Yesterday, the New Zealand parliament passed a self-identification bill for trans people. The bill, which took four years of debate and discussion, is scheduled to come into force in 18 months’ time, “allowing for consultation with the LGBT+ community on how the process should work, how young people can access correct gender markers, and how to be inclusive of non-binary people and different cultures,” the PinkNews reported.
Submitted in the parliament for consideration in 2017, the bill took 3 readings to be unanimously passed, removing the compulsion for trans people to undergo “medical intervention to change legal gender marker in favour of a ‘statutory declaration’.”
Reporting for the New Zealand Herald, Michael Neilson writes that “Politicians shared emotional messages to the ‘brave’ trans and wider community as they supported legalisation that allows” them to reflect who they are.
Further Neilson notes how the Green Party MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere “was in tears and had to pause to gather her emotions as she spoke.” In Kerekere’s words, “This bill recognises that those who need to amend their birth certificate can do so, that the courts do not have the right to make that choice for them, that parents do not have that right, that cis-gender people who don’t even know them or care about them do not have that right.”
It’s heartening that our LGBTQIA+ friends in the New Zealand will no longer have to be at the mercy of cis-het bureaucracy to be identified for who they are.
However, the situation in India remains dismal. What the New Zealand self-ID bill will be doing for the country’s queer people is precisely what the National Legal Services Authority (NALA) vs. Union of India judgement also observed.
It upheld “the right of all persons to self-identify their gender,” making it clear that “gender identity did not refer to biological characteristics but rather referred to as ‘an innate perception of one’s gender’.”
However, the ironically named Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 “mandates that each person would have to be recognised as ‘transgender’ on the basis of a certificate of identity issued by a district magistrate.” However, given the present dispensation’s track record, it’s highly unlikely that this distant dream of trans people in India will be realised anytime soon.