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Gay and Lesbian Law Journal

Abstract from Volume 10 (2002)

In the Shadow of Homosexual Anxiety: Transgender Law Reform in Western Australia

Andrew N Sharpe

An analysis of judicial and/or legislative reform in transgender contexts bears out the claim that transgender law reform tends to take place in the shadow of homosexual anxiety. Sharpe considers recent transgender law reform in the West Australian political context. The selection of Western Australia is informed by the fact that transgender and gay and lesbian law reform coincide in time, a fact serving to heighten this anxiety. Sharpe highlights how passage of the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 (WA) proved possible only through constituting "gender reassigned persons" in opposition to (homo)sexuality. This is particularly observable in the West Australian parliamentary debates that approach the subject matter through a series of interrelated dyads: pre-operative/post-operative, act/identity, undeserving/deserving, visibility/invisibility, sexual/non-sexual. In distancing transgender beneficiaries of reform from homosexuality the discourses of parliamentary reform position them so as to occupy the second term in each of the above binary couplings. In addition to mapping one specific route by which the "unthinkability" of homosexuality is being constituted in the contemporary, the process of reform, and through the very attempt to avoid transgender/homosexual conflation, serves to delimit transgender possibilities. In this respect Sharpe draws attention to the considerable risks attendant to transgender's engagement with law and to the notion of rights discourse as obstacle to transgender and gay and lesbian political alliance.

(2002) 10 G&LLJ 1
Keywords: Transgender

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