BDMRR stands for Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration. This is an Act in New Zealand law which sets out the legal aspects and requirements about the registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships. This includes the legal requirements for birth certificates, including changing the name or sex marker on a person’s birth certificate, due to marriage, civil union, or being transgender, for example.
There are a number of problems with the BDMRR law as it currently stands, which make it very hard for trans people to update the sex marker on their birth certificate – over 80% of trans people in Aotearoa NZ have the wrong sex marker on their birth certificate.
In 2018 a Bill to change this law was developed, and has now been through a rigorous process including two Select Committee reports, robust examination of advice from officials, and public submissions. In 2021, the new Minister has sought further advice and has committed to pass it into law by late 2021 or early 2022. She is soon to release an updated Bill.
In April 2021 Minister Tinetti said she is yet to decide whether the Bill will go back to the Select Committee for further submissions or straight to Parliament, where MPs will debate it’s contents.
Our professional opinion is that the Bill will probably go back to the Select Committee for further submissions. We should know this by June or July, and would probably have 4-6 weeks to make submissions.
The Government has committed to pass this law and has enough votes to do so. Our concern is whether the 2021 version of the Bill will be stronger than it was before.
The BDMRR 101 Primer is essentially an example of a submission, though you could pick any of the points from the primer to talk about, or there may be other issues you would like to raise. You can also see previous submissions on this Bill below – both for and against the Bill.
You can see more information on how a Bill becomes an Act below, along with the contact details of MPs who you may wish to contact.
Right now is the best time to learn about the issues, draft a submission, and be ready to make changes to it depending on what is in the 2021 Bill when it’s released.
It’s also a good time to put leaflets in your neighbors’ letter boxes, hand them out in the street, talk to people about why you support the BDMRR changes and self-determination for trans people, write letters to newspaper editors.
Once the Bill is released, we need transgender people and supporters to make submissions supporting legal gender recognition provisions that are based on self-determination. You can read our BDMRR 101 primer above – it has a lot of useful information to help you understand the issues, and be prepared to make a submission.
You can also see the rainbow community statement below, which was written just before the last version of the Bill was released in August 2018. It set out the types of legal changes that were needed and why. This statement was written by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people and organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand, and endorsed by a number of organisations and individuals, including former Human Rights Commissioners. It was written and published in a short timeframe, so it was not circulated broadly for people to sign on.
Many rightwing conservatives, fundamentalist faith based groups, and anti-trans campaign groups want to keep the current BDMRR Act, which requires trans people to have medical interventions and go to the Family Court before they can amend their birth certificate. These campaigns against the Bill are based on mis-information and harmful stereotypes of trans people, especially trans women.
It is critical that transgender people and supporters make submissions supporting the BDMRR Bill – so that trans people can change their birth certificates to match other ID documents.
A birth certificate is the only ID document that anyone born in Aotearoa can access which cannot ever be taken away from them. The more support for the Bill, the more likely that MPs will resist pressure to make the Bill weaker because of the campaign against it.
2. Suggest ways to improve the Bill
When the BDMRR Bill was released in August 2018, we saw that it needed significant improvements. The new Minister has said she is making changes to the 2018 version. When the 2021 version is released, GMA will provide its analysis about what is still missing – let us know your thoughts as well.
This initial response to the 2018 Bill (below) was sent to the previous Minister from a group of rainbow community organisations, explaining some of the changes needed. It’s been almost three years since that letter was written and our communities do not want to keep waiting for the next review of the law for any of these changes.
Trans individuals, and groups such as Rainbow Path, have been lobbying for options for trans asylum seekers and Convention refugees who aren’t permanent residents to have official documentation with their correct name and sex marker.
The 2018 Bill only applies to people with a NZ birth certificate. Even the existing BDMRR Act allows permanent residents and citizens born overseas to use the current Family Court process to get a Declaration as to Sex with their correct name and sex / gender marker. The 2021 Bill should include an option for trans migrants that is a simple, administrative process, similar to that being introduced for trans people born in Aotearoa or being considered for asylum seekers and Convention refugees who are not permanent residents.
The current law does not include a non-binary option for birth certificates.
It is important that sex markers can be updated by youth, regardless of age, and that sex markers can be updated more than once, as a person’s gender may change over time.
2017 – 2018: The Bill went to the Select Committee in 2017, containing no changes to the current Family Court process. Yet, the Select Committee had just released a separate report saying the process for changing sex details on a birth certificate needed to change to be based on self-identification, in response to a petition started by Allyson Hamblett (below). The Government’s response to that Select Committee report also reinforced that the focus of the Select Committee’s review of the current BDMRR Act now included issues raised in the petition.
