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‘It's absolutely huge’ – as Tasmania considers dropping gender from birth certificates, should NZ follow?

Tasmania is looking to be the first Australian state to drop gender markers from birth certificates in a move which has been described as a huge step forward for the state’s LGBT+ community.

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Lexie Matheson joined Breakfast this morning to discuss Tasmania dropping gender from birth certificates and whether we should follow suit. Source: Breakfast

Transgender activist Lexie Matheson joined TVNZ's Breakfast this morning to discuss its significance and whether we should follow suit.

Ms Matheson said, "It's huge. It's absolutely huge, because Tasmania has the most regressive laws with regard to transgender people. You can't change your birth certificate unless you have surgery and that’s proven by three medical people; if you’re married, you have to be divorced.

"It's the worst possible scenario for transgender people in Australia, so moving into this new world is really exciting for them, but it's also very exciting for us."

She added: "We know, because of the midterms happening in America, that Trump has got this whole thing about taking the moment you're born is the time your gender is determined, and that takes any sense of personal responsibility for who you are out of the individual’s hands."

The AUT lecturer said people are "really divided, as are so many areas around the world, into two sort of quite separate camps" and "here in New Zealand, we're moving towards that".

"It's been good up until now. You can change your birth certificate relatively easily, but what’s in the pipeline at the moment is for that to become a lot easier and a lot cheaper. My community struggles, but often with healthcare and employment, so not a lot of available money – this will just make it a lot easier."

Ms Matheson said she had "no idea" why birth certificates are important, saying "it's a certificate".

"I think, historically, it was really important, but now we’ve got – literally everything can be done online, and we're far more conscious of people having control over who they are.

"I think most of us quite like the idea of having control over our destiny. You know, when you're half an hour old, it's pretty hard to ask you what your consent is, really, in regard to your gender."

She says she disagrees that gender is defined by your anatomy at birth, saying, "It's a record of something that's happened and, from that point of view, just not putting gender on there – put the colour of your eyes on, put the length of your fingernails or whether you've got hair or not - so why put something as relatively irrelevant when you’re born, which may be wrong, which may be incorrect".

"In Tasmania, for example at the moment, young people under the age of 16 who are identified as intersex, so indeterminate genitals or reproductive organs, can be forced to have surgery and be corrected, and I think we've got science on our side that gender is no longer really seen as a binary thing as male and female, it's seen as a spectrum, and I think this is a way of reflecting that so everybody feels like they’ve got a say – got skin in the game, as it were."

Ms Matheson said New Zealand should follow suit and "would certainly push for that" but doesn’t think "we'll go as far as Tasmania is looking to go" in terms of taking gender off of birth certificates.

"But I am really happy that what we’re doing is making it possible to change the existing birth certificates in New Zealand so that they accurately reflect who we are."