Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to rise this afternoon and speak on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016. I would just like to commence by saying I have listened to the debate, and I have to say those opposite have really outdone themselves this time. Their capacity to rewrite history is legendary in this chamber, but they have now taken up the game of making some very strange excuses, some wild accusations, some red herrings and some furphies. At times I did not know whether to laugh or cry at some of the things they have said. When I heard somebody talking about going into a family violence refuge, I thought it had reached an all-time low from those opposite. It dismays me that your heads could be so mixed up, but what really upsets me is that your hearts could be so unkind. So I am going to take the opportunity to rebut some of the comments from those opposite. I am going to put on the record the facts of this situation.

The birth certificate reforms do not compromise the integrity of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. They do not put women’s safety at risk. People will not be going into women’s toilets because of this bill. It does not mean that Victorian law will be inconsistent with the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. The birth certificate reforms do remove the barriers for transgender, diverse and intersex Victorians to apply for new birth certificates. The bill enables transgender, diverse and intersex Victorians to have documents that match their gender identity, and it supports transgender, diverse and intersex Victorians to go about their daily lives free from discrimination, just like you and me — to be free of discrimination.

We have heard reports of where people turn up with their birth certificates, have that embarrassing moment and shy away from taking on the tasks that you and I take for granted in our everyday lives. Also, if you or a member of your family are not a transgender, diverse or intersex person, these proposed changes will not affect you or the recording of your family history — we have heard all sorts of stories from those opposite about that — and a child’s sex at birth will still be registered as male or female.

As I said, these proposed reforms do not put women’s safety at risk. This bill does not make it somehow easier for somebody to creep into a toilet block or a gym or a women’s refuge and gain access to women’s changing rooms or toilets or find somebody they might want to give a whack to in a women’s refuge. This is sensible legislation, and this bill does not alter the status of marriage under the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 — I repeat that.

But I will tell you what this bill is about. I am going to talk about a case that I know of. It is the case of Kobe Poulter and her son, now daughter. I know them through a friend’s family. They are a very good family, the Gray family. You would think of them as a good-living family; they are civic minded, Christian in outlook and well respected in the local community. They have provided support to Kobe’s family. I will read from an article about Kobe and her daughter:

At the age of four Arlow developed a tic. He had an inexplicable blink.

In the absence of a medical diagnosis, his mother, Kobe Poulter, put the cause down to stress.

Arlow had worn fairy dresses to creche, but around the time his blinking emerged, he was in kindergarten and hiding his dresses.

Two years later, on Arlow’s first day of school, he kicked and screamed and begged not to wear the boys uniform.

Eventually, Arlow’s mother ‘twigged’.

‘I blurted out, “Why don’t I buy you girls clothes?”. He looked at me like it was Christmas, and said “Yes Mum. No more dress-ups. I want real girl clothes”. And I went, “Oh, this is it, this is what it is”’.

So that is what it was, and what that little boy at the time — now little girl — was saying was, ‘This is who I am’ — ‘To thine own self be true’. In this complex world it is very difficult to find meaning for yourself, but to be able to define yourself as a certain gender, I would think, is just a basic human right. It is in accordance with the dignity of somebody that has probably gone through a great deal of trauma to get to the point of making that decision. So let us not stand any longer in the way of people who now know themselves, who have found themselves, who have found their true selves.

I just want to also address the issue of sex affirmation surgery. I would like to go to the authorities for this, because I know that this bill removes the need for sex affirmation surgery as a prerequisite for altering the record of sex in the register of births, deaths and marriages. This does follow on from a recommendation of the Australian Human Rights Commission, which states:

The definition of sex affirmation treatment should be broadened so that surgery is not the only criteria for a change in legal sex.

It talks about why that is so. It is about not having to traumatise people any longer. It is about saying to people, ‘You know yourself; you know who you are. You don’t have to go through that surgery if you don’t want to’.

I want to finish up by talking about the situation of Senator Janet Rice, who I met at a Western Bulldogs Football Club function at Etihad Stadium quite a few years ago. Janet and her partner turned up with their children. The kids were all decked out in their Western Bulldogs jumpers. They were at my table; I was hosting a table for the club. They sat down, and there were a few second glances and a little bit of ‘Oh, goodness me. This is an interesting situation’, but we all sat back and had a great day at the footy. We went on to win, the kids had a great time and I thought what a terrific family they were — smart, intelligent people. I just want to read what Senator Rice actually said about her relationship, which had changed:

We’ve got that experience to know that Penny having transitioned from being Peter to Penny, she’s the same person. We still love each other.

We loved each other when we got married. We loved each other when she transitioned. We still love each other now.

For me the basis of loving another person is very much based on loving oneself; one cannot love another person if one cannot love oneself. To know who you are is essential. It is in fact the most basic first step in being the person you are and in being able to love another. I am not in this Parliament to stop people falling in love with the people that they want to fall in love with, and that is essentially what this bill is about. I quoted Shakespeare at the start, and I will go back to him again:

The course of true love never did run smooth.

This bill has had a few hiccups here in the house this week — a few ghastly moments and a few unsatisfactory contributions from those opposite. I ask them to look into their hearts and to stop creating this bumpy road for the people for whom this bill is so important to their dignity, integrity and capacity to be a real person in a very complex and demanding world.

I wish this bill a very, very speedy passage, and I hope very much that those in the upper house will not resort to silly business. As I said, all of these strange accusations, all of these furphies and all of these red herrings that we have heard are completely unnecessary as far as this bill is concerned. It has as its basis human rights. You on that side of the house — the opposition — who so often give us lectures on the rights of the individual, should look again at this bill, should not oppose it and in fact should get behind it. Do not stand up and stop people from loving themselves so that they can love others fully.

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