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Media Loses It Over Tasmanian Law That Could Make Misgendering a Crime


The Australian press went into a frenzy over proposed changes would afford broad protections for trans people.

Proposed legal protections for trans individuals who have not yet undergone gender-affirmation surgery drew wide media attention this weekend, mostly for a portion of the law that makes it against the law to misgender individuals.

A change proposed by liberal lawmakers in Tasmania and supporters by Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey would including misgendering individuals as a violation of anti-discrimination legislation and add gender expression among protections, according to The Australian.

Another amendment to the law would allow parents the option of leaving the gender form blank on birth certificates. It also eliminates divorce requirements for trans people in the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

But the coverage of the proposed laws, particularly a flurry of international attention, has focused almost entirely opposition to the changes, which routinely describe protections for trans individuals as "compelled speech."

Yahoo News, which left the coverage of the issue to its Style department, ran a story under the headline: "New transgender law in Australia could make it illegal to call individuals 'he' or 'she.'"

The story also quotes Sky News Australia coverage where journalist Miranda Devine dismissed the policy as "nonsense."

Daily Mail covered the issue with the story: "How could it be ILLEGAL to say 'he' or 'she.'"

The coverage leans heavily on commentary by University of Notre Dame senior lecturer Greg Walsh, who wrote a book on how anti-discrimination laws impact religious schools.

"Although it is admirable that parliamentarians want to ensure those who are transgender are respected, the attempt to use state power to force individuals to use language that contradicts their deeply held beliefs is completely unacceptable," Walsh said.

Largely absent from the coverage is the voice of trans individuals themselves.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a column by trans advocate Dale Sheridan last month explaining proposals would only impact a small number of people.

In most municipalities, Australian law only allows a change of gender on official documents if an individual undergoes gender-affirmation surgery.

"Progress for the trans and gender-diverse community doesn't come at the expense of the rest of the community," Sheridan wrote.

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