Twisting the Knife: Discrimination in the Law

Karen Gurney


Of the many different variations that can occur in human sexual formation, transsexualism no doubt remains the least understood by the wider Australian community. As a consequence, the process of attaining human rights to legal status, privacy, dignity and freedom from discrimination for those who experience this unusual condition has been a slow and sometimes frustrating one. The article seeks to introduce the reader to some of the more recent developments in the international jurisprudence of transsexualism and the underlying medical evidence that has supported them. It also offers criticism of the belated attempt by the State of Victoria, with the Births, Deaths & Marriages Registration (Amendment) Act 2004, to establish certain statutory rights in this regard. While the legislation was enacted with the stated and very laudable purpose of providing for the correction of birth records on the Register of Births of those people with transsexualism who have altered their phenotypic sex by hormonal medication and surgery, the article argues it has also served to remove other equally important rights already won and proposes that a final remedy will only be found, as on previous occasions, in the courts.

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