Should New Zealand drop gender for birth certificates, licences?

Drivers in Colorado can now opt out of choosing a gender on their driver's license, while Tasmania looks to be the first state to drop gender from birth certificates altogether. Is it time for New Zealand to follow?

In New Zealand, citizens have the freedom to change their gender identity on citizenship records. Kiwis can choose to have passports marked with male, female or X, without the need to amend the details on birth certificates or citizenship records.   

To change the gender identity on a New Zealand driver's licenses, you need only apply to the NZ Transport Agency or change it when it's time to replace your licence. It's more freedom than many countries provide, but some think it's time to scrap gender on forms of identity altogether. 

Tasmania is considering the move. Transgender rights organisation Transforming Tasmania wants to see the change which has been supported by the Greens, local newspaper the Advocate reports, but the Government said it wants further consultation on the matter.

Transgender activist Lexie Matheson supports the idea for New Zealand, telling TVNZ the country should follow in Tasmania's footsteps, adding that she disagrees gender is defined by a person's anatomy at birth. 

The idea has faced backlash in Tasmania, however, where the Labor party said it would not support the Greens' amendment, which would prevent the registrar of births, deaths and marriages from including a child's sex on birth certificates. 

"It's about giving parents a choice about what they see as relevant on their child's identity document," Labor justice spokeswoman Ella Haddad told The Australian. She said this would then not affect parents who wanted the gender of their child recorded. 

The proposed legislation came as a surprise to many, as Tasmania has some of the most discriminatory laws in Australia for transgender, gender diverse and intersex people, LGBTI advocate Rodney Croome told the Guardian. After all, until 2000, it was illegal to cross-dress in the state. 

Tasmanian law currently requires that a person undergo sexual reassignment surgery before they can register their change of sex with the registrar of births, deaths and marriages.

The move in Colorado to allow the use of X on driver's licenses comes amid a flurry of legislative changes across the United States in the midterm elections. People in Colorado will now be able to choose X as the symbol to represent their gender on their driver's license. 

Four other states, including California, Oregon, Minnesota, Maine and Washington, DC, have already adopted an option for non-binary identification on people's driver's licenses.

"This is an important step for the state of Colorado that the state documents reflect our values," said Michael Hartman from the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Motor Vehicles. 

He told the Denver Post newspaper, "People are people no matter their sex identification."

The move aims to reduce the discrimination non-binary people face when their documents don't match their gender expression, added Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, an LGBTQ advocacy group. 

The Colorado Board of Health will vote on proposals to add a third gender option to birth certificates and dropping the surgery requirement on December 19, the Denver Post reports. 

"It's an incredibly affirming process when a person's identification reflects their name and their gender," said Daniel Ramos of LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado. "They no longer have the fear or anxiety of being rejected by a clerk or teller or anybody else."

The rights of LGBT people are a contentious issue in the US ever since President Donald Trump signed a memorandum in March that banned most transgender individuals from serving in the US military. The issue came up in midterm ballot measures.  

The state of Massachusetts proposed a ban on gender identity discrimination. It would be an amendment to an existing 2016 law that added gender identity as part of laws that prohibit discrimination including on grounds of sex, religion, race and disability, in public areas. 

The law passed with 70.3 percent voting yes. It means any place with separate areas for men and women must allow full access for a person based on their preferred gender identity. 

It comes after President Trump's administration recently got rid of federal protections that allowed public school students to use bathrooms that corresponded with their gender identity. 

Transgender rights activists have said the administration is trying to push them out of existence.