(UPDATE: GAB reader janiek alerted us to a new development in Norrie’s situation. On Tuesday, New South Wales’ Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages deemed Norrie’s certificate invalid. Please take a moment to learn more and sign the petition to let Norrie keep hir certificate.)
Norrie May-Welby (who primarily goes only by Norrie) has just become the first person in New South Wales to be legally recognized as sexless.
This Mardi Gras, Norrie received a gift that no other androgynous person in NSW has had before.
The night before the parade, the postman brought a certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages that contained neither the dreaded ”M” nor its equally despised cousin, ”F”.
Instead, it said ”sex not specified”, making the 48-year-old Sydneysider, who identifies as neuter and uses only a first name, the first in the state to be neither man nor woman in the eyes of the NSW government.
20 years ago, Norrie legally transitioned from male to female. Since then, however, ze has identified as neuter. It is a victory, then, that ze no longer has a legal sex or gender. Norrie, who works with SAGE Australia, wrote a piece for The Scavenger explaining hir decision to seek this particular type of legal recognition:
Those concepts, man or woman, just don’t fit me, they are not my actual reality, and, if applied to me, they are fiction. At 48 years of age, I’m less inclined to just humour other people’s delusions about gender and try and conform to one of their expected options.
If I need to show identity documents, I certainly don’t want details that are false, for this will only cause trouble when officials realise I don’t match my documents.
Certainly, Norrie is not the only person in the world who doesn’t identify as male or female. So it is surprising to read that ze is thought to be the only person in the world (and definitely the only person in NSW) to successfully legally change hir sex to neither male nor female. Christie Elan-Cane is currently fighting for a similar type of legal recognition in the UK, but it is unclear if or when her request will be approved. And although legal rights and recognition for transgender, genderqueer and gender non-conforming people in the United States are steadily improving, I have never heard of a U.S. citizen legally identifying outside of the gender binary.
Norrie’s victory is proof that one can legally exist outside of the boundaries of “male” and “female.” Now that this new precedent has been established in NSW, hopefully more gender non-conforming Australians will be able to make a similar legal change. And once the rest of the world sees Norrie and the progress being made in Australia, I hope other countries will follow suit and allow people to legally identify as sexless. Particularly for people who view their sex and gender identity to be fluid, neutral legal options are important. Or, in Norrie’s words, “There seemed no sense in having such a changeable and transient quality as gender nailed down as a permanent mark on identity documents.”
For more about Norrie’s journey, check out hir blog.