Many people then made submissions to the Select Committee. Community submissions explained why changing the Family Court process was necessary, and how it should be done. After hearing all the submissions, in August 2018, the Select Committee produced a new version of the Bill, introducing a simpler process for changing the sex marker on birth certificates without going to the Family Court. It was a huge improvement, though it still fell short of meeting trans and intersex people’s needs. A number of community groups wrote a joint letter to the then Minister Tracey Martin, offering suggestions to improve some of the terms in the Bill, making it the same process as changing the sex marker in passports, and noted some gaps that needed to be addressed; such as legal gender recognition for asylum seekers and refugees. You can read that letter in section 2, above.
2019 – 2020: The Minister at the time then “deferred” the Bill and instead formed a Working Group to recommend how the Family Court process could be fixed without changing the law.
2021: The Working Group’s report was released on 29 April 2021, along with the Government’s response, below. The Working Group identified a vast array of problems with the current process and ways some of these could be improved – and made it clear that a law change was also needed. In her media release shortly after, Minister Jan Tinetti agreed, saying she intends to progress this Bill, with the hope of passing it in 2021 – “The Bill will enable people to self-identify their sex on their birth certificate without going to the Family Court. They will instead be able to apply online as they currently do for other identity documents, like driver’s licenses and passports.”
A new research report has just been released, Writing Themselves In 4, which takes an in depth look into the health and well being of rainbow young people in Australia.
Here we will report on some of the interesting findings, which may correspond somewhat with life in Aotearoa. There figures are for rainbow people only, and are not compared to the overall population.
Sexuality and Gender
Sexuality by gender
Overall, cisgender people identified overwhelmingly as bisexual, followed by gay. Transgender people overall identified as “something else”, followed by bisexual and pansexual.
Transgender women were most likely to identify as “something else” (29.2%), followed by pansexual or lesbian (23.6% each).
Trans men were most likely to identify as bisexual (30.3%), followed by “something else” (24.1%), then gay (15%).
Non-binary participants were most likely to identify as pansexual (21.1%), then bisexual (19.2%), then queer (17.1%).
Cisgender women were most likely to identify as bisexual (45.3%), followed by lesbian (19%).
Cisgender men were most likely to identify as gay (56.4%), then bisexual (24%).
Gender by sexuality
Lesbian people were most often transgender women. Pansexual people were most often trans women. Queer people were most often non-binary people. Asexual people were most often non-binary people. People who identified as “something else” were most often transgender women. Gay people were most often cisgender men. Bisexual people were most often cisgender women, or transgender men.
Lumping all genders with a particular sexuality together gives a false impression of who needs support
The above section gives us an important insight into how data needs to be collected and analysed.
Often data for lesbians is assumed to relate to cisgender women, but we see here that it is more likely to relate to transgender women. Likewise, data for bisexuals is usually assumed to relate to cisgender bisexuals, but we see here that it is most likely to relate to cisgender women and transgender men. We also see that data relating to asexual, pansexual, queer, and people who identify as “something else” is likely to specifically relate to transgender people, much more than to cisgender people.
Separating gender from sexual orientation (eg. “asexual cisgender women” and “asexual non-binary people”) is the only way to get an accurate picture of who is experiencing what, and where supports and resources are needed.
This section looks at harassment, including verbal, physical, and sexual harassment or assault.
Verbal harassment by gender
The study showed that verbal harassment was most often experienced by trans women at 71.2%, then by trans men at 63.3%, followed by non-binary people at 52.8%. For cisgender rainbow people, this was much lower, with 45% of cis men and 30.2% of cis women experiencing this.
Physical harassment by gender
Physical harassment was experienced most often by trans men at 16.8%, followed by trans women at 15.9%, and non-binary people at 13%. 12% of cisgender men experienced this, and 5.7% of cisgender women.
Sexual harassment by gender
44.8% of transgender women experienced sexual harassment, followed by non-binary people at 27.7%, and trans men at 23.2%. 21.1% of cis men and 20.8% of cis women experienced this.
Harassment by gender
Harassment by sexuality
Verbal harassment By sexuality
Verbal harassment was most frequently experienced by gay people (49.4%), followed by pansexuals (47.7%), then queers (46.4%). Lesbians experienced this the next most frequently at 44.2%, followed by those who identified as “something else” at 38.5%. Bisexual and asexual people came in lowest, at 33.8% and 32.6% respectively.
Physical harassment By sexuality
Physical harassment was highest equally for gay and pansexual people at 13.2%, followed by queer people at 10.2% and those who identified as “something else” at 10%. Lesbians followed at 9.5%, bisexuals at 7.2%, and asexuals at 5%.
