If you follow politics, or maybe if you read The Age, you would know that the issue of trans rights and transphobia are ongoing topics of discussion and differences of opinion, sometimes causing hurt and harm.

I was recently asked what I mean when I say ‘the future is non-binary.’ Realising that others may also have that question, I’m publishing some of my answer here.

‘The future is non-binary’  means that gender is a construct, and that the binary of man/woman or male/female can and should be done away with, allowing all of us to exist in a world where we can be anything and all. Perhaps there’s a future where people don’t need to identify themselves as cis or trans, or male or female. People with so-called ‘male’ genitalia can wear dresses and high-heels without having to label themselves as trans – they just are, they exist and are living their full humanity. People with a uterus can access the healthcare they need for menstruation and reproductive health without having to identify as women. My womanhood is not based on genitalia or the existence of a uterus. I did not stop being a woman the day I had a hysterectomy.

We know that gender constructs are patriarchal, and they cause harm. Women are expected to dress in a certain way and behave in a certain way, just as men are expected to conform to a particular expectation of manhood and masculinity. What if women were allowed to be ‘masculine’ and men were allowed to be sensitive and ‘feminine’ without worrying that their gender would be challenged? Last week I read a story about cis-gendered woman with short hair, told to get out of the women’s bathroom because she apparently ‘looked like a man.’ Who decides what qualifies as being a man, or a woman? Are we inspecting genitals to find out? Why can’t people identify the way that makes sense to them, and live their lives with joy and no interference when they use a bathroom?

As a surrogacy lawyer, I have many clients who lack a uterus, given that is their reason for needing surrogacy. Some of them are born with female genitalia, and male gonads, and no uterus. Many of them identify as women, and only when doctors diagnose them as intersex do they discover the anomalies in their reproductive organs. Some of them identify as neither male or female. They exist, whether we call them men or women or neither, their experience is valid and only our way of categorising them needs to change.

We are all on a journey. I am not an expert on gender or trans issues; I am always learning. But I see myself in the battle of trans rights – because when we demand that people conform to gender constructs, or that they use bathrooms based on their genitals rather than how they identify, we are denying all our humanity. I want to live in a world where I can identify as a woman because that makes sense to me, regardless of my reproductive abilities, the length of my hair, the amount of make-up I am wearing or the cut of my suit. I want that for everyone else as well.

If you are interested in reading trans and gender-diverse people’s experiences, I recommend About a Girl, but Rebekah Robertson – her daughter Georgie Stone OAM is a trans woman, or Finding Nevo, by Nevo Zisin, a young Australian Jewish activist who found their way with being non-binary.

Sarah Jefford OAM (she/her) is a surrogacy lawyer living in Naarm with her family. Sarah practises in surrogacy and donor conception, assisting intended parents and surrogates across the country. Sarah produces The Australian Surrogacy Podcast, and has published a book, More Than Just a Baby, a guide to surrogacy for Australian intended parents and surrogates. In 2023, Sarah was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia, for services to the law and the surrogacy community.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford (she/her). I’m a family creation lawyer, practising in surrogacy and donor conception arrangements. I’m an IVF mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for two dads in 2018

I advocate for positive, best practice surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

more than just a baby