12 March 2010

M, F or N

Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, 48-year old Norrie (no surname) was issued with an official identity certificate identifying its* sex or gender as 'not specified'. According to SMH, Norrie " identifies as neuter and uses only a first name, the first in the state to be neither man nor woman in the eyes of the NSW government."

*Norrie uses the term 'zie'.

Norrie (photo by Wolter Peeters for SMH)

The government's social security provider Centrelink is in the process of finding a way for its computer system to allow for a neither (male/female) option for sex. The last official census in 2006 has never allowed for another option to male/female. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Bureau of Statistics considers the issue for the 2011 census.

Many forms also ask for the honorific title of Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss, unless one has a gender-neutral one like Prof/Dr/Rev or other military rank titles. Perhaps these are also rather unnecessary.

In India, the 'third' gender was recently granted by the government as 'O' for others. In Pakistan, the 'third' gender was recently officially recognised as 'hijra' for mainly transexuals and 'eunuchs'. New South Wales' 'not specified' is not quite a 'third' gender but rather no gender at all.

Meanwhile, BBC News reported about gynandromorphous chickens that are both male and female, and new findings by researchers about factors determining sexual development (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh; Nature).

photo from the Roslin Institute

Note that there is no suggestion being made to link Norrie to chickens, other than emphasising that in nature the male/female binary is not always clearly defined.

However, male/female questions will always be asked for in forms; in the census, the data is required for demographic planning and to monitor gender equality in the provision of services and employment etc.

No comments: