trans activism. And I was struck by the many, many accusations of transphobia by those who brook no disagreement with their activism and their agenda.
After that entanglement with feminist theories and trans activism, I was still interested in trying to work through Tasmania’s dalliance with sex and gender politics. So, I headed closer to the ground. I read hundreds of comments from readers of this newspaper that followed the report that Tasmania may expunge gender from birth certificates. Most of the readers expressed tolerance, respect for human dignity, thoughtful ideas, a real distaste for discrimination and a great deal of common sense.
Their sentiments exposed a glaring chasm with the unintelligible tosh and intolerance common to many academics. So allow me to mention what Edmund Burke night call the gritty wisdom of unlettered men and women.
One reader, Pamela, said this is another step to take away identity — and notice it is by those people who routinely sup at the table of identity politics. She said she struggled to understand people who wish to dominate others. “If some wish to omit gender of their child (from a birth certificate), OK, but others should be allowed to do what they wish.” Many many readers echoed Pamela’s belief in freedom of choice for parents of newborns.
Many recognised the difference between sex as a biological reality and gender as a social identity that for some will differ from their chromosomal mix. One writer suggested that we keep sex on birth certificates but discard gender. That was echoed by Sandra, who suggested we “send ‘gender’ back to the grammarians and the ‘gender studies’ departments in the ivory towers”.
Gizelle saw the bright side to expunging gender from birth certificates: “this could be the end of the virtue-signalling for female quotas”. Dream on. More likely the same people who want gender banned are likely “the same people, in a different forum, calling for gender-related targets for business and politicians as well”, said another reader.
Here we go again, said Howard. “A vocal minority not satisfied with their win on same-sex marriage.” Barbara agreed, asking: why must we strip the majority of people of an important part of their identity to accommodate the agenda of a tiny minority? They both have a point.
The plan by the Greens and Labor to erase gender from birth certificate is part of a broader plan to erase gender identity altogether, or at least make it mighty difficult to include mention of gender if you are just a woman or a man.
The proposed amendments will prohibit the registrar of births, deaths and marriages from including information about the gender of a child, unless required by a court or an applicable federal law. A person over 16 may record their gender by statutory declaration. A child under 16 years of age would need a declaration by at least one parent and the child’s own express wish, with a magistrate deciding any disputes.
The public reasons from LGBTI activists for these changes do not match their private agenda. What LGBTI advocate Rodney Croome fails to explain is how it is discriminatory to offer parents a choice to record the sex of their newborn on a birth certificate.
Banning gender on a birth certificate does not encourage tolerance and inclusion, but stripping people of their gender at birth cements a social experiment aimed at encouraging gender fluidity.
Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the current laws require that transgender people undergo invasive reproductive surgery if they want to change their birth certificate to reflect their identity.
If that is the case, have a debate about that rather than using a legal sledgehammer to remove gender from all birth certificates.
Transgender activist Martine Delaney says removing gender from birth certificates won’t harm anyone.
How can she know that? If a man is able to pass himself off as woman using a genderless birth certificate to gain entry to women’s spaces, or ends up in a women’s prison, how can Delaney know there are no risks to women’s safety?
In the debate over sex, gender and the law, women’s groups are increasingly arguing for caution and consideration of all groups, not just a transgender minority.
Delaney’s intervention is a neat reminder of her illiberal approach to open debate about same-sex marriage when she raced off to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner because she was offended by a pamphlet from the Catholic Church that set out its teaching on marriage.
Expect the same intolerance with more confected claims of hurt feelings, hate speech and transphobia. That is the experience from Britain where far-reaching changes allow for self-identification, possibly with no time periods or medical advice needed. If John wakes up one morning and decides he is Jane, he can self-identify as a woman for legal purposes before the sun sets. None of this is to mock the vast majority of transgender people who endure excruciating mental and physical anguish about their sex and their gender. But to suggest there are no dangers in a radical social shift is like believing in pixies.
To shut down those who wish to raise questions, now a routine tactic among some trans activists in Britain, is worse than ignorance. It is intolerance. Writing in The Spectator earlier this year, Judith Green from Woman’s Place UK outlined physical threats, social media harassment and hate-based vilification aimed at her group and any venue where they meet to discuss the consequences of new gender laws on women, children and society as a whole.
Last week, the Speaker of Tasmania’s lower house, who will decide whether gender is erased from birth certificates in that state, said the world is changing. Hickey said we need to be open to considering things that might discriminate or harm someone. It works both ways. As one reader of this newspaper wrote last week in response, “in the not too distant future I can imagine a world where it will be almost impossible to get through a day without offending someone, or some group”.
Note again the contrast between the live-and-let-live sentiments of many readers of this newspaper and the freedom-loathing agendas of academics, bureaucracies and politicians.
Language police in Victoria expect public servants to use gender-neutral pronouns. Language police in the ACT Labor caucus want to remove all references to Mr, Miss, Mrs or Ms in parliament. In some Australian primary and secondary schools, social media activists funded by Facebook are instructing students that gender identity exists on a spectrum.
And now social engineers in Tasmania want to erase gender altogether from birth certificates: no choice, no freedom to differ, just one-size-fits-all genderless babies.
These days, the political divide is less about Right and Left and more about those who believe in greater freedom and those who don’t. History reminds us that human dignity rests on people having more, not less, freedom.