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Don’t ask, but do tell...
As opposed to perception, transgender people still suffer from discrimination in Western countries. They need to get the record straight
Issue Date - 13/10/2011
In an attempt to remove gender-based discrimination, the Australian government recently amended passport rules to include a third gender option categorised as Gender ‘X’. Earlier, there were only two options – male or female; and citizens (whose conceived gender was different from the one reflected in their birth certificate) needed to undergo surgery before they could alter their gender in their passports. But now, transgendered or intersex people would only need a doctor’s certificate to write their preferred gender – or choose the ‘X’ gender. Peter Hyndai of Human Rights Advocacy Group commented, “It’s the biggest single piece of law reform related to transgender and intersex issues at a Commonwealth level ever in this country”.

Although many so-called ‘progressive’ countries have made much noise on the need to have such an option, very few countries have shown the willingness to do it. In 2010, the US eliminated compulsory surgery to inflict gender alteration, but still, there is no intermediate option. The same is the case with UK. In Canada, sex reassignment surgery is mandatory to modify gender status whereas in New Zealand, it’s the family court that assesses a person’s gender. Interestingly, India has a third option as ‘others’ in passport application forms since 2005.

With transgendered and intersex people getting more and more recognition globally, it has become imperative to officially categorise them in a different gender category to reduce inconveniences faced at the immigration counter. All nations should replicate this in their laws taking a cue from the Australian government. The Western world has spoken volumes against discrimination at various levels. It’s high time they walked the talk. Especially with transgenders – it can’t be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.


Mrinmoy Dey           

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