Government backs plans for gender self-ID on birth certificates

"Most of the recommendations" made by a working group looking into ways to make it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificate will be adopted.

"This Government understands that self-identification is a significant issue for transgender, non-binary and intersex New Zealanders, and is committed to making it easier for people to formally acknowledge their identified gender," Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti said on Wednesday.

At present, anyone wanting to change the sex on their birth certificate needs "medical evidence" and apply through the Family Court. 

Changing that to a simple statutory declaration which can be done online - the current process for changing it on a driver's licence or passport - is on the cards. It's one of 38 recommendations made by the Working Group for Reducing Barriers to Changing Registered Sex.

"The findings of the working group demonstrated the costs and complexities in changing the sex marker on a birth certificate, and showed why many people find it too difficult," said Tinetti. 

Another recommendation the Government has accepted is requiring district health boards to "retain paediatric care records... indefinitely to enable intersex people to access their full medical history".

Many of the recommendations, which can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website, have already been or are in the process of being implemented.

Some were rejected, including offering free legal representation for people looking to change their listed sex - the Government saying free legal aid in cases of "hardship circumstances" was already in place; and guaranteed funding for "gender-affirming healthcare", which the Government said was already available through DHBs, "where treatment must be prioritised alongside other needs in the local population". 

The Government plans to introduce the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill with its proposed changes later this year.

"I will take a range of perspectives into account as I make decisions on the future of the Bill, including whether it will come before select committee again. It is important we get this right," said Tinetti. 

The Bill has been around a while now - it was originally being looked after then-Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, who deferred it in 2019 after the gender self-ID clause was added. The working group's recommendations were delivered in early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed much of the Government's plans for the year. 

"I think for me as a new minister, it's been for me to actually work through the Bill and where it is, and work with my officials," Tinetti said in March. "I'm trying to progress that as quickly as I can."

New Zealand's first transgender MP Georgina Beyer, who was briefly a member of the working group, said in March the Government was "dithering". 

"Just deal with it one way or another. It certainly has to be addressed because it's causing too much angst for the transgender community today."