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Newsletters > To Be Who I Am > 2009 > July

To Be Who I Am

ISSN 1179-0210 July, 2009

Yogyakarta principles webiste logo

In a very significant move, a United Nations treaty body has stated that gender identity is a prohibited ground of discrimination in international law. This spells out countries’ obligations to not discriminate against trans people.

This recently adopted General Comment on Non-Discrimination also includes the first explicit reference to the Yogyakarta Principles. These principles apply international human rights law to gender identity and sexual orientation issues. Continue reading…

On 25 May 2009, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) adopted a General Comment E/C.12/GC/20 on Non-Discrimination. This is first time gender identity has been explicitly recognised by a treaty body in a General Comment.

UN treaty bodies like the CESCR are required to monitor States' compliance with international obligations under international treaties they have ratified. The CESCR looks at compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

General Comments provide the Committee's interpretation of the provisions of that Covenant. A General Comment on Non-Discrimination is therefore extremely significant in reflecting the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited and the scope of countries' obligations.

The General Comment notes that "for example, persons who are transgender, transsexual or intersex often face serious human rights violations, such as harassment in schools or in the work place".

The General Comment also affirmed that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is prohibited under the International Covenant.

New passports policy


The Department of Internal Affairs has confirmed a change to their policy about when a trans woman can have an F on her passport and a trans man can have an M.

If a trans person is able to obtain a Family Court declaration changing their sex details, those new details will be accepted for a passport. Continue reading…

Under the previous policy, medical evidence of full gender reassignment surgery was needed before a trans woman could obtain an F passport and a trans man could have an M on his New Zealand passport.

Trans people still have the option of applying for a passport with their sex details omitted (shown in the passport as an X). Further details can be obtained from passports@dia.govt.nz or by calling 0800 225050.

Family Court decision

A June 2008 Family Court decision clarified that full gender reassignment surgeries are not always required before someone is able to obtain a Family Court declaration changing their sex details. In the Re Michael case a trans man was able to obtain a declaration that he is male based on expert medical evidence verifying the permanent impact of his hormone treatment and chest surgery. The Commisison is interested in hearing about any applications to the Family Court from trans women who have not had gender / sex reassignment surgery or trans people unable to have surgery or take hormones. Such cases could:

  • further clarify what medical steps are necessary for trans people to change their sex details and
  • identify those groups who may still face barriers in gaining legal recognition under the current legislation.

The Inquiry recommended the law should be amended so that trans people who have "taken decisive steps to live fully and permanently" in their gender identity are able to obtain a Family Court declaration changing their sex details. This recommendation was based on international case law and human rights standards.



The Human Rights Commission is holding three free trans workshops on Tuesday 28 July and Tuesday 18 August alongside the Assume Nothing exhibition at Canterbury Museum. The workshops have been fully booked in other cities and over 300 people have attended them in the last year. Continue reading…

Come along to meet whakawāhine, fa'afafine and other trans panelists and performers and bring lots of questions.

The workshops are:

  • Trans 101 - a fun session for family members, health professionals, community groups and anyone else wanting to understand more about issues faced by trans people.
  • Young and Trans - how to create schools, youth groups and health services that are positive, inclusive and safe for trans youth.
  • Trans Vocal - see how trans singers, performers, poets and artists use creativity to express their gender identity.

The workshops cater for people who know nothing about trans issues through to trans people who come along to support other panelists. Having that range of participants has made these very special events in other cities.

You can read details about the workshops and a floor talk by the exhibition artists:

Human rights hui for trans people

To Be Who I Am image

To Be Who I Am image

On 2 and 3 March over 40 trans people from Whangarei to Dunedin came to a national human rights hui at Tapu te Ranga marae in Wellington. The youngest participant was still at school and brought her grandmother along to share this journey with us all. This ground-breaking hui was the first time many of the trans people who have been involved in the Transgender Inquiry at a regional level met each other. Continue reading…

At the hui, people shared stories about the status of whakawāhine, fa'afafine and other trans people, traditionally, and their experiences today.

People learnt about:

  • how the Human Rights Act protects trans people from discrimination
  • resources on the Inquiry website about human rights issues that trans people face
  • what others are doing and issues they could work on together.

In breaks, some people shared their stories with TranSister Radio.

The Commission was also sent these comments by email:

I feel reenergized and called to action. It was great to feel supported and I loved being on the marae.

I'm still buzzing after the hui and I am inspired by what we have all achieved there, not least the ability to work together without prejudice.

The recent trans gender weekend was nothing but absolutely fabulous. I enjoyed everything, and I want to thank you all for putting on such a beautiful hui and giving the chance to meet my new family.

