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Gender identity

It’s against the law to discriminate against you, by treating you unfairly or bullying you, because of your gender identity. Gender identity discrimination happens when a person is treated unfavourably because of their gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics.

What is gender identity discrimination?

Gender identity discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly or bullies you because of your gender identity. Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, gender identity protects your right to identify as a member of the opposite sex. Gender identity also protects the right of intersex people to choose the sex they identify as.

People can do this by living, or seeking to live, as a member of a particular sex or assuming characteristics of a particular sex. This could be through:

  • the way they dress
  • a name change
  • medical intervention, such as hormone therapy or surgery.

Examples of gender identity discrimination

  • Refusing to call someone by their preferred name or use their preferred pronouns. (Genuine mistakes are not against the law but it may be discrimination if it is done in a manner that indicates hostility.)
  • A clothes shop not allowing a transgender person to use the changerooms that align with their gender identity.
  • Not serving someone in a restaurant because of the way they look.
  • A landlord or letting agency restricting a transgender person’s use of facilities that other tenants have full access to (such as kitchen facilities or a communal garden).

How does the law protect me?

Discrimination is against the law if it happens in an area of public life such as:

People who work in these areas have a positive duty to make sure you don’t face discrimination.

It is also against the law to victimise a person, which means treat them badly, because they have made complaint about discrimination or helped someone else make a complaint.

You can make a complaint

Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:

If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you.

Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.

We can also give you information about your rights.

Gender identity discrimination at work

Between a quarter and half of the complaints about gender identity discrimination that come to us are work-related (28 per cent in 2018-19).

While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act, employers have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.

Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.

Organisations must also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.

The positive duty applies to employers of all sizes, regardless of whether they are a major company or a small cafe, and covers all types of workers:

  • full-time, part-time and casual employees
  • agents and contract workers
  • trainees and apprentices.

It applies to all stages of employment, including:

Examples of gender identity discrimination in the workplace

  • Refusing to call someone by their preferred name or use their preferred pronouns.
  • Refusing to let someone use the toilets that align with their gender identity.
  • Passing over someone for a job or promotion because of their gender identity.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

There are some exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act that mean it’s not against the law to discriminate in particular circumstances. For example, discrimination is not against the law if there is a real risk to someone’s health, safety or property.

Find out more about exceptions.

My human rights under the Charter

Every Victorian has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.

The Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities must always consider these rights when they create laws, develop policies and deliver their services.

Find out more about your human rights under the Charter and what to do if you think they have been breached.

Related resources

Pride not Prejudice: Short film series – 2016

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Address
Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

General enquiries
enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au

Reception
1300 891 848

Enquiry line
1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

Interpreters
1300 152 494

NRS Voice Relay
1300 555 727 then use 1300 292 153

Media enquiries
0447 526 642

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and deep connection to the land.

We acknowledge that the Commission is on the land of the Kulin Nation and pay our respects to Elders past and present.