Beyond Marriage Equality – The Role Of The ALP For Trans, Gender Diverse And Intersex Australians


In recent times, members of the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex) community have seen a huge surge in both visibility and the support of their rights and needs.

One only needs to watch Orange is the New Black or Modern Family to see that LGBTI people are part of the fabric of everyday life.

Even though in the past the ALP has struggled to support marriage equality, it can be seen that this is changing with the support from recent Labor leaders such as Kevin Rudd and Bill Shorten.

With 64 percent of Australians supporting marriage equality, it is clear that marriage equality will soon become a reality – perhaps not under a Tony Abbott government, but it will happen.

While the ALP needs to support marriage equality, we also need to not forget about the most vulnerable members of the LGBTI community; particularly trans, gender diverse and intersex people.

Unfortunately the issue of marriage equality sweeps over many important issues that while affect the entire LGBTI community; they disproportionately affect trans, gender diverse and intersex people.

These issues include mental health, protection from discrimination, and legal recognition of gender and/or sex.

For trans people the rates of depression, anxiety and generally poor mental health are much higher compared to the general population and gays and lesbians. Intersex adults also show much higher rates of psychological distress at levels comparable with traumatized non-intersex women such as those with a history of severe physical or sexual abuse.

Up to 50 percent of trans people have actually attempted suicide at least once in their lives. While the data for Intersex people is lacking, overseas research and anecdotal evidence in Australia indicate that intersex adults have rates of suicidal tendencies and self-harming behaviour well above those of the general population.

Trans and gender diverse people suffer from much higher levels of unemployment compared to the general population and trans, gender diverse and intersex people continue to struggle to get legal recognition of their gender/sex identity.

Marriage equality is not the most important issue affecting the LGBTI community when many trans, gender diverse and intersex people are struggling to have basic rights to begin with.

There is a real fear within the LGBTI community that when politicians talk about rights affecting the LGBTI community, they are only talking about gays and lesbians and marriage equality while ignoring other pressing issues.

But all is not lost. The ALP has been at the forefront of helping trans, gender diverse and intersex Australians.

This can be seen with the recent amendments during the Gillard government in 2013 to the Sex Discrimination Act where it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status under federal law.

In addition there are Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender introduced in 2013, which allow for trans, gender diverse and intersex Australians to easier access for individuals to amend their gender/sex identity for their personal records.

However there is much more that needs to be done, in particular for mental health as well at the state level. As members of the ALP, we may say we're supporters of the LGBTI community but our words and our actions need to reflect this.

This includes ensuring our members (and particularly us in the left) being knowledgeable of the many issues affecting the LGBTI community and pushing for positive change, not just marriage equality.

To ensure that that the ALP is at the forefront of social justice, we must ensure that the entire LGBTI community, not just gays and lesbians, have a voice.

Oskar Shboom is a LGBTI activist in the ALP from Perth.

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  • commented 2015-01-15 22:38:10 +1100
    hmm didn’t see much in there about Intersex so this feels a lot like appropriation. Any one who has the slightest knowledge about us knows Marriage equality is way way down on our needs list. Forced sterilization, forced gendering and the pathologising of our differences is a lot lot more important.
    If you are going to use Intersex then use it inclusively not as an add on .
    My advice is to take your own advice become knowledgeable and give us a voice!!
  • commented 2015-01-15 22:17:53 +1100
    The ALP doesn’t “support” marriage equality. It enables members of the Federal parliament to vote “according to their conscience”. All your other points are clearly reasonable.