In what may be a world first, the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has provided community activist norrie mAy-welby with a Recognised Details Certificate saying that norrie is without gender.
Norrie was born male in Scotland, but at 23 underwent hormone treatments and surgery to construct a vagina, receiving a gender recognition certificate as female in Australia.
Norrie later came to feel this was not correct either and ceased taking hormones, feeling a neuter identity fit best.
In January, doctors declared they could not categorise norrie as male or female, as norrie had no gonads, an atypical hormonal system and identified as neuter.
Norrie and the Sex And Gender Education (SAGE) lobby group then approached Births, Deaths and Marriages to obtain legal recognition of norrie’s non-gender.
Norrie told Sydney Star Observer they encountered resistance at first.
“The first thing we were told at the counter was that it can’t be done,” norrie said. “Then we spoke to her boss who told us it had never been done before.
“With a bit of pushing that became, ‘We’ll see what we can do’. Then it was just a matter of doing all the paperwork and being left up in the air as they still weren’t very optimistic they could do it. Then they suddenly decided they could do it — and they did it.”
Norrie received the ‘Sex Not Specified’ certificate in the post the night before the Mardi Gras parade.
“It’s just a piece of paper but it’s world-changing. It means society will start to deal with reality instead of fantasy,” norrie said.
“It means whenever I go in and fill in paperwork and someone says are you a Mr or a Miss, I can say I’m neither, here’s a piece of paper saying that — please comply.
Norrie’s bank has recognised the new details and having spoken with Centrelink, norrie expects they will too.
The next hurdle will be to see if norrie can obtain a ‘gender not specified’ passport using the certificate.
SAGE’s Dr Tracie O’Keefe believes the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2009 Sex Files report influenced Births, Deaths and Marriages’ decision.
The report recommended, “person[s] over the age of 18 years should be able to choose to have an unspecified sex noted on documents and records”.
SAGE said the decision was also a win for intersex children who might be registered as ‘Sex Not Specified’ until they decided what sex was right for them.
However, Gina Wilson of Organisation Internationale des Intersexués Australia disagrees.
“We think having ‘not specified’ on a child’s birth certificate will add to their burden,” Wilson said. “If this were a non-prejudiced society, it would be fair enough — but it’s not.
“Children struggle enough with a non-conforming body and the issues around that without having to struggle with a document that declares that to anybody who sees it.”
Wilson said it was adequate for parents to give intersex children unisex names and a temporary gender designation for documents as male or female until they are old enough to decide for themselves.