Holly Lawford-Smith

A warning from Australia on the transgender debate

(Getty images)

It’s great that Britain’s high court has ruled that children can’t give informed consent to receive puberty blockers. I only wish that we had made that sort of progress here in Australia. But we haven’t — we’ve gone the other way.

Not only are we still handing out puberty blockers to children, we have also introduced ‘self-identification’ for legal sex status in multiple states. What’s more, there are serious attempts under way to introduce legislation that could be used to make it an offence to fail to affirm people’s chosen gender identities. This is happening under the banner of expanding hate speech protections and prohibiting conversion therapy.

I’m not writing this to pat Britain on the back. I’m writing to warn you. What happens in Australia may well affect the culture in the UK too. When it comes to the trans debate, what happens in one country can lead to the same thing happening in others.

What happens in Australia can affect the trans debate around the world

The trouble began in earnest in Australia in 2019, when reforms similar to those proposed in the UK’s 2018 consultation over the Gender Recognition Act were introduced in multiple states of Australia, swiftly and without consultation.

Tasmania and Victoria both brought in self-identification for legal sex. Tasmania even allows no sex to be recorded at all on a child’s birth certificate. In Victoria, to legally change sex, you simply need to make a statutory declaration of what you ‘believe’ your sex to be. One of the few contexts where a self-identifying transwoman can be legally distinguished from a woman is in elite sport. For almost all other cases where exemptions are granted to discrimination law to legally exclude men (for instance, from being hired as attendants at a female-only pool), self-identifying trans women must be counted as women, not as men.

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