This is the text of my submission to the Inquiry into Supplementary Order Paper 59 on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill, conducted by the Governance and Administration Committee of the New Zealand Parliament
My name is Dr Deborah Hayton, and I am a transgender person. I live in the UK but I have been closely following the debate over the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration (BDMRR) Bill. What should have been a straightforward administrative bill has been overshadowed by the concept of sex self-identification (sex self-ID).
Transgender rights do conflict with the sex-based rights of women, and it would be naïve to ignore the issues that arise. If any man can declare himself to be a woman purely on the basis of his own feelings, then the boundaries to women’s spaces, places and associations become meaningless. I agree with the concerns raised by women in New Zealand and elsewhere.
I also fear that sex self-ID will damage the rights of transgender people. If women cannot trust the gatekeeping provided by the state, they will introduce their own. I would argue that they must do that for their own safety, and to protect their own dignity. But those arrangements are likely to be far less conducive to transgender people than anything maintained by the state.
Indirectly, sex self-ID also adversely affects the psychological development of children. I was once a transgender child, but I successfully managed the feelings of dysphoria about my sexed body. My mental health remained good and I was successful in school and in my career. I grew up, married and had children of my own. Had I been presented with the concept of sex self-ID as a child, I would have been desperate to transition as I was when the opportunity arose in my 40s. But transition is not an elixir; at best it is a palliative solution to a mental health crisis.
Whether or not sex self-ID is extended to children, young people are impressionable. If the government suggests that we can choose our legal sex, some children will be even more desperate to change their biological sex. I would have been. But we can never change our biological sex, and it is disingenuous to suggest we can. It would be deeply irresponsible of government to proceed with a policy that makes promises to children that can never be delivered, possibly provoking a mental health crisis in them and then setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment.
I recommend that sex self-identification is detached from this bill. The concept – how we define men and women – is huge for society. It does not do it justice to roll it in into the BDMRR Bill, and open it up for such a brief consultation. Sex self-identification needs to be considered separately to facilitate a full and proper public debate. Only on that basis will transgender people be able to live secure lives, having the trust and confidence of other groups in society.
I then made an oral submission to the committee on Monday 27 September 2021 (starting at 00:40:10)