Norrie: ‘Gender self-identification needs to be made legal’

April 3, 2023
Trans Visibility Day rally in Newtown on April 2. Photo: Peter Boyle

We stand on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I acknowledge their elders, past, present and emerging.  Sovereignty of this land was never ceded, and treaty or voice, it’s well past time this was sorted out.

My name is Norrie and I was asked to speak on gender self-identification, I’m guessing because of the case I won recognising non-binary sex identification, in the High Court, exactly nine years ago, today. 

I didn’t get ChatGBPT to help write this, but I did pilfer from Wikipedia, which says: “Medical requirements could force trans people into undergoing surgery, and are intrusive and humiliating gate keeping.”

Medical requirements are also class warfare, for it is easier for rich people to afford surgeries. Not everyone can get suspended from the public service for being harassed by police, win an appeal to the Supreme Court, and then get paid a year’s back pay, enough for surgery in 1989.

As for Gender Recognition Panels, don’t get me started on the cultural biases that would make gender recognition panels an insurmountable hurdle for minorities and other marginalised people.

Self-identification makes it easier for transgender people to live day-to-day without prejudice.

In April 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on member states to “develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination ...”

Also in 2015, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “abusive requirements as a precondition of recognition — for example, by requiring ... forced gender reassignment and other medical procedures” are “in violation of international human rights standards.”

Gender self-identification is recognised in over 20 countries now. There is no evidence that such laws have caused problems in countries where they have been introduced.

In 2012, Argentina allowed people to change their gender identities without facing barriers such as hormone therapy, surgery or psychiatric diagnosis that labels them as having an “abnormality”.

In 2015, the World Health Organization cited Argentina as an exemplary country for providing transgender rights. Yes, the World Health Organization, because social justice is a health issue.

Since 2010, Arkansas [in the United States] has allowed change of gender on state IDs “as requested, no questions asked, no documentation required”.

In New Zealand, gender markers on passports and drivers licences have worked on a self-declaration basis since 2012. In 2017, the New Zealand Parliament introduced the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill to allow people to change the sex on their birth certificates on a self-declaration basis as well. That comes into effect this year.

In Australia, Tasmania implemented self-declaration in 2019.

Also in 2019, Victoria abolished the sex reassignment surgery requirement for legal gender change and allows applicants to self-nominate the sex listed on their birth registration as male, female, or any other gender diverse or non-binary descriptor of their choice.

New South Wales should have that too. NSW once led the world with transgender Law reform, back in 1996, with the Transgender Anti-Discrimination and Other Acts Amendment Act.

It’s frankly embarrassing that we are now behind so much of the world and other Australian states in gender self-identification. Fixing this is the least we could do in the year that we hosted World Pride, surely?

I thank all those working for gender self-identification, and standing up for social justice and against transphobia, whether as allies, local council members, MPs, political activists or community members who care about others in their community.

[Norrie lives in the Waterloo Public Housing estate, and is grateful for the recent electoral routing of the Coalition that wanted to knock the estate down. Their old bubble bike is on display at the Powerhouse Ultimo, and their new bike is blue and yellow. Slava Ukraine.]

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