Canberra Kids are Changing Their Gender Under New ACT Laws

About 30 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have changed the gender on their birth certificates in the ACT in a two-year period, raising fresh questions about the role of parents in determining whether their children should transition. In 2020, ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury introduced legislation overhauling the births, deaths and marriage registration act to allow children under the age of 18 to officially change their gender identity and their name. The reforms – which came into effect on August 20, 2021 – established a pathway for a child as young as 12 to change their name and gender without parental consent. The ACT government said that since the changes entered into force, “approximately 30 young people between 12 and 17 have registered a change of sex. All students should be able to be themselves at school and feel safe and welcomed,” an ACT government spokesman said. “The ACT Education Directorate provides support to our public schools to build an affirming and inclusive culture where this can occur.”

Under the ACT government’s reforms, someone aged 12 to 15 can apply to change their gender with the consent of a parent or legal guardian. But a 12 to 15-year-old without parental consent can still apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for leave to make an application to the Registrar-General. A child under the age of 12 may also apply in “exceptional circumstances” but only with the consent of one person with parental responsibility. For a child aged 16 and over, the process is relaxed, and they are able to amend their birth certificate by applying to the Registrar-General for a change of given name and recorded sex. Mr. Rattenbury said no parental consent was needed in these cases, but young people would still need to satisfy the usual requirements for seeking a change of registered sex, including the provision of a statement from a doctor or a psychologist. The ACT Liberals have opted not to make an issue of the reforms, with Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee telling The Australian: “I think the issues that resonate broadly in the community are the practical issues.”

“I think most people don’t really, you know, spend every day thinking about birth certificates or gender or deferrable surgeries,” she said. “I don’t think that comes up. I think most Canberrans want to see their elected representative who represents their views.” But religious groups are concerned, with Australian Christian Lobby chief executive Michelle Pearse saying the transition of children could have lifelong consequences. “Parents know the best response to a child wanting to do things is often not yes,” she said. “On the gender issue, perhaps a child wants to change their gender because of the negative experiences they’ve had. But the point is there has to be questions. A simple yes and affirmation isn’t caring.” However, Mr. Rattenbury said some young transgender people did not have supportive parents and used to have to wait until they turned 18 to change their first name or registered sex, even if they had already lived as their preferred gender for many years.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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