People who do not identify as male or female have achieved formal legal recognition in Australia for the first time, after the NSW Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that everyone must be listed as a man or a woman with the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.
In a landmark decision with major implications for thousands of intersex, androgynous and neuter people across the country, the court on Friday upheld an appeal by Sydney activist ‘Norrie’ against a decision by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal that people must be officially registered as ‘M’ or ‘F’.
In 2010 Lauredhel wrote here about NSW’s administrative decision to withdraw a birth certificate they had issued to Norrie only months earlier which designated hir as “Sex Not Specified”.
“It’s not good enough if the law is just for the majority of people,” Norrie said.
“We accept that most people are going to be unproblematicly male or female, but the law should include everybody.”
Norrie appealed to the Court of Appeal and on Friday, three years later, won a near-total victory. The three-judge appeal panel unanimously declared that “as a matter of construction … the word sex does not bear a binary meaning of ‘male’ or ‘female'”.
“The Appeal Panel erred in law in concluding that it was not open to the Registrar to register Norrie’s sex as ‘non-specific’,” the judges said.
The matter has now been sent back to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal which must decide on a ‘sexless’ designation for Norrie in the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.
Though strictly the decision only applies to those such as Norrie who have had sex affirmation surgery (previously known as sex change surgery), it has potential implications for many others, including babies who are born with ambiguous genetalia, and people who do not identify as male or female despite having physical characteristics of a man or a woman.
I imagine Norrie is in the middle of a huge party right now, and deservedly so. Cheers!