Sexual harassment By sexuality
Sexual harassment was most common for queer people (27.4%), followed by lesbians at 25.3%, pansexuals at 24.2%, and “something else” at 23.5%. 21.9% of gay people experienced sexual harassment, followed by 21.4% of bisexuals, and 15.6% of asexuals.
Harassment on the basis of identity
Harassment based specifically on a person’s identity was a separate question.
Identity based verbal harassment by gender
Trans women topped the chart at 71.2%, followed by trans men at 63.3%, and non-binary people at 52.8%. Cis men and cis women experienced this at 45% and 30.2% respectively.
Identity based physical harassment by gender
16.8% of trans men experienced this, followed by 15.9% of trans women, 13% of non-binary people, 12% of cis men, and 5.7% of cis women.
Identity based sexual harassment by gender
44.8% of trans women experienced this, followed by 27.7% of non-binary people, 23.2% of trans men, 21.1% of cis men, and 20,8% of cis women.
Harassment based on identity, by gender
Harassment based on identity, by sexuality
Identity based verbal harassment by sexuality
This was most common for gay participants at 68.4%, followed closely by queer participants at 67.4%. Pansexuals experienced this at 63.4%, followed by lesbians at 60.6%, those who identified as “something else” (53.8%), bisexuals (50%), and asexuals (45.6%).
Identity based physical harassment by sexuality
Again gays experienced this at the highest rate of 21.4%, pansexuals at 20%, queers at 17.6%, “something else” at 15.7%, and lesbians at 14.5%. Bisexuals experienced this at 11.2% and asexuals at 10%.
Identity based sexual harassment by sexuality
Sexual harassment was experienced most commonly by queers at 36.4%, followed by lesbians at 31.9%. and pansexuals at 30.4%. Those identifying as “something else” followed at 30.3%, then gays at 28.9%, bisexuals at 27.7%, and asexuals at 21.7%.
Harassment at school by sexuality
Verbal harassment was most often experienced by gay people (25.6%), followed by pansexuals (24.7%), lesbians (21.7%), “something else” (22.1%), bisexuals (16.6%), and asexuals (12.6%).
Homelessness was most often experienced by trans women (41.3%), then trans men (39.3%), then non-binary people (31.8%). 19.4% and 19.3% of cis women and cis men experienced this.
By sexuality, homelessness was most likely to be experienced by pansexuals (31.4%), queers (28.8%), and “something else” (26.9%). 22.8% of lesbians, 21% of gays, 20.5% of bisexuals, and 19.3% of asexuals experienced this.
Much like in Aotearoa, rates of psychological distress were high due to stigma and discrimination, especially for trans people.
“Very high” psychological distress was experienced by 67.9% of trans men, 64% of trans women, and 63.7% of non-binary trans people. Cis women experienced this at 52.2%, and cis men at 34.1%.
By sexuality, pansexual (63.8%), lesbian (57.2%), and queer people (55.5%) were the most likely to experience “very high” psychological distress. This was also experienced by bisexual people at 52.8%, “something else” at 52.6%, asexual people at 48.1%, and gay people at 37.7%. “Low” distress was most commonly reported by gay people at 11.5%, those who identified as “something else” at 5.3%, and bisexuals at 4.9%.
By gender, self harm was highest for trans men (85.8%), followed by non-binary people (76.1%), and trans women (68%), with cis women next (63.3%) and cis men last (38.6%).
By sexuality, pansexuals experienced self harm most commonly (74.3%), followed by queers (70.8%), and lesbians (68.4%). Bisexuals and “something else” came in just over 62%, and asexuals at 55.5%.
Suicidal ideation was most common for trans men at 92.1%, followed by trans women at 90.7%, non-binary people at 87.5%, cis women at 77.5%, and cis men at 67.6%.
A suicide plan was most common for trans men at 73.3%, followed by trans women at 61.3%, non-binary people at 58.4%, cis women at 44.9%, and cis men at 33%.
Suicide attempts were most common for trans men at 46.9%, followed by trans women at 40%, non-binary people at 34.8%, cis women at 22.7%, and cis men at 16.6%.
Suicidal ideation was most common for pansexuals at 84.8% and queers at 83.1%. They were followed by lesbians at 81.5%, “something else” at 78.8%, bisexuals at 79.3%, asexuals at 75.4%, and gays at 68.8%.
A suicide plan was most common for pansexuals at 57,2%, followed by queers at 53.8%, lesbians at 50.1%, “something else” at 47.4%, bisexuals at 46.6%, asexuals at 42.9%, and gays at 37.6%.
