“There are only two genders – male and female…” An Analysis of Online Responses to Tasmania Removing ‘Gender’ from Birth Certificates
AbstractThis article details and analyses some of the public online response to the Tasmanian Government’s decision to make the recording of gender on birth certificates an opt-in process. Tasmania is the first jurisdiction in Australia to make such a change, which aims to simplify the legal processes involved in affirming a person’s gender identity (including agender and non-binary status). The data set is comprised of comments posted on Facebook in response to The Australian newspaper’s coverage of this event; The Australian is Australia’s only truly national daily broadsheet. This article argues that the effect of this overwhelmingly negative ciscentric response, as revealed by the aesthetic of this digital social space, is the generation of an impression of Australians as trans- (and intersex-) averse. This risks undermining the basic good of assurance that transgender and intersex people ought to have: an assurance that they can inhabit public spaces and be treated with dignity and respect (cf. Waldron). To prevent this kind of hostile response in the future, we must find a way to communicate and make resonant to the general public what queer and feminist theorists have been arguing for quite some time: that sex and gender are not synonymous and that both gender and sex are social constructs.
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