Australia’s high court rules in favor of gender neutrality

BY Ruth Tam  April 2, 2014 at 3:35 PM EST
Norrie, who uses only a first name and does not identify as either male or female, poses for a photograph in Redfern near Sydney. Photo by Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Norrie, who uses only a first name and does not identify as either male or female, poses for a photograph in Redfern near Sydney. Photo by Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Australia’s supreme court has ruled that New South Whales must recognize gender neutrality in addition to categorizing people as male or female.

The decision came after a long legal battle in the country’s southeastern state where Norrie, a Scottish-Australian transsexual, first applied for legal status as neither a man nor a woman. The New South Whales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages first approved Norrie’s “non-specific” sex, but revoked it shortly after saying the decision had been an error.

Despite a gender reassignment surgery in 1989, Norrie does not live within concrete gender roles and appealed the registrar’s decision in 2012. When the court ruled in Norrie’s favor, it was appealed to the high court where it was upheld by a unanimous vote.

“Norrie’s sex remained ambiguous so that it would be to record misinformation in the register to classify her as male or female,” the ruling said.

The court also ordered the registrar to refund Norrie’s four years of court fees.

“People seem to be able to accommodate the truth,” Norrie said of the court’s decision. “I’m not the first person like this in society, I’m the one that happened to put my hand up for this particular case.”

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

The Guardian reports that several countries already recognized alternative genders. Germany was the first to provide an “undetermined” option on birth registrations.