Justice & Related Legislation (Marriage Amendments) Bill 2018
Ms ARMITAGE - Mr Deputy Chair, I move -
That the amendment moved by Ms Forrest be amended by:
Proposed amendments, proposed new Part 4A, proposed s 28A, new subsection
(2), after paragraph (b).
Insert the following paragraph:
(ca) 2 certificates -
(i) one of which is issued by a medical practitioner and one of which is issued by a psychiatrist within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2013; and
(ii) each of which certifies that, in the opinion of the person issuing the certificate, the person to whom the application relates genuinely identifies as a member of the gender that is specified in the certificate.
Proposed amendments, proposed new Part 4A, proposed s 28A, new subsection (5), after paragraph (b).
Insert the following paragraph:
(ca) 2 certificates -
(iii) one of which is issued by a medical practitioner and one of which is issued by a psychiatrist within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2013; and
(iv) each of which certifies that, in the opinion of the person issuing the certificate, the person to whom the application relates genuinely identifies as a member of the gender that is specified in the certificate.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIR - We will debate the amendment to the amendment and then see where that goes, then we will go back to, if we need to, the original amendment from Ms Forrest. 18 4 April 2019
Ms ARMITAGE - I am not saying there is anything wrong with the person. As I said, the example I gave was of the person I know who did a little bit of work on my house. I guess what I am looking at is: was he sure in the first place that he wanted to become a female? Not that long after he went back to being a male after going through all that hormone treatment. I just want people to be really certain when they make a decision.
If it were one of my children - and I can only speak from how I would feel - I would really want them, and I understand everyone thinks differently, to make sure and be certain that is what they wanted to do. They would have a medical practitioner who would be seeing them. They might have decided from a young age. We heard some parents saying children as young as seven or even younger are transgender. As I have stated, psychiatrists treat people for many things, not just mental illness. They see people for many different reasons.
Ms Rattray - Anxiety.
Ms ARMITAGE - All sorts of different reasons. I would have no problem with my child going to a psychiatrist but not having transgender surgery. We are up here with transgender surgery; we are down here on the floor with a statutory declaration. I am looking for some middle ground.
You ask about how this will stop the issues brought up by Chris Gunson. I am not saying it would stop them, but it would certainly make them harder. If you are looking to do the wrong thing, I could go to the local post office and sign a statutory declaration. I might not dress like a woman and may not do anything, but I will be a man and I could do whatever. I am not a true transgender person. I do not care about that. I can use this legislation and his comments and innuendo to me - I am not a legal person but I listen to the legal people. That is what we do in this place. We get advice.
He said we make laws for everyone. Not only for the best people but for the worst people so we have to look at what the worst people will do with the legislation. With a statutory declaration, all you have to say is, 'Show me your drivers licence. Okay, that is your signature, off you go'. That is a massive jump from reassignment surgery.
I am not saying the people doing that for the right reasons have any issues. I am not saying they have any mental issues. I am saying they need to be sure: two doctors, one a psychiatrist. For those people, as Chris described, who will - and can - do things for the wrong reasons, a statutory declaration is a step, a bar, way too low.
I reiterate: I am not saying any of these people have mental health issues because I do not believe they have. I spoke to medical practitioners, and for the member for Windermere: I did not speak to the AMA, I did not ask them that question. I spoke to doctors I have known for a good number of years who felt that this was a reasonable path to take. It is not reassignment surgery. That is a terrible thing to expect people to have to go through.
I do not see a problem with taking some centre ground, and I see this as centre ground. I understand the member for Rumney mentioned the waiting list. My understanding is the waiting list is more for psychologists than it is for psychiatrists. I have been told, particularly in the south, there are about 30 psychiatrists, there may not be so many around the rest of the state. 26 4 April 2019
If you want to go down this path and transgender, you can do it from 16 according to our legislation. If you have to make a trip to Hobart to more easily get an appointment, I understand - and I see you shaking your head, but we all have our opinions -
Ms Lovell - They cannot just jump in a car and drive to Hobart, can they?
Ms ARMITAGE - It is better than jumping and going to America and having reassignment surgery. It is a big jump between what we are doing.
Some members in this House need to appreciate we are not just making laws for good people. That is what I am concerned with. We are saying, 'These people will not do this' and I agree. You can shake your head but I am sure they will not. We make laws for everyone and I am conscious that I am making a law here. I am not voting on how I feel emotionally because you cannot. You have to think what some people will do with the law.
I am sure there will be many people in this Chamber who will not support my amendment. I accept that. It is their right. Please members, just think about the fact that we are not only making the laws for the good people - we are making laws for those who will abuse them as well.
Ms ARMITAGE - I appreciate the amendment from the member for Murchison and believe to expect people to have reassignment surgery is a terrible impost on them, whether they be young or old when they decide to transgender. They certainly should not have to, but I am concerned with the amendment and accept the member for Murchison mentions counselling. The amendment says may be accompanied by evidence the person has undertaken counselling -
Ms Forrest - This is the proactive section of it.
Ms ARMITAGE - I understand, but it is still in this section that they may undertake counselling. I too have spoken to many people in the community. My amendment has come about after speaking to several medical practitioners and seeking the best way to go about this.