Personally, I feel the 'weekend' was a massive breakthrough in establishing a cohesive forward looking community to take responsibility for itself into the future, and for me that is hugely exciting.

[caption id="attachment_1903" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Hui"]Hui[/caption]

Many of the hui partcipants wanted to stay in contact after the hui. A contact list and some workshop notes have been sent to everyone, so that people can share what they have been doing locally. The Commission ran two follow-up workshops at the national Agender conference over Queen's Birthday weekend.

The Human Rights Commission plans to hold another smaller national training hui in March 2010. This will be for those trans people who have put some time into doing trans human rights work since the first hui.

Help create a resource for schools

Jaimie - a GenderQuest member

Jaimie - a GenderQuest member

Do you want to help the Human Rights Commission develop an online FAQ factsheet for schools? Any suggested questions and answers or offers of help are very welcome.

We would particularly like to hear from trans students and parents or teachers. Contact us on transgenderinquiry@hrc.co.nz.
Continue reading…

Trans young people and their families told the Transgender Inquiry about the barriers they face at school and how teachers can make a real difference.

I think all the teachers knew and they cleared the path for me. (Fa'afafine)
The Children and Young People's chapter in the Inquiry's final report talks about what it is like for trans students at school and the support they and their familes need. Trans children and young people are often dependent on others (such as their parents and teachers) to ensure their right to education is understood and protected.

The Inquiry concluded that there is an urgent need for information and resources for trans children and young people, their parents and families. It recommended that that Ministry of Education helps schools to share what they are doing to support trans students.

The Human Rights Commission has met with Ministry of Education staff in Auckland and they have agreed to work together to draft a simple online pamphlet for schools.
The Commission would like to hear from students, parents and schools:

  • What questions do schools ask when they have a trans student?
  • What answers and resources have been useful for your school?
  • What has your school learnt about supporting whakawahine, fa'afafine and other trans students?

In Australia, the Victorian Government's new Schools Reference Guide includes advice about supporting trans and intersex students. Pages 71-74 deal with terminology, developing a management plan, toilet facilities, privacy and use of a preferred name.

Other resources for children, young people and their familes can be found on the Inquiry website. This includes information about two trans youth organsiations - GenderQuest in Auckland and TRANZform in Wellington.

Read more here about work being done by students' association to support trans tertiary students and how to get involved.

WPATH logo

In June 2009 a small number of Auckland health professionals, including a trans woman, attended the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) symposium in Norway. There they talked with Australian colleagues about establishing an Australasian branch of the WPATH.

Continue reading…

They are interested in meeting other Auckland health professionals working with trans people and to link with others in New Zealand and Australia. Trans people working in the health field are particularly welcome. The contact person is John Newman: John.Newman@middlemore.co.nz

Hormone blockers

Other exciting health news includes Pharmac's decision to subsidise prescriptions for GnRH analogues (known colloquially as 'hormone blockers'). Parents of trans adolescents could often not afford this medical treatment required to delay their child's puberty. From 1 August 2009, hormone blockers will be free for trans youth and others if they have been assessed by a specialist and this medication has been prescribed as medically necessary.

The Commission continues to update the Trans Health Resources page of the Inquiry website. Any suggestions are very welcome. Recent additions include Guidelines and Protocols for Comprehensive Primary Health Care for Trans Clients (PDF 4Kb). This resource for family physicians comes from the Shelbourne Health Centre in Toronto.

Other progress on the Transgender Inquiry's health recommendations can be found here.

Have your say

Transgender logo

The Transgender Inquiry found that often trans people did not have the opportunity to have a say in decisions that affect their lives. Submissions are due soon on two documents relevant to trans people:

  • Statistics NZ’s Review of Culture and Identity Statistics (by 14 August).
  • Agender NZ’s and Transgender.co.nz’s second draft of its Trans Health Guide (by 31 July).

Continue reading…

Agender NZ and Transgender.co.nz - second draft of a Trans Health Guide

These two trans community organisations welcome any comments on the second draft of their guide for health professionals and trans people. Comments can be sent to president@agender.org.nz by 31 July.

Statistics NZ's Review of Culture and Identity Statistics

Statistics NZ is asking for comments on its Review of Culture and Identity Statistics. Section 4.3.2 of this review document discusses sexual orientation statistics and whether they should be a priority compared to other culture and identity statistics. It also talks about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

Currently gender identity is not measured in official statistics. There was no clear view from trans people involved in the Transgender Inquiry about whether:

  • they wanted data collected about gender identity or
  • people should be able to identify as trans when asked for their sex data.

