Frequently asked questions

Questions about self-identification and its implementation

What is “self-identification”?

A self-identification process for amending the sex on a birth certificate is a simple administrative process that requires a statutory declaration. It is based on how a person identifies, rather than eligibility criteria such as medical treatment.

Why are sex markers being changed when the issue is about gender?

Sex markers have been changed to helptakatāpui, transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Zealanders have an identity document that aligns with who they are.The presentation of both sex and gender fields could show a person has amended their birth certificate and lead to them experiencing discrimination.

How is this legislation different to the 1995 legislation?

In the 1995 Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act there was a requirement for people to go to the Family Court and provide evidence of medical treatment. The Family Court process medicalised a deeply personal expression of self-identity and was inaccessible for many people.

When will gender self-identification come into effect?

The self-identification process will replace the Family Court process by mid-2023.

What will a birth certificate look like after amending sex via self-identification?

To protect people from being ‘outed’ as transgender or intersex, a person’s gender will appear under the sex field as if it has been their sex since birth. Likewise, a person’s new name will also appear as if it has been their name since birth, unless they wait until after amending their sex to change it.

What happens if I’ve already amended the sex on my birth certificate and would like to amend it again via self-identification?

People who have already amended the sex on their birth certificate will be able to apply again under the self-identification process when it comes into force. These individuals’ first application under the self-identification process will be exempt from the additional requirements usually required when a person applies more than once.

How much will it cost to amend a birth certificate via self-identification?

The fees will be reviewed. It currently costs $55 and a further $33 - $35 for a new birth certificate. A name change costs $170.

Why is self-identification important?

Self-identification is a more accessible and inclusive way to amend the sex recorded on birth certificates. Processes where a birth certificate is requested can be distressing for takatāpui, transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Zealanders where the sex recorded does not match their gender.

Questions about overseas born people

Do people born overseas have access to the process to amend their registered sex?

The new legislation does not include a process for overseas born people to amend their registered sex, or to register a nominated sex.

To include people born overseas in the self-identification provisions under this Act, there would need to be a way to record and represent their nominated sex and other identifying details.

Under the 1995 legislation, anyone seeking to amend the sex on their birth certificate had to go to the Family Court for a Declaration as to Sex. People born in New Zealand used the Family Court’s Declaration to apply to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages to amend the sex recorded on their birth certificate. People born overseas do not have a birth certificate issued in New Zealand, so this cannot be updated. Instead, people born overseas have used the Family Court process to get the Declaration to use as proof of their sex or gender.

Once the self-identification changes come into effect, the Family Court process won’t exist anymore, and people born overseas will not be able to get a Declaration as to Sex from the Family Court. People born in New Zealand will be able to apply directly to the Registrar-General to have their birth certificates updated. 

How will overseas born people get documents that show their correct gender?

Overseas born New Zealand citizens can already apply for a passport which aligns more closely with their gender. Passports allow M, F and X markers. Overseas born citizens can also apply for a citizenship certificate with their gender recorded as male, female or non-binary.

Will there be future work to address self-identification for overseas born people?

The Government is committed to future work to address the exclusion of people born overseas. The community will have a chance to share their perspectives and ideas for this at the same time as consultation takes place on the regulations in 2022.

What consideration will be given to Māori born overseas?

As partners in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it is essential that the Crown works closely with Māori to develop any new process. As tangata whenua, Māori born overseas are part of this partnership and officials will ensure that work to find a way for New Zealanders born overseas to register a nominated sex considers their needs.

Why have gender self-identification provisions for overseas born people not been included in the legislation?

The self-identification provisions update the way people born in New Zealand amend the sex recorded on their birth certificate. People born overseas were excluded because they do not have a New Zealand birth record to amend. From the submissions received at Select Committee, it’s clear that it’s important to the transgender and intersex community to find a way for overseas born people to register a nominated sex.

Every option to include overseas born people considered by the Select Committee would have delayed the progress of the Bill and significantly delayed the introduction of self-identification on New Zealand birth certificates. It has already been over four years since the Bill was introduced, so the Committee recommended passing the Bill and then continuing work for overseas born people.

What options did the Select Committee consider to include overseas born people?

The Select Committee considered three options to give overseas born New Zealand citizens and residents access to self-identification provisions.

Adding a field to name change certificates.

This option was not suitable because it would requireevery overseas born person registering a nominated sex to change their name. It would also mean that the document which showed a person’s nominated sex always showed their previous name, which may be outing for some people.

Creating a new register in the Act which would allow overseas born New Zealanders to register a nominated sex.

Registers under the Act are open (anyone can request access to a record) unless there are processes set up to restrict access. There would need to be a process to keep the records of overseas born transgender, intersex, takatāpui and non-binary New Zealanders private and protected. Working through these processes and their impact on other registers would have significantly delayed the progress of the Bill.

Keep a Family Court process for overseas born New Zealanders.

The Committee considered a modified Family Court process as an interim measure – one that removed the medical evidence requirements. A Court process cannot be based on self-determination as a judge requires evidence to consider against set criteria to make a ruling. The evidence requirements could result in an inaccessible process. Designing a modified Family Court process would take time and require consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the Principal Family Court Judge. It would have delayed the progress of the Bill. 

Questions about the children and young people categories

Will children and young people have access to the self-identification process?

