Trans and intersex people born overseas still excluded from legal gender and name recognition

Rainbow Path members and allies showing their placards at the Trans Rights Rally during Auckland Pride Festival, Feb 2023

The government has announced its final decisions about the new process for trans and intersex people to amend their gender on a New Zealand birth certificate – and that applications open in less than four months, on 15 June 2023.

This law change, recognising our right to self-determination, is a huge win for trans and intersex people born in Aotearoa. However, as Rainbow Path and many other people said in their submissions on the Bill, there needs to be an equivalent solution for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants born overseas too. 

The Department of Internal Affairs’ (DIA) FAQ about the law change, acknowledges the gaps: “From the submissions received on the Act, it’s clear that it’s important to the transgender and intersex community to find a way for overseas born people to register their gender. We are committed to pursuing a solution for people born overseas.”

Rainbow Path made a 35-page submission in response to DIA’s consultation document. Our submission was based on our long-term work with trans, non-binary and intersex refugees and asylum seekers. We also included information from the people who participated in our two community consultations on 16 June 2022 (14 people) and 21 June 2022 (13 people), and from DIA’s two consultations with people born overseas, where we participated and helped to facilitate one of the breakout group discussions.

It is clear from the experiences of trans and non-binary asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants that it is vital to have a New Zealand issued ID with your correct name, gender and photo.

In this news article on 12 February 2023, a Rainbow Path member described the extensive impact on their everyday life of not being able to change their name in New Zealand until they were a permanent resident, and their ongoing struggles using a Refugee Travel Document that is not well recognised or safe for them to use.

The reporter approached government agencies for comment. Rainbow Path welcomes Te Whatu Ora’s statement confirming that the ‘preferred name’ on forms does not have to reflect the name on a person’s passport, as long as the person’s identity has been clearly established.

“Te Whatu Ora takes a practical approach to this in recognition of the sensitivity of the issue… . People can change both their name and gender on the NHI system by contacting their regular health professional or the Ministry of Health contact centre.”

In the same article, the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages was reported as saying there were no plans to change the eligibility requirements for a name change under the Act. “However, we are working towards improving the ability of people in New Zealand to share their identity information digitally.”

This does not solve the problem we are still facing. Rainbow Path members also struggle to use current online identity verification options, including RealMe, when they have no official identity document with their correct name and gender. 

Being able to change your name is not an optional extra for people born overseas – as often it can take more than 5 years to get residency, and at least another 5 years to be able to get an NZ passport, and for some people this may never happen. 

Rainbow Path will continue to advocate for legal gender recognition for trans and intersex people born overseas – and needs your support to make sure we are not left behind. Read our submission to learn more about why trans and intersex asylum seekers, refugees and migrants need an official NZ ID with our correct name, gender and photo. 

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