Instead, trans people who made Inquiry submissions were more likely to focus on:

  • being able to correct previous sex details
  • being assured that previous information will not be disclosed to others and
  • whether asking sex (or gender identity questions) was always relevant.

This Statistics NZ review is an opportunity for trans people to say:

  • whether or not they think it is important to measure people's gender identity, and why.
  • What difference would it make?
  • What, if any, statistics about gender identity are needed to help make good policy decisions about trans people's lives?

Sex is already measured in official statistics. Trans people may also wish to include comments in their submission about the current Statistical Standard for Sex which:

  • has two options, male or female and
  • states that "transsexuals should be classified to their original [biological] sex"

When other opportunities come up for trans people to have their say, they are are added to the Participation page of the Inquiry website.

APF image

In May the New Zealand Human Rights Commission joined other national human rights institutions (NHRIs) at an Asia Pacific Forum (APF) meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Participants from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Jordan, Nepal, New Zealand, Palestine, Korea and Thailand talked about how they can better protect and promote the rights of trans, gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

Continue reading…

Discrimination and violence against people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation is a serious problem in many countries across the Asia Pacific. It includes execution or extra-judicial killing, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, unfair trials and forced pregnancy and marriage.

The workshop discussed practical ways that NHRIs could use their functions and powers to make a difference. Examples included investigating complaints, reviewing laws and policies, holding national inquiries and public education.

The NZ Commission's presentation used TV images and photos to show the dignity and mana of whakawāhine, fa'afafine, FtMs, MtFs, cross-dressers and other trans people involved in the Transgender Inquiry. The Commission was privileged to meet local trans people (waria) in Yogyakarta and Bali and gave them copies of the Inquiry report and DVDs of the Pacific Peoples Project's 2007 fono.

The workshop concluded by strongly deploring "all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatisation, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence" against transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

Information about the APF workshop, including its concluding statement can be found here.

Agender logo

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan was in good company at the Agender national conference over Queen’s Birthday weekend. Other speakers included Agender Patron Carmen Rupe, Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson.

Continue reading…

NZPC logo Chanel Hati from NZPC gave her first ever presentation, then went on to receive Agender's Working for the Community award.

Chanel talked about NZPC's community outreach with trans street workers, including data and quotes from Christchurch School of Medicine research. These showed, for example, that the majority of trans sex workers work on the street, and are Māori.

Other winners of the inaugural Agender Awards were Christina Loughton (Regional Coordinator), Peri and Karen Te Wao (Person of the Year), Dianne Walker (Best Presentation) and Sarah Lamont (Best Newcomer). Senior Constable Sarah Lurajud, New Zealand’s first openly trans police officer, accepted the Trans Ally award on behalf of the Police Diversity Liaison Officers.

TRANZform logo

hannah Ho wai ling and Brooklynn Michelle from Wellington trans youth organisation TRANZform gave a workshop at the Agender conference. Some extracts from hannah's presentation are copied below.

The suffragette challenge and struggle for women's rights got them labelled as not being real or proper women. The same deal followed for lesbians and feminists in the 60's and 70's.

Homophobia and transphobia works like that, people who do not follow the 'man' rules, and 'women' rules are discriminated against, ridiculed, outcast, imprisoned and too often murdered.

Supporting our young people means supporting their journeys to transition hormonally or non hormonally, surgically and non surgically, to live simply as men or as women, or anywhere in between.

Chanel Hati's and hannah Ho wai ling's presentations will be available soon on the Inquiry website's Participation page. Look there for details of other trans community events, including the September meeting of the All Trans Forum in Auckland.


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Kia ora, talofa lava, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, nisa bula vinaka, kia orana and welcome to the fourth issue of To Be Who I Am.

We hope you like the new blog format which gives you the option of commenting on newsletter articles.

You can read other people’s comments by visiting the Commission’s e-newsletters page and scrolling down to To Be Who I Am in the right-hand menu.

tyle="color: #ff6600;">View/Print the full text online

Kia ora, talofa lava, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, nisa bula vinaka, kia orana and welcome to the fourth issue of To Be Who I Am.

We hope you like the new blog format which gives you the option of commenting on newsletter articles.

You can read other people's comments by visiting the Commission's e-newsletters page and scrolling down to To Be Who I Am in the right-hand menu.

You are currently reading articles from To Be Who I Am , This was a quarterly newsletter for trans people and others interested in progressing the Transgender Inquiry’s actions and recommendations,. It is not longer published but you can still add your name to be included on a contact list for those interested in trans issues. by the Human Rights Commission.

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