Australian court agrees, we're not all male or female

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Norrie has engaged in a long legal battle to have a ‘non-specific’ category added under gender

Norrie, a trailblazerPhoto: AFP
Norrie, a trailblazerPhoto: AFP

A landmark ruling won by an Australian gender trailblazer which finds that sex does not just mean male or female could have broader implications as society becomes more accepting of diversity, experts say.

Norrie, who does not identify as either male or female, last month won a bid to have a new gender category on the register of births, deaths and marriages in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

"I'm very happy that I have been told in no uncertain terms that what sex you are is not just male or female necessarily," Norrie, who uses only a first name, told AFP.

Born as a male, Norrie underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1989 to become a woman. However, the surgery failed to resolve Scotland-born Norrie's ambiguity about sexual identity.

Identity politics

The sexual equality campaigner made global headlines in February 2010 when an application to New South Wales' department of Births, Deaths and Marriages accepted that "sex non-specific" could be accepted for Norrie's records.

But soon afterwards, the office revoked its decision, saying the certificate was invalid and had been issued in error. At the time, Norrie said the decision left her feeling "socially assassinated".

"There was a lot of support for fighting for it," the 52-year-old recalled. So began a series of appeals, ending with a decision last month in the New South Wales Court of Appeal which ruled that sex should not be limited to male or female, though it stopped short of defining other categories. "There are a few people, not many, who are like Norrie and don't want male or female on their birth certificate," said Norrie's lawyer Emily Christie.

The case has now been sent back to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to determine what the description for Norrie will be, and whether a term such as "non-specific" is acceptable. Norrie’s passport has an X instead of male or female.AFP



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