Transgender people could soon be spared the ''inhumane'' requirement of sexual reassignment surgery to change their legal gender, thanks to a renewed push from legal and human rights bodies in Canberra.
Released by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council today, the Beyond the Binary: Legal Recognition of Sex and Gender Diversity in the ACT report outlines a raft of recommendations to better protect the legal rights of sex and gender diverse people in the capital.
Amongst them is abolishing the requirement for a person to undergo sexual reassignment surgery to change the record of their sex, an obligation which ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Helen Watchirs described as inhumane.
Dr Watchirs provided advice recommending some of these reforms to the Attorney-General in 2010, stating that some legislation such as necessitating genital surgery was a violation of several human rights, including equality and privacy.
''In my view, it's inhumane,'' she said.
Dr Watchirs said surgery for a woman transitioning to become a man was not performed in Australia, meaning patients would have to travel overseas for the expensive and dangerous procedure.
If endorsed, the recommendations would bring the ACT into line with national changes which recognise gender identity in Australian passports without requiring sexual reassignment surgery.
The changes would also protect transgender and intersex people from potential discrimination from mismatching identification documents, with Dr Watchirs reporting that the commission received a number of serious complaints regarding issues such as discrimination, harassment and intrusive questioning when using services such as health.
Previous reports such as Transnation - completed by La Trobe University and the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society in 2007 - also reported high rates of verbal abuse and social exclusion among the transgender community.
A third of respondents had been threatened with violence and almost 20 per cent had been physically attacked.
Dr Watchirs said the recommendations were practical and would redress long-standing problems in the capital.
''It would be great if it was reformed this year,'' she said.
''It would show that the community is more understanding to this diversity. I don't think there would be any cost to the community.''
Peter Hyndal, from sex and gender diverse support group A Gender Agenda, said while there were no firsts in the recommendations, the move away from surgical requirements was long overdue.
''It's been a really, really long time since the issue was flagged and it would be nice to see the government move quickly,'' he said. ''The surgical requirement as it stands is clearly a complete contravention of the human rights of sex and gender diverse people in the ACT.''
Mr Hyndal said since consultation began in 2003, there had been a number of reports and advice from ACT and national human rights bodies recommending the abolishment of the surgical requirement.
A 2008 survey of Canberra's sex and gender diverse community found that 85 per cent of respondents wanted to change their legal sex but were unable to due to criteria or because the binary options offered were too limited.
The Beyond the Binary report recommended that gender references in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 and Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulation 1998 be changed to include male, female and intersex.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the government would consider the recommendations as soon as possible.
''This report is a valuable insight into how we can improve recognition of those in our community who identify as sex and gender diverse,'' he said.
Earlier this year, the ACT Government announced $200,000 funding over next three years for enhanced services to the sex and gender diverse community in the capital.
The funding was allocated to A Gender Agenda, which also received $67,000 in project funding from the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program for 2012-13.
This reporter is on Twitter: @stephanieando