As part of the Senate Estimates process in Australia earlier this week, Greens Senator Janet Rice asked how departments have been implementing guidelines that recognize sex and gender.
After speaking, Queensland Senator Barry O'Sullivan asked: if he identified as a woman, could he spend time in the ladies' changing rooms?
O'Sullivan acknowledged that his question could be polarizing. "I can’t join in here without getting myself into some sort of trouble,” he said. "I definitely don’t want to make light of any of the conversation. It’s quite a serious subject. What would that allow me to do, if I declared that my gender status was…um… female? Does that allow me the freedom of movement … I mean this is a serious question … Can I go into the ladies’ loo loo then?”
The senator continued, "If you were to find me in the ladies’ change rooms — I’ve declared myself to be a female — and I’m in the ladies’ change rooms. Am I insulated from any punitive action, for that?”
Senator Rice, who is married to a transgender woman, did not appreciate the question. "People who are transgender and gender diverse, it is their identity and they deserve to be treated respectfully and not to have disrespectful questions asked in Senate Estimates," she told O'Sullivan.
In a later interview with Buzzfeed, O'Sullivan said, "To mix these two issues is outrageous, and minimises the experience and identities of trans and gender diverse people. A person’s gender identity is not a choice made on a whim in order to tick a form, as he implied."
The guidelines Rice was asking about were implemented on July 1, 2016. They recognize that people may identify as a sex and gender other than what they were assigned at birth.