Australian Human Rights Commission

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2.3Written comments

The Commission received comments from over 150 individuals and organisations (by written comment or in response to the online feedback form) including:

Comments received were published on the Commission’s website with the author’s permission. These comments were unedited except where it was necessary to:

  • protect private information (for example, telephone numbers and private addresses were removed)

  • protect confidentiality (for example, names of third parties and participants at the roundtables were removed)

  • remove language that might be considered offensive.

2.4How was online feedback obtained?

The online feedback form was developed from questions in the Discussion Paper. This format was designed to allow short and direct feedback from the public.

The online feedback form was accessible from the Commission’s website from 1 October until 26 November 2010.

Responses were received from 51 people, but only some participants responded to every question. A summary of responses to the online feedback form is available on the Commission’s website.6

2.5Consultation roundtables

The Commission conducted roundtable meetings in Sydney on 28 October 2010 and in Melbourne on 9 November 2010. The President of the Commission, Catherine Branson QC, hosted these roundtables, which were facilitated by an independent consultant.

In recognition of the diverse issues affecting LGBTI people in Australia, each roundtable was divided into two sessions. In each location, one session focused on issues relating to sexual orientation and the other on issues relating to sex and/or gender identity.

Due to limitations in Commission resources, roundtables were only held in Sydney and Melbourne. However, some funding was provided to enable a number of people from other states and territories to attend.

It was important to create a safe space for participants to feel comfortable sharing their experiences and views. As a result, the Commission undertook to not identify participants who made comments at the roundtables in either roundtable summaries or in this report.

A total number of 97 people attended the roundtables. Additionally, officers of the Attorney-General’s Department attended in an observer capacity.

A summary of the roundtables is available on the Commission’s website.7

3A note on terminology

The Commission recognises that terminology can have a profound impact on a person’s identity, self-worth and inherent dignity. The use of inclusive and acceptable terminology empowers individuals and enables visibility of important issues.

The Commission supports the right of people to identify their sexual orientation and sex and/or gender as they choose. The Commission also recognises that terminology is strongly contested, particularly terminology to describe sex and/or gender identity. The consultation revealed that there is no clear consensus on what is appropriate terminology in this area.

Some of the terminology used in this report is explained below:

LGBTI: An internationally recognised acronym which is used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people collectively. Many sub-groups form part of the larger LGBTI movement.

Sexual orientation: The term ‘sexual orientation’ refers to a person’s emotional or sexual attraction to another person, including, amongst others, the following identities: heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or same-sex attracted.

Sex: The term ‘sex’ refers to a person’s biological characteristics. A person’s sex is usually described as being male or female. Some people may not be exclusively male or female (the term ‘intersex’ is explained below). Some people identify as neither male nor female.

Gender: The term ‘gender’ refers to the way in which a person indentifies or expresses their masculine or feminine characteristics. Gender is generally understood as a social and cultural construction. A person’s gender identity or gender expression is not always exclusively male or female and may or may not correspond to their sex.

Gender identity: The term ‘gender identity’ refers to a person’s deeply held internal and individual sense of gender.

Gender expression: The term ‘gender expression’ refers to the way in which a person externally expresses their gender or how they are perceived by others.

Intersex: The term ‘intersex’ refers to people who have genetic, hormonal or physical characteristics that are not exclusively ‘male’ or ‘female’. A person who is intersex may identify as male, female, intersex or as being of indeterminate sex.

Trans: The term ‘trans’ is a general term for a person whose gender identity is different to their sex at birth. A trans person may take steps to live permanently in their nominated sex with or without medical treatment.

The Commission acknowledges that some participants expressed concern about the appropriateness of some of the terms outlined above, including LGBTI as an umbrella term and ‘gender identity’.

At times, this report refers to the broader LGBTI movement where it was mentioned by participants or if necessary to describe people affected by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or sex and/or gender identity.

This report uses the phrase ‘gender identity’ in two specific contexts. First, international human rights discourse often uses the phrase gender identity. Second, many state and territory laws use a variation of this phrase. As a result, the phrase ‘gender identity’ is used when referring to international human rights agreements or state and territory laws.

This report also frequently uses the phrase ‘sex and/or gender identity’. This term is used to refer to the whole spectrum of sex and/or gender in our community. It aims to include all people regardless of whether they identify within or outside of the binary gender framework.8

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