Australia: High Court orders recognition of ‘non-specific’ gender option

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Australia’s High Court has today ruled that a campaigner should be allowed to legally have a neutral gender, instead of being forced to designate male or female.

The case was bought by mononymous gender campaigner Norrie, who has identified as gender neutral since 1989, when they underwent reassignment surgery.

Dismissing an appeal from the state of New South Wales, which claimed it could only recognise male or female genders, five judges unanimously ruled in Norrie’s favour.

The judgement said: “The High Court recognises that a person may be neither male nor female, and so permits the registration of a person’s sex as ‘non-specific’.

“The question in this appeal is whether it was within the registrar’s power to record in the register that the sex of the respondent, Norrie, was ‘not specific’. That question should be answered in the affirmative.”

Norrie’s case came about when the state’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages first recognised the Sydney resident’s gender as ‘non-specified’ in 2010, before reversing its decision just a week later.

Norrie told AFP after the ruling today: “Maybe people will understand there’s more options than the binary. People seem to be able to accommodate the truth.

“It’s important for people to have equal rights in society. Why should people be left out because they’re seen as not male or female? They should be recognised wherever they are and allowed to participate in society at an equal level.”

Australian Capital Territory was previously the only part of Australia which legally recognised a non-specific gender option.

Last year, the UK Passport Service rejected government proposals to allow a gender-neutral option on passports.