Last month Australia made a significant change on their passport application forms; there are now three options for “gender” – M, F and X.
When your passport doesn’t reflect what you look like – when your listed gender doesn’t match who you are – it can be, in the words of Senator Louise Pratt, “very distressing, highly inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous.”
This is a human rights victory for transgender and intersex individuals in Australia, even moreso because sex reassignment surgery is not required to use the “x” option.
Imagine the relief of being able to mark X and being able to move through customs like everyone else instead of being grilled about why your passport says you are male, but you look female (or vice versa). For people who have experienced greater scrutiny at customs for other reasons (like race, or real/perceived ethnic origin or religion for example – especially since 9/11) you will understand what this can mean.
Hooray for Australia! Change happens when people start to “get it” – and even moreso (and faster) when people in power “get it”.
Senator Louise Pratt’s partner is transgender. This gives her an inside view into the barriers that transgender and intersex individuals face – barriers that those of us who are not transgender or intersex may have no idea even exist. Because of her experience, her position and her conviction, Australia has change!
It’s a small change, one that doesn’t impact cisgender people at all. There is still an “M” and an “F” to choose from. Australia has simply added another option – to recognize that not all realities are the same, and to make travelling more equitable and safe.
Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion