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New South Wales officially recognizes “Gender X”

No longer must you be registered as a man or woman in the registry of births, deaths and marriages in New South Wales. Thanks to the efforts of Norrie, the self-proclaimed “odd bod” who lives as gender-neuter and who underwent sex affirmation surgery, the NSW Court of Appeal officially recognized the existence of intersex and non-binary genders for the first time.

What was at first a small victory for Norrie alone when xe* was issued the first ever official government card marked “gender not specified”, but became a personal heartbreak when the media picked it up and the government reversed its previous decision claiming the card was “issued in error”, has become the law of the land** after its second reversal by the Court of Appeal:

It overturned a ruling that everyone must be registered as a man or a woman with the registry of births, deaths and marriages. Previously this right was restricted to passports.

It is also likely to be drawn upon as a guide for cases interstate.

”This is the first decision that recognises that ‘sex’ is not binary – it is not only ‘male’ or ‘female’ – and that we should have recognition of that in the law and in our legal documents,” said Emily Christie, one of Norrie’s solicitors, from DLA Piper.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Hugh de Kretser said the court’s decision would be ”persuasive” in legal disputes in other states. ”Agencies, non-government organisations will be looking to apply this more broadly than just in NSW,” he said.

This is fantastic and heartening news. If only all governments, federal and local, would take this as a cue and make this simple, unobtrusive change in their data collection methods. Sex is not binary. Gender is not binary. Treating it as such devalues the lived experience of these people who are not so easily pigeonholed.

Hat tip to Ronja Addams-Moring via Facebook.

* (pronoun preference not specified — I’m making a guess.)

** New South Wales is a state of Australia, and this law does not extend through the whole land. Yet.

Comments

  1. says

    Yay Norrie! I knew her in Sydney fifteen years ago when she preferred female pronouns, but I don’t know what xe likes now, we’ve lost touch. Norrie also battled with an insistence on surnames for a long time, and had to give in for some bureaucracies – xe was known for some time as Norrie-Mae Welby :)

    BTW, in Australia, we have states and territories, not provinces. NSW is a state.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    Holy crap, NSW did something good? I’ve lived here for 38 years and its finally happened!!! I feel like I’ve seen a unicorn

  3. says

    This is really good news for agendered/GQ/neutrois/intersex/ people. They really deserve this so much as it’s a basic human right, and I hope to see more of this kind of legislation in other countries. I am happy to see this.

  4. lochaber says

    glad to hear that at least one institution is trying to conform with reality. wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the majority of other institutions/states to come on board?

  5. jaytheostrich says

    So, would the U.S. conservative reaction be something like “Australia is now PROMOTING a mixed-gender lifestyle! Think of the children!”?
    Kudos to NSW for doing something that makes sense!

  6. voidhawk says

    This is excellent news.

    (Still don’t like xe as a pronoun though. As gender-neutral pronouns go ‘they’ looks nicer on my eyes)

  7. says

    I’m with Voidhawk on that. A gender-neutral singular ‘they’ is already in use informally, so if we want to strip the casual sexism from the English language, that’s a much better bet than odd-looking words that stand out and that have no obvious pronunciation.

    Though apparently the Swedes are trying to institute a gender-neutral new pronoun ‘hen’ – might be easier for them to do than us anglophones.

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