Commission commenced a public consultation to canvas the experiences and views of people who may have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or sex and/or gender identity. The task was a listening exercise, and a lot needed to be said.The scope of the problem?
Participants revealed personal stories of discrimination, vilification and harassment that provide compelling evidence of the need for change. They also presented evidence of the negative impact discrimination has had on their health and wellbeing.
The experiences of discrimination shared during the consultation were nothing new. The Commission has previously reported on the stigmatisation and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in the Same-Sex: Same Entitlements (2007) and Sex Files: The legal recognition of sex in documents and government records (2009).
Although the work of the Commission in this area was recognised throughout the consultation, many participants expressed disappointment that government has not yet acted upon many of the recommendations made in Sex Files. Many trans and intersex people continue to face substantial difficulties in obtaining legal recognition of their sex. We commend the Australian Government for the initial steps that have been taken to respond to the Commission’s recommendations regarding the process for changing legal sex. Significant further changes are required in this area.
While a public servant I was referred to as “the freak” by several co-workers and received ongoing harassment by one particular employee after I had mentioned that I was Intersex. As I understood it then, there was no protection for harassment on the basis of being intersex as the sexual harassment laws only protected males and females, and not Intersex.
Then there's this simple statement, section 8.1 of the report:
8.1 Current federal protections from discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender identityThings are happening here, and without the Culture War Clash in the USA, or the partisan political machinations in the UK. We need them to.
There is no protection from discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender identity in federal law.
Speaking Out (2010) found that of its survey participants:The key to stopping this is education.
92% of trans women and 55% of trans men reported verbal abuse
46% of trans women and 36% of trans men reported physical attacks without a weapon (punched, kicked, beaten)
38% of trans women and 9% of trans men reported physical attacks with a weapon (knife, bottle, stones).
Education should be started early that there are males and females and some people do not fit into those categories. Discrimination is learnt. When I was in sex education in high school we were taught that there were males and females. It was confusing as I was obviously not male or female. (Participant, Sydney roundtable on sex and/or gender identity, 28 October 2010.)Lots of work to do, isn't there?
Children are not taught about the occurrence of intersex births and neither are they taught about the occurrence of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse people. This ill-prepares children for the real world where they may encounter such people. Children themselves who are intersex, sex and/or gender diverse are marginalised in such circumstances and made to feel shame about [the] way they are. (Sex and Gender Education Australia and Australian Health Education Centre, Comment 73, p 15.)
A number of organisations stressed the importance of education on the needs of trans and intersex people for health and community service providers. (Freedom! Gender Identity Association, Comment 90; National LGBTI Health Alliance, Comment 112.)
The current lack of understanding in this field was reported to be a barrier to accessing health care:
The practical result is that some sex and gender diverse people in the ACT either do not seek medical treatment, or choose not disclose their full medical history for fear of facing potential discrimination from ill-informed medical practitioners. This raises serious concerns on an individual level but also from the perspective of the need to protect and respect the human rights of all persons in Australia today (Fiona David and Peter Bailey, Comment 147, p 3.)