Australian court grants non-specific gender status

Wednesday 02 April 2014 11.11
Norrie said that the ruling might help people understand there were more gender options than a binary male/female
Norrie said that the ruling might help people understand there were more gender options than a binary male/female

The Australian High Court has ruled a Sydney resident be granted non-specific gender status.

Norrie, who goes by one name, was born male and underwent gender reassignment in 1989, but stopped taking hormones after the surgery and no longer identifies as male or female.

Norrie, 52, was given gender neutral status in 2010, but this was withdrawn months later by the New South Wales state government, starting a series of appeals that eventually reached the High Court.

The judgment handed down in Norrie's favour was unanimous.

"I jumped up and down a lot ... I was getting ready for my shower and I saw it come up and I said, 'hooray'... I squealed," Norrie said of the decision at a news conference.

"Maybe people will now understand there are more options than the binary, and even if a person is specifically male or female, their friends might not be, and hopefully people might be a little bit more accepting of that."

Norrie's lawyer, Scott McDonald, said the ruling sent a message the High Court does not believe gender is limited to male and female.

He described the case outcome as a "persuasive authority" for other jurisdictions and Australian states.

Despite its ruling, the court repeatedly referred to Norrie as "she" and "her" in its judgment, noting that Norrie's legal representatives used the terms in submissions.

The court was asked to consider whether "non-specific" could be included as a third gender category under Australia's Registry's Act.

Lawyers for the registry argued confusion would occur from the acceptance of more than two gender categories, and that the purpose of a reassignment procedure was to assist a person to be considered a member of the opposite sex.