Suicide attempts were most common for pansexuals at 35.1%, followed by both queers and lesbians at 30%, those identifying as “something else” at 25.6%, bisexuals at 23.5%, asexuals at 21.1%, and gays at 19.3%.
in the past 12 months
By gender, in the last 12 months, trans people had much higher rates of suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts than their cisgender rainbow peers.
Pansexual, queer, and lesbian populations also had higher statistics across all areas than their bisexual, gay, asexual, and other rainbow peers.
Nau mai haere mai, Raw Sugar free monthly transgender sober social events are back for 2021!
Note: under Covid-19 alert level 2, 3, and 4 all our face-to-face events are cancelled. If we are in alert level 1, Raw Sugar will operate as usual.
Who & what
Join us for social chats, games, cups of tea, and potluck snacks with lovely people! All transgender and intersex people welcome. Bring yourself, whānau, friends, and finger food kai to share if you want to.
2pm to 4pm: snacks and chats and games (including things like Connect 4, Articulate!, Jackbox TV games, and Unstable Unicorns). The first 2 hours is suitable for folks of any age.
4pm to 6pm: film screening (sometimes rated R16 or R18). This part of the event is more suitable for people aged 16 or over.
Raw Sugar Wellington is held on the second weekend each month, from 2 till 6pm (usually on the Saturday). We have moved Raw Sugar from our drop in centre at 130 Riddiford street Newtown, into the new venue of the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre – which is now directly across the street upstarirs in the old ANZ building at 2A Green street (down the side street, and on the right).
The venue is fully mobility accessible, with an elevator to the top floor. There are all-genders accessible toilets. We’re aiming for a low allergen space, so no sprays or air-freshers, and please don’t wear perfume or cologne. Disability assist animals are welcome, however due to allergies and phobias please do not bring any other animals. Sometimes we have around 40 people attending, and there is a quieter room available to hang out if it’s a bit noisy.
Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.
The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender. The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14. A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender. The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.
Issues for trans people
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year. 1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans. 46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords. Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population. 20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year. Sex education does not include trans people’s existence. 55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students. 17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting. 1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected. 23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students. The median income is half the median income for the general population. 71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years. 67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing. Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents. 64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students. 72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager. 36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population* 82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor. Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students
* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups
Mental health and well being
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students. 71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population. Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population. 26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students. 57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students. For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain. 79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.
Resilience and protective factors
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree. Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide. 85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this.. Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes. Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children. 58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people. 90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing. 62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students. Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism. Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor. Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing. Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.
How to ally
Supporting a trans person you know
How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com
Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.
Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.
Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.
Landlords: rent to them.
Partners: respect and care for them.
Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.
School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.
Supporting the trans rights movement
Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].
Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.
At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.
Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.
In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.
Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.
Scrap biological essentialism..
Examine your biases.
Talk to friends and family about trans rights.
Stand up against transphobia when you see it.
Remember intent =/= impact.
Find out more
Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com
Sources for statistics
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)
Counting Ourselves (2019).
Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).
Gender Minorities Aotearoa is holding some absolutely amazing creative workshops will at Out in the City; Micheal Fowler Centre, 111 Wakefield street Wellington, Saturday March 27th. These include a Zine making workshop at 11.30am and Pause Blur Grass Witch at 1.30pm. It’s free to attend these workshops but you are welcome to give a donation. We’re looking forward to seeing you!
Come make zines with Randy that celebrate you and your identity!
A zine is a super easy to make paper booklet that is easily replicated through photocopying. Swap them, sell them, gift them to friends and family! Materials provided, feel free to bring photos and other craft supplies!
Randy is a non-binary transmasculine artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. They teach tweens how to draw cartoon characters and are studying to be a design teacher. In their spare time they make zines and jewellery.
A two part workshop with Connor Fitzgerald and Louie Zalk-Neale
This workshop will focus on queer experience, and everyone is welcome to join in and spend time focusing on the crossovers of our connections to nature, gender and expression. The first part run by Connor will be dedicated to listening, reading, discussing and responding to texts by queer and trans artists and writers. Then after a short break Louie will teach rope making techniques using plant fibres and some surrounding tikanga.
Connor Fitzgerald is a nonbinary transfeminine artist based in Te Whanganui-A-Tara, with a multi-disciplinary practice in video, writing and installation. Connor has recently been in the group show 2+2+2 at Precinct 35, 2020. Solo show What is Faith Without Doubt? at Clearview Gallery 2020.
Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā) is a queer artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, originally from Hokitika. Louie’s work has recently featured at Artspace Aotearoa’s New Artists Show (Tāmaki Makaurau 2020); Critical Costume Conference (Norway 2020); and Shared Lines Collective at Birdo Flugas Gallery Sendai (Japan) and Kaikōura (2019).