March 25, 2019
Issue 03 2019

Transgender legal rights on pause

“Births, deaths and marriages bill deferred to allow more public consultation, abuse and humiliation,” tweeted Guy Williams, summarising my thoughts around the deferral of the BDMRR bill amendment.

The Births Deaths Marriages and Relationship Registration (aka BDMRR) Bill Amendment was deferred on the 25th of February, meaning the 1995 legislation would not be updated.

This Bill amendment would essentially make it easier for people to change their gender on their birth certificate, among other things. But why would someone need to legally change their recorded sex?

Well, for me personally, I want to amend my gender on my birth certificate because I am transgender and the “F” raises eyebrows - especially when people see my birth certificate alongside my flat chest and facial hair.

I am a transgender man. I had top surgery last year to masculinize my chest, and started taking hormones in 2017 so people could finally stop seeing me as the girl I was forced to live as for the first 18 years of my life.

I want my birth certificate to say M. Not only because it's accurate - I look and sound male - but because it would make my life a hell of a lot easier.

I'm not alone in this. There are many non-binary, transgender and intersex people who want to change their recorded sex marker. For many of us, we’ve already done it on our New Zealand passports and drivers licenses. The process for both of those is ‘self sex ID’ meaning it’s pretty simple and straightforward. All you need to do is make a statutory declaration saying, “I am changing my gender marker because I am transgender/non-binary/intersex”, and then you can get your gender updated, for free!

This is basically what the Births Deaths and Marriages Bill amendment would do - streamline the process of changing your sex marker on your birth certificate to F, M or X so it can accurately reflect your identity, despite what you were assigned at birth.

However, the bill amendment was deferred due to ‘lack of public consultation around gender self-identification’ to the dismay of the trans community.

See, a huge chunk of our community cannot change their gender markers under the current law (which, by the way, hasn't been updated since 1995). Under the current law, I’d have to fill out not one, but three forms, possibly hire a lawyer, prove I have had “medical treatment to change my gender,” and then file my application to my local court.

This would not only cost me a lot of time, but money too. I could do it, but I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I have medically transitioned. But what about the people who can't afford to? Or can’t for medical reasons? What about the people who don't want to medically “change their gender”? These people, under the current legislation, can’t change their legal sex despite the money or time they throw into the legal process.

Unfortunately for the trans community, there has been a lot of transphobic people bombarding politicians about this bill. Most of these people are TERFS (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) who are hiding behind the guise of ‘women's rights’ to back their anti-trans rhetoric. How are the two related, you ask? I'm glad you did! Because I have no idea. Groups such as SpeakUpForWomen have been lobbying politicians to defer the bill and, unfortunately, last month they succeeded.

TERFS argue that self sex ID would threaten women's only spaces (as if you have to show up to your local public women's bathroom and show your sex marker on your birth certificate to gain entry). Their argument is that if the BDMRR is amended to let people change their sex marker based on self ID (the system currently in place for New Zealand passports and Drivers license), then men will legally change their sex to gain access to women's spaces. Bathrooms. Prisons. Gyms. And these spaces will no longer be safe because of it.

Except predators are already in these spaces, and there is no law stating you must use the facility that aligns with your legal sex. Despite my legal sex being listed as F, the last time I used a women's bathroom I was escorted out by security. I had desperately needed to pee, and after discovering the only stall in the men’s room was out of order, I had a friend scope out the women's bathroom for me (because for obvious reasons I can't stand and pee at a urinal).

Our community is struggling to get answers. We want this bill to be amended, but no one can seem to tell us if or when that is going to happen. It has been deferred due to lack of public consultation, but when will this consultation happen? And when it does, will the voices of transgender, non-binary and intersex people be heard?

This bill amendment to streamline the process of changing our legal sex will only affect us, and yet our community is being thrust into the limelight to have our rights debated and scoffed at, once again.