Sunday 24 September 2006

Dear John

The Hon John Howard, Prime Minister, that is.

Dear Mr Howard,

First a Bouquet - as a longtime Liberal voter, I'd like to thank you for doing such a good job (in the main).

Now a query, one that I am sorely puzzled by, as the situation seems not just against Liberal principles, but is downright UnAustralian, and has the potential to embarress both our country, and your Government unless corrected.

According to the Australian Passports Determination 2005 explanatory notes,
Section 6.3 and part 87,

"It is Unneccessary or Undesirable that Transgendered people be issued with passports."

Instead, they may, repeat may, be issued with Documents of Identity, not valid for all countries, and in general good for only one journey - if their reason for travel is accepted.

The restrictions on their travel are exactly the same as for those being extradited, deported, those refused a passport due to outstanding arrest warrants or for suspected passport trafficking, and suspected terrorists.

By VAK and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade [2002] AATA 588 (11 July 2002),

It was determined that travel to answer an arrest warrant qualified for a DOI, but travel for necessary business purposes did not. A recent decision of the APO refused a DOI in order for myself as an Academic to attend conferences and deliver papers, and put impossible conditions on a DOI application in any event.

Should this be publicised at the conference(s) - and a lid can't be kept on it forever - the potential for embarressment is huge.

By the Re Kevin decisions, it was decided by the Family Court that Transsexuality is (at least on the balance of probability) a biologically-caused medical condition. All scientific evidence since then has bolstered this conclusion. My own case involved an involuntary change, similar in many ways to that of men with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. Yes, it is possible (rarely) that some people change sex naturally in the course of their lives.

Please explain why this travel restriction is neccessary on people suffering from a congenital medical condition, particularly as it applies in perpetuity to post-operative transsexuals who are married. There is therefore no question of a passport being issued which is inconsistent with bodily appearance, even under medical examination.

There is also no question of State RBMD issues involved here: the Acting Executive Director of the Australian Passport Office made it quite clear to me that even though I was born overseas (so with no Australian Birth certificate) and being treated for "moderate to severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant female", that I would have to divorce before I could be allowed to travel back to Australia. I already have a UK passport in a Female Gender (quite sufficient for me to be identified as female under the Marriage Act), but as an Australian citizen, I can't qualify for a Visa. As I have to travel for specialist medical treatment not available in Australia, I was to be effectively exiled.

I'm sure there must be a very good reason for this, as it appears to be Policy decided at the highest levels, so please inform me of it so I can relay it to the conference organisers as a reason for my absence.

Or perhaps it is just a misunderstanding that will be rectified as soon as possible, and without undue and harmful publicity.

Finally, my thanks for your response to my letter of some months ago, regarding the legal status of my marriage. Your colleague, the Hon Attorney General, answered my query to my entire satisfaction : that as long as a marriage when contracted was valid, it remains so.

Best Regards, and regardless of your answer, I will continue to vote Liberal simply because in the Big Picture you've got it right,

Ms Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)

Last time I wrote to the PM, I had a response from the Attorney General relatively swiftly.

I didn't tell him about the ADV. But that's because not everyone in my situation has that particular escape route. I'm OK, others aren't, and the situation needs fixing. I suspect the ramifications of the Policy hadn't occurred to them. But if they had... then they will deserve all the Parliamentary kerfuffle I can generate.

Imagine a, er, sit-down strike by post-operative women in this situation. Women with Male Birth Certificates. In the men's loos at Parliament House. (Not my original idea, BTW). Topless (that bit is original).

Absurdity is best dealt with through exposure - so to speak.

Hopefully it won't come to that, or anything like it. It's a pleasant and absurd thought, but I have severe doubts as to its practicality and efficacy.


Anonymous said...

Out of interest, what happens if a transwoman, post-transition were to travel on a passport with an M on it? The form for a passport asks which sex is on the applicant's birth certificate.

Just curious.


Zoe Brain said...

That depends.
I know many cases where travel was unimpeded.
I know of a few cases which ended up most unfortunately. The person was refused entry, and put in a male holding area, along with the usual drug addicts, crazies, and people with HIV who had been denied entry.
Travel to the UK is fairly safe, to the US you take a chance, to Thailand very safe, to other places... do you feel Lucky?

Anonymous said...

My concern is that the DOI seems to be aimed at a single trip for SRS. It doesn't include purposes such as FFS or the other reasons one may have for travel. I guess the unofficial policy for someone needing to travel before SRS is to carry letters from doctors and hope for the best.

The people in cabinet must have some serious issues about gender.


Matt A said...

Ellen: "The people in cabinet must have some serious issues about gender."

Surely you're not proposing people in cabinet might be in closet?

Take Care,