19 Jan 2023

How does changing your gender on legal documents work?

From Morning Report, 8:38 am on 19 January 2023

From June this year, New Zealanders will be able to apply to amend the sex recorded on their birth certificate without showing evidence of medical treatment.

The ability to alter birth gender on identification documents can make a huge difference to trans people's lives and mental health, says community lawyer Kate Scarlet.

"It's really important for allowing people to live with dignity and just go about their everyday lives without experiencing discrimination," she tells Charlotte Cook.

A transgender man filling out paperwork in the waiting room of a doctor's office.
Guidelines: https://genderspectrum.vice.com/guidelines

Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Aotearoa's transgender and non-binary community already experience a lot of discrimination, Scarlet says, and while cisgender people don't have to worry about handing over ID, it can be stressful for them.

Currently, a person must apply to the Family Court and provide evidence of some sort of gender-related medical treatment to change the sex marker on their birth certificate from M to F or the reverse.

In June this year, the process will involve only a statutory declaration sworn in front of a lawyer, JP or court registrar, Scarlet says.

"All that you'll need to change your legal gender is to be eligible for a New Zealand birth certificate and to be able to make that statutory declaration."

The new legislation does not allow for genders beyond male or female to be recognised and the government is still working on this, she says.

Scarlet is hopeful that the gender options on birth certificates will soon match the current gender options on New Zealand passports – M, F or X (gender diverse).

To find out more about the new law, you can visit the Internal Affairs website.

Related: The challenge and consequences of gender-related law reform