Gender identity in Australia

Sydney resident Norrie today won a case in the High Court of Australia recognising a third category of gender.


In 2003, Australian Alex MacFarlane was granted the right to replace the gender on his passport with “X”.

The “X” identified Mr MacFarlane as intersex and is the third and only other gender category recognised under International Civil Aviation Organisation guidelines.

In Victoria, people are allowed to identify their gender as “indeterminate” or leave the field blank on their birth certificates if they are intersex.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a similar policy, allowing Australians to identify as “X” on their passport with a letter from a physician or psychologist. In 2013, it revised the policy to broaden gender definitions.

According to the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, published in 2013, government departments that collect personal records must allow for a person to change their gender to “X” if they provide certain documentation such as a medical statement and a travel document with the preferred gender.

In 2013, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 was passed in Australia

Under the amended legislation, intersex people were recognised as a falling under a separate gender category to male and female.

Global recognition of alternative genders

As of November 2013, Germany was the first European country to allow babies who have both male and female characteristics to be registered as neither sex.

Parents are able to leave the gender blank in an effort to alleviate pressure on the parents when it comes to making decisions about sex reassignment surgery for their child.

Several south-east Asian countries also recognise alternative genders.

In India and Bangladesh, transgender communities, called Hijras, are given a third gender option on passports.

In 2007, a Supreme Court of Nepal decision established a third-gender category for the country’s citizens.

The 2011 census in that country was the first in the world to allow people to identify as a gender other than male or female.

Pakistani transgendered people can choose from a number of genders to be included on their identity card and Nepal also allows for an alternative gender on identity cards.

New Zealand allows applicants to use “X” to represent an indeterminate gender on a passport.

In Samoa, Fa’afafine – men raised as girls – are recognised as third-gendered people and make up an important part of the island nation’s society and culture.

Gender online

This year, Facebook began to allow its American users to select their gender from 56 different options and the preferred pronoun (i.e. he, she, they).