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Neither M nor F: Australians can tick the X box

Other News Materials 15 September 2011 09:21
Australians will get to choose which gender their passport comes in under changes that were welcomed Thursday by a member of parliament whose partner has had a sex change operation, dpa reported.
Neither M nor F: Australians can tick the X box

Australians will get to choose which gender their passport comes in under changes that were welcomed Thursday by a member of parliament whose partner has had a sex change operation, dpa reported.

The new guidelines from the Foreign Ministry add X to the M and F categories listed in passports.

"This is really pleasing for people like him," Senator Louise Pratt told national broadcaster ABC. "It now means we can travel overseas without any problems."

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said when announcing the changes that people now had the option of presenting a statement from a doctor supporting their preferred gender.

"This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance," he said.

Pratt said people like her partner had previously been detained at borders because they did not outwardly conform to the personal details in their passports.

"There've been very many cases of people being detained at airports by immigration in foreign countries simply because their passports don't reflect what they look like," she said. "It's very distressing, highly inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous."

Pratt urged the government to go one step further and alter birth certificates after people had changed sex.

The administrative changes come a year after Sydney's Norrie May-Welby made international headlines by officially being declared neuter.

May-Welby, 50, was born male but decided to live as neither a man nor a woman after a sex change operation in 1983.

Scots-born May-Welby was issued a "sex not specified" identification document by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Sydney.

After questions in the New South Wales state parliament, the registry said it had made a mistake and that a certificate could only be issued in either male or female gender.

"I'm not a man any more. I'm happy to be seen as a neuter," said May-Welby after being issued with the certificate in November 2010. "The system has to accommodate the people it was set up to serve; we don't have to chop ourselves up to fit the system. That's been my stance."

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