In the United States, a man can be both a man and a woman.
In Australia, however, the law doesn’t care what gender you are, nor does it care if you are male or female.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said that in 2013, Australia was the only country in the world where it was illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression, regardless of your sex.
And according to a recent survey of Australians, more than half of those surveyed said they were comfortable with the term “queer”.
“The way we treat each other, the way we speak to each other and the way our cultures are is important,” says Fiona Edwards, a research associate at the AHRC and author of the report.
“Queer is part of the way that we are all living, and that is very important for Australia.”
Ms Edwards says there’s an irony in the fact that Australia has one of the most successful gender-non-conforming populations in the developed world, and yet there is little recognition or support for the LGBTIQ community.
Ms Edwards is one of more than 30 people, including the chair of the Equality Council of Australia, and other leading LGBTIQ advocates, who have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling on the Prime Minister to amend the Racial Discrimination Act to allow same-sex marriage.
Ms Perkins says the recent election was a wake-up call to Australia.
“There was a real desire for change in Australia,” she says.
“This is what we’re really hoping for.”
In the letter, the group argues that the act, which provides for a range of discriminatory offences, is not being used properly.
“It’s been a very long time since we’ve had a significant shift in how Australia is perceived and treated as a country, and it’s time for a new way forward,” the letter reads.
“The laws around race, religion and disability are a reflection of a society that’s largely forgotten its past.”
The Australian Law Reform Commission, a body that advises the government on legislation, says the act has been used as a weapon to silence and silence those who question the power of the state.
“We believe that there is an erosion of civil liberties in Australia as a result of the misuse of the Racial Equality Act to silence people who speak out about the harms of racism,” spokesperson Claire O’Sullivan says.
Mr O’Neill says it’s an issue that is being missed.
“I’m not sure what’s happening, because it’s not happening to me,” he says.
He says he has not been able to get an explanation for the changes he says he experienced, nor any evidence that the new law is having a significant impact.
“Some people feel like they’re being targeted by the law,” Mr O’tahan says.
The Federal Government says it will look at the letter.
“Our law and practice is clear: Australians should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” a spokesperson said.
“Discrimination is never acceptable in any circumstances and will not be tolerated in any place.”
It also says the government will consider the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Discrimination against Women.
It says it is taking action to address discrimination against all Australians, including LGBTIQ people.
“As a Commonwealth organisation, we are committed to ending discrimination against any Australian citizen and to ensuring equal rights for all Australians,” the spokesperson says.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department says it has already spoken to a number of LGBTIQ individuals who are concerned by the changes.
“LGBTIQ people are being targeted in a variety of ways and they are being forced to live in a society where they are not welcome, and where they may not feel safe or comfortable to live,” a spokeswoman said.
In 2015, the Attorney General’s Department released the results of a review of the Australian Human Right Commission’s 2015 report into hate crime, and the findings of the investigation showed that LGBTIQ Australians faced discrimination in many areas.
The review said there were issues of gender and race, but also issues of disability, disability-related crime, homelessness, and sexual orientation and gender identity.
It also found that some LGBTIQ communities were being marginalised.
“When people are discriminated against, they feel a sense of betrayal, a sense that they don’t belong,” Ms Edwards said.
Ms O’Halloran says there is a real need to support those who have experienced discrimination.
“People are saying, ‘I can’t do this, I don’t feel safe in my community, I feel like I’m a threat to people’s safety.’
But you can’t feel like you’re not safe in your community,” she said.
The ABC contacted the Attorney for Education, Simon Corbell, who did not respond to a request for comment.
But in a statement, the Minister for Education said the Government