By Alex McKinnon on June 7, 2013
In a decision that could have far-reaching implications for intersex
and gender nonspecific people nationwide, the NSW Court of Appeal has
ruled that the term ‘sex’ does not have a binary meaning of ‘male’ or
On Friday the court overturned a ruling by the Administrative
Decisions Tribunal stating that all people must register as either
male or female with the NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages,
allowing 52-year-old Sydney resident Norrie, who identifies as neuter
and only uses one name, should be allowed to list an explicitly ‘non
specific’ gender classification on official documents.
However, the ruling only applies for people who have had what the
court termed a “sex affirmation procedure”, not to people who were
born with ambiguous gender. The court also interpreted the terms ‘sex’
and ‘gender’ to mean the same thing, a conflation Organisation
Intersex International Australia (OII) President Gina Wilson claims
“further stigmatises an already stigmatised minority”.
Wilson pointed out that there is no legal recognition of people with
something other than ‘male’ or ‘female’ on their birth certificates
and warned that the ruling could have “far-reaching unintended
consequences” for intersex people, including the inadvertent creation
of a “new class of people, a third sex” unrecognised in law who would
be unable to ever get married.
Norrie is not intersex in the commonly understood sense of the term as
someone born with physical characteristics neither wholly male nor
female. Registered ‘male’ at birth, Norrie began hormone treatment and
surgery to become a woman at age 23 before going off hormones and
deciding to live as neither man nor woman.
In February 2010 Norrie applied for a Recognised Details (Change of
Sex) Certificate with a change in gender to ‘non-specific’ , and
received an approved certificate making Norrie the first person in NSW
to be given the designation ‘sex not specified’. However, the
Registrar ruled the certificate invalid three weeks later and changed
Norrie’s sex to ‘not stated’, saying it had been issued in error.
Norrie unsuccessfully contested the decision in front of the
Administrative Decisions Tribunal and the Tribunal’s Appeal Panel,
both of which found that the Registrar only had the power to list
people’s gender as either male or female.
Copyright © 2013 Star Observer