Hurrah for self-identification – already we can change our gender and in the UK we can change our race, too

Legislators who are being pressed to change discriminatory laws  – including a measure enabling people to choose the gender recorded on their birth certificates –  should brace for a fresh wave of agitation.

It’s the notion that people should be allowed to choose their race as well as their gender.

University staff and students in Britain have been told they can choose if they are black, white or any other race as well as their gender and whether they are disabled.

The decision was made by the University and Colleges Union, which represents researchers, teaching staff and lecturers.

Its latest report says:

“Our rules commit us to ending all forms of discrimination, bigotry and stereotyping.

“UCU has a long history of enabling members to self-identify whether that is being black, disabled, LGBT+ or women.”

New Zealand is already grappling with the notion we should be able to choose our own gender.

In February Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin announced her deferral of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill while issues raised during the select committee process were sorted out.

The Bill began as a simple measure to update the previous legislation and develop new digital and online channels to access births, deaths and marriages information.

But the select committee introduced clauses allowing individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate via an administrative process based on self-identification. This is a substantial change from the current Family Court process that requires evidence of medical treatment.

Because the self-identification clauses were added after public submissions on the Bill had closed, Martin was concerned that “stakeholders may have missed an opportunity to comment”.

The current process for amending the gender registered on birth certificates takes place through the Family Court. Around 20 to 25 people a year use this process.

Speak up for Women is a group that was founded during a campaign against the self-ID amendment proposed to the births, deaths and marriages bill. The group is also opposed to the role of trans women in women’s sport, claiming “sport must be categorised by sex, not gender identity”.

The group organised Feminism 2020, an event initially  planned to be held at Massey’s Wellington campus last month, but university authorities buckled when a 6,000-strong petition called for its cancellation.

“The group advocate against trans rights and spread scaremongering misinformation about trans people,” the petition read. “By hosting the ‘Feminism 2020’ event Massey are providing a platform for hate and division to be spread here and make trans and queer people feel unsafe.”

Massey cited health and safety concerns.

Speak Up For Women characterised the event’s opponents as “extremists accusing us of hurting feelings while they’re actively encroaching on human rights”.

The venue was changed and the event was held in parliament’s Banquet Hall last week.

Back in Britain, Daily Mail writer Richard Littlejohn commented on the new development in self-identification:

The politics of identity is fraught with contradiction. For instance, how do you square a white man claiming to be black with the campaign against ‘cultural appropriation’?

Still, it could be a convenient ‘get out of jail’ card for the students accused of racism for wearing sombreros.

All they have to do is claim to be ‘trans-Mexican’ for the night and Pedro’s your uncle. And what if a white person wearing blackface insists they are actually black? Pick the bones out of that.

Oh – and self-identification would be helpful for a business that has a predominantly white, male workforce or board of directors and is coming under pressure to hire more women and ethnic minorities and find places for them as directors .

They need simply tell half their workforce or boards to redefine as female, black, Muslim or whatever and they will be off the hook.

We look forward to Women’s Minister Julie Anne Genter’s response when this becomes common business practice.

She says (readers will recall) that old white men need to “move on” from company boards to help close the gender pay gap.

Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday, Genter said the private sector needed to address the low level of female representation on New Zealand company boards if more businesses were to be led by women.

About 85 per cent of board members were male, and many were “old white men in their 60s”.

A final thought.  If it’s acceptable to self-identify our gender, race or disability ….

Well, why can’t we change our age, too, to deal with ageism?



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