How to Write a Submission to Select Committee

How to Write a Submission to Select Committee

Tips for writing a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Structure your submission as follows.

Submission on the …….. Policy (or Bill)
To the ……….. committee

Personal Details.
a) This is a submission from ……..(name of person, group, or organisation, address, and post code).
b) Details about yourself, or your organisation, it’s purpose, membership, structure, other relevant details as to your/your group’s experience in this area, and people involved in writing the submission.
c) We can be contacted at (contact details).

a) We support/oppose the intent of this bill because ……
b) Community experience – this is your chance to capture hearts, so don’t just give facts, include personal stories.
c) Recommendations – list the specific recommendations which you, your group, or your organisation wants the committee to take into consideration.

We wish/do not wish to make an oral submission before the committee.

Committees may have dozens or even hundreds of submissions to get through – they may prefer to read just a couple of pages (around 800 words). Again, if you keep it short and to the point you will make more of an impact. In saying that, longer submissions are also read, and if you have a lot to say that’s completely acceptable as long as you stay on topic.

You could think about what your headlines would be, and then write under them. This can help to keep things structured and on point.

It is important to note that if you intend to give an oral submission, you are only allowed to talk about the things you have mentioned in your submission – so for example you might want to mention healthcare access rather than surgery access, which gives you more scope for elaboration.

Submissions are either entered online, or 2 hard copies are required if submitted by post. These must be received by the committee secretariat before the closing date.

Find out more about how a Bill becomes a law below.

BDMRR posters and pamphlets

BDMRR posters and pamphlets

BDMRR posters

In 2021 BDMRR posters again went up across Aotearoa. We’d like to say a huge thank you to Phantom Billstickers for their support.

A great place to display these is in the window of your home, or ask local shop owners if they would like to help support trans people by putting one in their window.

Download the PDFs

You can download the PDF for each poster on our posters page.

BDMRR pamphlet

We also published a pamphlet, which was distributed by trans people and allies across Aotearoa. You can dow3nload this by clicking the button below, or scroll down to read the text on this page.

Understanding the BDMRR Bill – self determination for transgender people

BDMRR stands for Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration. This is an Act in New Zealand law which sets out the legal requirements for, amongst other things, changing the name or sex marker on ones birth certificate, due to marriage, civil union, or being transgender, for example.

The BDMRR Bill is suggesting changes to this law, which will likely be decided in 2021.

Some of those changes relate to updating the sex marker on a person’s birth certificate.

What’s the problem with the current situation?

Trans women are already legally recognised as women by New Zealand Law, and changing a sex marker on a passport is a simple statutory declaration process. However, in order to change the sex marker on a birth certificate, the law requires medical evidence and a Family Court process. This can be difficult, expensive, and is at odds with NZ policies for passports and other identification documents, as well as with international best practice for human rights.

This impacts most on those who do not undertake medical steps as part of their transition due to health, poverty, disability, religious beliefs, or other reasons, and for people waiting for medical treatments which can take many years to obtain. Some do not want medical treatments (eg. sterilisation), but may be pressured to have them in order to obtain accurate identification documents with their correct gender marker.

It also impacts strongly on those who don’t know how to make a formal legal application to the Family Court, and can’t afford a lawyer to apply on their behalf – which can cost up to $3,000.

Why is it so important?

A birth certificate is the only document that someone born here can never have taken away from them. In some significant life events, it is the sole document that will be accepted as proof of identity, rather than a passport or other identification. For example, the gender marker on a person’s birth certificate is used on their marriage or civil union certificate, on their child’s birth certificate, and on their death certificate.

What are the benefits?

1. Meet international human rights standards.

New Zealand’s policy for amending sex markers on passports, introduced in 2012, is often cited as one of the best in the world. In contrast, the current BDMRR Act provisions for amending sex markers on birth certificates, developed over 25 years ago, are outdated. They have not kept pace with international human rights standards, which set out each person’s right to legal recognition, regardless of age. The current BDMRR Act does not meet the requirements set out in international case law or recommendations by United Nations bodies that monitor treaties that New Zealand has ratified.

2. Reduce costs and free up time.

Moving from a Family Court process to a statutory declaration will reduce cost barriers for irawhiti takatāpui, trans, and non-binary people and their whānau, and free up the court’s time, and it would reduce the administrative burden on the health professionals who are asked to supply medical evidence for each application.

3. Support kids to be in school.

This would have a significant impact on children who live in an area with an unsupportive school, and are currently forced to wear a uniform they are uncomfortable with and use bathrooms that they are likely to be harassed in, as well as facing misrecognition or even harassment from authority figures. These children currently experience extreme distress and often simply leave school regardless of their age. Trans kids have exceptionally high likelihood of being bullied, self harming, and attempted suicide (40-61%).