Children and young people will have access to the self-identification process with some support from guardians and/or suitably qualified third parties.

16 and 17 year olds will need the consent of either their guardians or support from a suitably qualified third party. Guardians will apply on behalf of children under 16, with the child’s consent, and will require support from a suitably qualified third party.

What will be done to ensure that children and young people are not disadvantaged by unsupportive parents or guardians?

Where 16 and 17 year olds have unsupportive guardians, they have the option of using a third party. The intention is to have an accessible pool of third parties, so the requirements will not be overly restrictive.

The risk of children not being able to access the process due to unsupportive guardians has been balanced against recognising a guardian’s responsibilities to help their child make important decisions.

Issues with children and young people being disadvantaged by unsupportive guardians can be considered as part of the statutory review of the self-identification provisions.

Why have the age categories for young people not been lowered or the requirements made more accessible?

Submitters held diverging views on the age categories and accessibility of the process for children and young people. The requirements in the 2021 Act achieve a suitable middle ground.

The requirements for 16 and 17 year olds reflect that they have greater competency than children, but are not yet legal adults and could still make or be pressured into a decision they regret later.

The requirements for children recognise a guardian’s responsibility to help their child make important decisions. While some children have the capacity to make decisions on their own, not all children do. This is demonstrated in healthcare settings where a child’s competency is determined by a case by case assessment. Replicating this assessment in an administrative process is not possible.

Questions about other changes following Select Committee

How has the legislation changed after Select Committee submissions?

Several changes were made based on the Select Committee’s recommendations and informed by public submissions. These are not substantial changes and align with the overarching intent of introducing an accessible and inclusive self-identification process. The Select Committee’s report is linked here and available on their website.

How has the wording of the statutory declaration changed?

There was a minor change to the wording of the statutory declaration. Applicants no longer need to declare that they intend “to live as” their nominated sex. This does not alter the effect of the statutory declaration, as applicants still need to declare that they “identify as” a person of their nominated sex.

Has the need for additional requirements for multiple applications changed?

The additional requirements now apply equally to all subsequent applications, including where a person is reverting to their sex at birth.

Previously, applications to revert to sex at birth were exempt from the requirements. This was changed to mitigate against people being pressured into de-transitioning and to not imply that being cisgender is the ideal.

What changes have been made regarding the listing of previous names on birth certificates?

Where a person changes their name after amending the sex on their birth certificate, then their previous names must appear on the document. Two exceptions to this rule have been added.

People who amend their sex as a child or young person will be able to change their name once afterwards without their previous names appearing. This will prevent young people being outed where their guardian did not consent to them changing their name to align with gender and they had to wait until they were 18 to do so.

People who amended their sex under the Family Court process can change their name once afterwards and not have their previous name show on their birth certificate. This is to be consistent with the name change rules under the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995.

Do the changes clarify how birth certificates can be used as evidence?

The changes clarify that individuals and organisations can consider information on a birth certificate and/or any other relevant information when determining a person’s sex or gender.

As birth certificates are not evidence of a person’s identity, it is not appropriate that they provide definitive evidence of a person’s sex or gender in all contexts.

Why is the commencement period so long?

It is to provide time to develop and consult on the regulations that underpin the self-identification process and to make IT system changes. Should this work be completed early, the self-identification process could start sooner.

Questions about the implications of self-identification for service providers

 What does the new law say about how service providers should consider birth certificates as evidence of sex or gender?

The Bill clarifies how birth certificates can be used as evidence of sex or gender. Where service providers need to determine someone’s sex or gender, other factors can be considered over and above the sex listed on a birth certificate. This reflects the fact that birth certificates are not intended to be considered evidence of a person’s identity (usually birth certificates are provided with other documents such as a driver licence or passports to prove identity).

What will self-identification mean for single sex spaces and activities such as changing rooms and sports teams?

The self-identification process should not affect how access to single sex spaces or sports is determined. Birth certificates are not usually used to determine a person’s right to access single sex services or spaces.

Organisations and individuals can continue to rely on their own policies rather than birth certificates. For example, it is still up to individual governing bodies to determine how sex and gender are determined in sport.

What will self-identification mean for single sex schools?

The process will not have significant implications for single sex schools. It is still up to individual schools to discuss with learners, parents, caregivers and whānau what name and gender learners use, regardless of the details on their birth certificates.

How will self-identification affect the placement of people in prison?

The self-identification process should not affect the placement of people in prison. Corrections is exploring a policy change to ensure birth certificates are not an overriding consideration in placement decisions. Any changes will come into force alongside the self-identification process.

Questions about next steps and setting regulations for the self-identification process

(updated 27 April 2022)

What are the stages to implementing self-identification?

Work has begun on developing the details of the self-identification process that will sit in the regulations. This is intended to include public engagement. Further information on this work can be found here: Recognising gender on birth certificates and exploring a gender registration process for people born overseas

Once the regulations have been developed, work on necessary updates to IT systems and operationalising the new process will begin.

What aspects of self-identification will be set in regulations?

Three aspects will be set in regulations:

  • the sex and gender markers, other than male and female, to be available when amending birth certificates;
  • who can be the third party to support applications for children and young people; and
  • the additional requirements where a person applies more than once.

What does being set in regulations mean?

Setting these aspects in regulations will mean that they are not set out in the Act and can be more easily changed and updated over time.