Trans students forced to register with VCE authority with unwanted gender tag

Trans students forced to register with VCE authority with incorrect gender Photo: Eddie JimVCE student Castiel McIntosh does not identify as male or female.
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Gender pronouns have been given the flick, as Castiel prefers “they” and “them”.

School authorities struggled to accept the transition, which contributed to the teenager’s mental health problems. The 18-year-old said it was particularly confronting when the VCE authority insisted on registering the gender that was on the birth certificate.

Castiel dropped out of year 12 VCE earlier this year. The hurdles involved in changing VCE records “was definitely part of it”, they said.

“There is not enough respect for our rights,” said Castiel, who is now applying to do VCE next year at RMIT. “They don’t understand how important it actually is and how invalidating it is for a person to say it doesn’t matter that you’re trans, we still have to use this gender pronoun and name.”

Students who are transgender, or feel their gender is fluid, are being forced to register with the VCE authority with a name and gender that reflects the details on their birth certificate.

This is an impossible situation for transgender students who cannot change their certificate without undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Doctors in Victoria do not perform surgery on people under 18.

But there is a ray of hope, as the Victorian Parliament debates the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016 next week.

The bill, which would allow Victorians to change their certificate without surgery, was opposed by the Opposition in the lower house, and will need support from two cross benchers.

The Greens and the Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Pattern have signalled their support. Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Daniel Young and Democratic Labour Party MP Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins will vote against it. The remaining cross benchers appear undecided.

Meanwhile, the education department is in talks with the VCE authority about making VCE registration easier for transgender students. A spokesman indicated support for the bill, claiming the law would make it easier for schools to change their records.

A Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) spokesman said while the authority’s certificates must “maintain uniformity” with birth certificate details, the organisation stopped including gender markers in VCE certificates in 2013 to avoid any further distress.

“VCAA has been proactive in taking steps to comply with individual’s wishes where possible,” he said.

The VCE authority’s position is contrary to education department policy on gender identity, which states that if a student intends to change their certificate at some point in the future, school records could be altered.

Hurdles in changing student documentation affected some students’ VCE performance, while some have previously hid their certificates, or were enrolled in university as the wrong gender, said Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward.

Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre Anna Brown said with the exception of the ACT, state birth certificate laws in Australia lag behind international best practice.

Malta, Denmark, Argentina, Ireland and parts of Canada do not require “invasive and unnecessary surgeries before birth certificates can be changed”, she said.

The bill will also ensure married couples do not need to divorce before changing a gender marker on their certificate (as same-sex marriage is illegal).

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