4. Support adults to be in employment.

It would significantly impact adults who currently have to disclose being transgender to potential employers, and are often then discriminated against and denied employment, or outed to colleagues; resulting in curiosity, continual uncomfortable personal questions, and in many cases workplace bullying to the extent that the trans person can no longer work.

5. Basic privacy and quality of life.

Passing the Bill would make an important practical difference for irawhiti takatāpui, trans, and non-binary people’s daily lives. It would support the basic human right to privacy in situations where showing a birth certificate is mandatory.

Would passing the Bill affect everyone else?

Passing the Bill would have very little impact on non-transgender people. Since 2013, NZ has used a simple statutory declaration for changing one’s gender marker to M, F, or X, on their passport. A passport is used proof of identity in most circumstances. Several other countries have passed similar legislation over the past decade, without any negative impact on women’s rights. These include Belgium, Portugal, Argentina, Norway, Malta, and Ireland.

Is an anti-trans campaign group trying to recruit you?

An anti-transgender campaign group will often try to disguise it’s motivations, by saying it is a women’s rights group, or a feminist group. However, it does not usually engage in any women’s rights issues, unless the issue can be used to fight against the human rights and legal protections of transgender people, or sometimes women in sex work. Far from a group FOR women, it is a group AGAINST transgender women.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Women will have less rights

But the evidence says:

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women ( a United Nations treaty), firmly affirms that transgender women are protected as a sex class. This right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of sex does not detract from any other person’s right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex. This is already the case in NZ, and the Bill will not change this. All women will continue to have the same right to not be discriminated against on the basis of their sex.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Male privilege

But the evidence says:

Both international and local research consistently and constantly shows that transgender women experience higher rates than non-transgender women of discrimination in education, housing, healthcare, employment, access to justice, legal documentation, higher rates of violence including sexual violence, higher rates of street harassment, and other indicators of a lack of privilege. No studies show the opposite. This is not what male privilege looks like.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Male pattern violence

But the evidence says:

There is no evidence that trans women perpetrate violence toward other women at a higher rate than other women do. Anti-trans groups may cite a study in which it was found that older trans women face high levels of imprisonment and arrest, however, one of the women who conducted this study, Cecilia Dhejne, explained that this study does not show “male pattern violence,” and that to say it does is a gross misrepresentation.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Women’s prisons

But the evidence says:

There are systems in place to minimise violence, including sexual violence, between prisoners housed together. Department of Corrections confirmed that it is prepared to make adjustments if the Bill should pass.

Other countries with similar legislation have not reported any negative effect on women prisoners.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Women’s bathrooms/ refuges/spaces

But the evidence says:

These do not require birth certificates to enter. Women’s refuges already allow transgender women and have for many years. They have evidence based processes and protections in place to ensure all women who enter are kept safe. They already protect women who are fleeing violent relationships with other women, where those abusive partners may seek to access the refuge by deception. No woman can enter a women’s refuge without legitimate need. Other countries with similar legislation have not reported any rise in sexual violence in women’s spaces as a result of the legislation.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Men will pretend to be trans women and enter women’s spaces

But the evidence says:

There are no reported cases of men in NZ using the statutory declaration process to change the sex marker on their passport in order to ”game the system” and sexually assault women. Trans women are already legally recognised as women and there have been no ill effects.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Single sex schools

But the evidence says:

In Aotearoa, we have many co-ed or mixed gender schools, and students are considered safe attending these. There are currently single sex schools which accept transgender students.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

Data will be skewed

But the evidence says:

Transgender people make up just 1% of the overall population, therefore this is unlikely to have much bearing on data about women overall.

Anti-trans campaigners say:

No public consultation

But the evidence says:

The Bill has been through the same public consultation process as any other Bill, including public submissions, analysis of submissions, expert advice, and changes as necessary. Many of the anti-trans campaigners made submissions, which can be viewed on the government’s website.

Posters around NZ




Palmerston North






BDMRR Action 2021: We Need You

BDMRR Action 2021: We Need You

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.

There is a BDMRR 101 Primer available here.

Take Action Now

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.

What you can do when the 2021 Bill is released

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. 

Recommendations once the 2021 Bill is released

1. Support the need to change the current law

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. 

Our concerns include

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.


History of the Bill

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.

Department of Internal Affairs overview, timelines, and reports.

New Zealand Parliament history of the Bill, related reports, and other papers including public submissions.

Rainbow Experiences Research

Rainbow Experiences Research

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.

Psychological Distress

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%.

Self harm

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%.

Suicide review

by gender

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%.

by Sexuality

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.