The Archdiocese of Hobart in the Australian state of Tasmania has confirmed that it provided funding for an anti-transgender newspaper ad. The ad, which ran as a full page in a local paper, misrepresented a proposed bill that aims to benefit transgender and intersex Tasmanians.
The bill, which passed through Tasmania’s Lower House last fall, would make it easier for transgender people to affirm their gender on their birth certificates. The update includes scrapping a previous requirement that a person must have gender confirmation surgery before having their officially recorded gender updated. It would also allow parents to leave gender off their child’s birth certificate.
Those changes would make life easier for transgender Tasmanians who choose not to have gender confirmation surgery. Supporters of the bill have indicated there are many reasons transgender people may not choose surgery, including the fact that procedures often cost upwards of $25,000.
Advocates say that leaving gender off a child’s birth certificate would make it easier for them to affirm their own gender later. It also would make decisions easier for the parents of intersex children: children who are born with a mix of male and female sex characteristics. Although little discussed, intersex babies are estimated to make up 1.7% of all births worldwide–approximately the same portion of the world that has red hair.
The newspaper ad opposing the bill was placed by the Tasmanian Coalition for Kids, a group including the Archdiocese of Hobart and the Catholic Women’s League. The group’s spokesperson is Ben Smith, who is employed by the Archdiocese as their Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Office.
In their ad, the group claims that the bill could complicate passport applications, compromise “the integrity of people’s identities,” and even have “serious implications for children’s [sic] and women’s safety.”
Candace Harrington, spokesperson of Tasmanian Families for Trans Kids, refuted the ad point by point in an interview with Australia’s QNews. She noted that there is already a process in place for declaring gender in passport applications and that women’s service providers already have procedures for serving transgender women.
Harrington, the parent of a transgender child, asserted that the Archdiocese’s efforts amount to a misinformation campaign.
“I am a Catholic and I am concerned about the message being sent to parents with transgender children in Catholic schools, given Mr. Smith’s group is backed by the Catholic Archdiocese,” said Harrington. She invited Smith to meet with herself and other parents of transgender children. “I believe that when Mr. Smith and others hear our personal stories they will grasp why these reforms matter.”
—Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, April 1, 2019