News of Zealand

Delay in NZ's Gender Self-ID Bill Causes Hurt and Pain in Trans Communities

The changes would have meant Kiwis could have changed gender on their birth certificates without approval from the Family Court.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
27 February 2019, 11:19pm

Image via Shutterstock

Transgender and non-binary New Zealanders are feeling let down by the delay of a bill that would make it easier for them to change their gender on their birth certificate. Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin announced on Tuesday that the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill had been deferred because of "problems caused by the select committee process”. These problems were acknowledged after advice from Crown Law.

Self-identification is the process through which people can amend their gender marker through a statutory declaration. This process is already in action when you want to change the gender on your passport or driver’s licence. But if you need to change your birth certificate, you have to get approval from the Family Court, making it a lot more difficult. This bill aimed to simplify that process.

In the statement, Martin said "significant changes" had been made to the bill regarding gender self-identification and that it had occurred "without adequate public consultation". However, ActionStation director Laura Rapira O'Connell said further consultation wasn’t needed because the Human Rights Commission, many LGBTQIA+ groups, and the Privacy Commissioner already supported the changes.

"We don't need consultation with non-trans people on what trans people need. We just need to listen to what trans people tell us they need," she said.

Gender Minorities Aotearoa spokesperson Ahi Wi-Hongi said the inability for Kiwis to change gender on their own birth certificate was a form of “institutional bullying” that could spiral into mental illness, self harm, and attempted suicide. "Those kids also experience really extreme levels of distress,” Wi-Hongi said. "As a society, we can't keep setting trans people up for a lifetime of heartbreak. At the moment, trans people can't even get identification documents.”