Self-identification to ensure more inclusivity for trans, non-binary and intersex whānau

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

The proposed law change to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill would allow people to change the sex listed on their birth certificate by statutory declaration, which would be a much less onerous process than getting changes cleared by the Family Court.

But Kiwis Te Ao Marama asked say they don't need Parliament to tell them how they identify. 

Is the baby a boy or a girl? That's a question most expectant mothers are asked. But what happens when the children are more than what meets the eye? The proposed law change would mean people can decide the gender they associate with without having to go through a court process. 

One father in Auckland says he has conversations with his child to reassure the child to be exactly who they want to be. He says the conversation will be made easier with these changes. 

'Trans are women too'

Some say it's an attack on the rights of self-identification of women.

But women across the House are voting for the bill including  National leader Judith Collins, who has recently come under scrutiny for National's blanket 'no vote' for the first reading of the bill banning conversion therapy. Collins says as a "biological woman", she supports the bill through the second reading. 

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti, who is in charge of this bill, also happens to be the Minister for Women and says "Trans women are women too".

Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere has been advocating for the change for a while and says "There are a lot of people who might have opinions on that" but has a clear message for them: "It's none of their business."

We spoke to Aucklanders today all of whom said they supported the changes. One talked about having a trans aunt he would "back all the way" and felt the changes needed to happen so society would be better at being inclusive.

High on the to-do list

Another person talked about her trans friend, saying she was often discriminated against and felt the changes could help people feel more accepted.

One person told us that although he identifies as a man he always "wanted to be a lady" and thought the change would allow for people to "stop hiding". 

This isn't the first attempt at changing the bill. The changes to the legislation came up in 2019 when the then Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said parts of the bill didn't have "adequate public consultation". The Greens are saying the public is in the know now. 

The Greens spokesperson on the matter, Kerekere said a number of people from the [rainbow] community have written submissions and even gone to the UN on the topic. 

Tinetti has decided to put it high on the to-do list. She told Te Ao Mārama that ensuring things are done right for trans, non-binary and intersex people was important. 

Māori Party leader Rawiri Waititi says the  Māori culture is non-binary and so too should be the country's laws. "These types of laws were created to segregate us, to make people feel uncomfortable, to make people feel unworthy."

He said in a Māori world view such rules don't exist. "These laws don't belong to us." 

The bill will now go to a committee of the whole House.