An Australian community activist who is neither male or female has won an appeals verdict in the Supreme Court of New South Wales (NSW), recognizing a third sex status for the first time in Australia.
norrie mAy-Welby had been provided with a recognized details certificate declaring norrie ‘sex not specified’ by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in March of 2010 just a day before the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade but the Registry contacted norrie to tell norrie the certificate had been cancelled after norrie’s story was reported on by media around the world.
norrie had sought the certificate so that norrie could change all of norrie’s official documents to reflect norrie’s sexless status.
norrie believed the decision by the Registry to be in breach of the Australian Sex Discrimination Act and the United Nations Charter of Human Rights which protects a person’s right to self determine their own social identity.
norrie believed that the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages had been pressured by the state Attorney General’s Office to reverse its decision.
The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal upheld the decision to cancel the recognized details certificate in May of 2011.
In 2011 NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal Justice Steven Montgomery wrote that the case rested on whether the Registrar had power under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act to register a change of sex by a person to ‘non-specific’ or ‘not specified.’
‘This in turn raises the preliminary issue of the meaning of the word ‘sex’ in the Act — specifically, whether "sex" means "male" or "female" or has some more expansive meaning,’ Montgomery wrote.
‘It is my view that Parliament did not intend that "sex" in Part 5A of the Act would allow a more expansive meaning than "male" or "female".’
Montgomery accepted that mAy-welby ‘perceives herself, and is perceived by others, to be of non-specific sex — I also accept that this reflects the medical reality.’
‘The state of the law may well be out of step with current social, medical and scientific views.’
However, Montgomery believed that was a matter for lawmakers to resolve.
‘In my view … the Registrar does not have the power under section 32DC of the Act to register a change of sex by a person to “non-specific” or “not specified".’
Justice Montgomery’s verdict has now been overturned and the Supreme Court has recognized the existence of a legal third sex status in Australia.
Following the verdict norrie told GSN, ‘I am delighted with the verdict and the comprehensive judgment. Finally the legal reification of the gender binary has been set aside, and the law accepts that it must deal fairly with all people, male, female, or otherwise.’
norrie is a member of Sex And Gender Education (SAGE) – an organization which seeks to raise awareness of the issues of gender diverse people.