Saturday, 31 October 2009

An Apology from the APO

From the Sydney Morning Herald :
A Transsexual has won a written apology from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the distress she experienced as a result of having to travel on a passport that identified her as a man.

Stefanie Imbruglia, 42 - a first cousin of the pop star Natalie Imbruglia - has also secured the department's agreement to other measures that amount to fairer treatment of transsexuals who apply for passports.

Ms Imbruglia had lived for two years as a woman before applying for a passport to travel to Thailand for sex realignment surgery in October 2007. She wanted her passport to identify her as a female. But the Howard government rescinded an established practice of issuing transsexuals who were to travel abroad for surgery a one-year limited passport in their nominated gender.

Forced to travel on a passport that identified her as a male, Ms Imbruglia said she was subjected to ridicule by an Australian passport officer who insisted on calling her ''sir'' even though she was wearing a skirt and jacket.

When she arrived at Bangkok airport, a passport control officer asked her to account for the discrepancy between her appearance and the gender on her passport.

''At the top of his voice in front of a hall full of people he looked at me and looked at my passport and said, 'Male or female?' Everyone turned around. It was scary.''

Ms Imbruglia said it was dangerous for transsexual women to have to travel abroad on male passports as they could be subjected to intimidation, violence, and arrest. The one-year passports were instituted, she said, after an Australian transsexual, forced to travel on a passport that identified her as male, was arrested in Singapore.

''My greatest fear was being detained in a male prison,'' she said. ''The danger the government put me in was huge.''
One correction: she's not a "Transsexual", she's a "woman". One with a transsexual past.

Because of the data sharing between immigration authorities worldwide - notably that between the UK and USA - I still face that danger because of the mismatch between my female UK and Australian passports and my male UK birth certificate.

However, I got my own written apology from the APO before Steph got hers. My issue was different, but the cause, rampant, bloody-minded and Kafkaesque transphobia at the highest level, was the same.

I've since had clear and convincing evidence that the APO is now one of the more trans-friendly government departments, reasonable and accommodating of both trans and intersexed people. Now. It took Steph's court case over another passport issue, and other women making themselves incredibly irritating to the APO in their persistence to cause this sea-change, but we did it.

1 comment:

Suvi-Tuuli Mäki-Asiala said...

"One with a transsexual past." How does that work? I'm a transsexual woman and respect people's self-identities but don't really understand this. I mean, intersex people stay intersex even if they have surgery, right? Not saying that they should have surgery, just that they might. Well, anyway...

I wonder when I'll get arrested since I'm in South Africa with a passport that says 'male'.