I have four children. I understand where parents are coming from. I know my children change their minds from time to time. I understand the parents saying, 'Okay, you have a transgender child. They may have always felt that way, but people do change their minds.' I can give an example which I should read rather than go off script, of someone I know who changed their gender quite seriously and then changed it back. I am very concerned that gender can be changed by something as simple as a statutory declaration and some counselling. I agree, as I said, that reassignment surgery is a step too far. The member for Murchison's amendment says that a person under 18 may have counselling by a person of their choice, but I do not believe that is strong enough for such a life-changing decision. This is a major change in a person's life, whatever their age, and we must do everything we can to help these people be absolutely certain this is something they really want and that they permanently identify with their new gender.
We talk about young people but they are not always young. Sometimes they are older when they decide to transgender, but whatever their age, they need to be as certain as they can be that they are making the right decision. As I mentioned, I have sought advice from medical practitioners and their advice to me is to enable people to make the most informed decision possible. Is that not what we want?
Gender identity can affect mental health and young people who are gender diverse or do not identify with the gender they were born with may have a range of stressful experiences that contribute to their increased risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm and, as we have heard, sometimes suicide. However, I am not saying that gender diversity causes mental health problems because I do not believe it does. I would not want anyone to think we feel they need to go to a psychiatrist for any other reason than to help them be absolutely certain that what they are doing is in their own best interests and for the rest of their life.
As mentioned earlier, I note in the member for Murchison's amendment that a person who has not attained the age of 18 years may be accompanied by evidence that the person has undertaken counselling and the counselling was provided by a person chosen by the applicant who the applicant considers has suitable qualifications, training or experience to provide such counselling.
I personally know a person who as a young male - he was in his early 20s - decided to become a female and he underwent some treatment. He was quite an attractive young female, looked like a young female. It was not easy for him because he was working in quite a male-dominated job and some of her fellow workers made it somewhat difficult. I did not see this person for a couple of years; when I did, she had reverted back to being a male because she had met a new partner and decided she or he no longer wanted to be a woman and had gone back to the previous gender. This does happen. I believe he changed his name by deed poll. I do not know of any other documentation, but I do not want to say his name or identify who it was, but he changed from a male name to a female name, and it was not a name that could be used for either.
I mention this because I believe it is really important that when someone decides to permanently change their gender on their birth certificate they are absolutely certain it is something they want to do, whether they are 16, 18 or 20 - it does not really matter what age. I do not know about other people in this place, but I look back at some things I thought I really wanted to do when I was 16, 18, 20 or 30, and think, 'Why did I do that?' We all change our minds.
I am concerned we are going from the step way too far of having to have reassignment surgery to having virtually nothing, which is a statutory declaration and, if they wish, counselling with a person of their choice. I appreciate people in this situation would prefer the member for Murchison's amendment because it certainly is easier but, as mentioned by Martine Delaney in her email to us on 26 March, because the process of transitioning invariably requires post-medical supervision trans and gender-diverse people commonly have a well-established relationship with their doctor. Well that is one doctor. This would mean the only extra requirement would be an appointment with a psychiatrist. I am quite sure their doctor could be able to refer them to a relevant person who could help them. I do not believe this is overly onerous compared to what was in place in the past for someone making such a life-changing decision.
On the other side of the spectrum, while I believe that transgender people are genuine and doing everything for the right reasons, we also need to remember - and I think Chris Gunson said this - we make laws for the worst people in society, not just the best. He gave examples of maybe someone with two birth certificates who could have two tax file numbers, two bank accounts and how someone could become a different person. Perhaps they have moved to the mainland - John Smith in Tasmania who might have been on the sex register and cannot work with children then becomes Jane Smith on the mainland and starts a new life.
That might sound unlikely, but it is possible if you make things too easy for the people intent on doing the wrong thing. As I said, I am certainly not saying that of anyone transgender who is genuine. I am thinking of other people who might use the laws for the wrong reasons.
I ask members to support this amendment because I believe it really will help transgender people wishing to permanently change their gender.
Our President, Jim Wilkinson, is known for a little saying - and I am sure we have all heard him say it - 'Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better's best'. I think we have to have the very best legislation we can. I believe the bill should have gone out for community consultation. I consulted, as I said, with many medical practitioners and other people in the community but mainly the medical practitioners, 'Do you think two medical practitioners, one a psychiatrist, is too much?'. They did not believe so.
I probably spoke to about six or seven and all of them felt it was really a requirement to help people - and I guess it is mainly young people - really establish and be sure about what they wanted to do.
I want to put this clearly on the record: no-one thinks they need a psychiatrist for what they want to do, but this is to help them go through it, work through it, and make sure it is a decision they will choose for the rest of their life, so they are not like the young person who did some work for me when she was a female but who, when I met them again, had gone back to being a male because he had met a new partner and made a decision.
We have to think so carefully about this because it is such an important decision. I hope people do not think this is too hard and want us to make it easier because I believe we need to give them as much help as possible to help them make the very best decision for themselves. I make no apology for seeking two medical practitioners.
We should do whatever we can do to help these young people be certain this is the decision they want to make for the rest of their lives. I implore members to think carefully - do not think, 'Gosh, it would be much easier, why should I have to go through that?'- about what they had to do before: reassignment surgery.
All I am saying is that you already have a doctor, so just ask them to refer you to a psychiatrist, with whom you can sit down and have a discussion about this. All the psychiatrist then has to do is simply certify that, yes, they believe this young person believes and needs to be able to have a change of gender without any medical procedures. No procedures are needed in my amendment. It is purely two medical certificates. I do not think it is a step too far and I hope members understand it will help young people make good decisions.