Sydney Morning Herald: “Sexless in the city: a gender revolution”

Trans person Norrie is in the news: Sexless in the city: a gender revolution

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s department confirmed it was the first such certificate to state non-specified gender, and that even intersex children have their sex determined within weeks of birth.

A Catholic ethicist, Nicholas Tonti-Filippini from the John Paul II Institute, said birth certificates should also record no gender in such cases, updated with “any changes to phenotypic gender”.

He said there was a trend against the practice of selecting a sex for intersex children, which could mean more androgynous people in future.

We could write a whole essay in response to this article, but instead, we’ll cover just a couple of issues.

Sex is not gender, gender is not sex

Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, who seems to know little about intersex, appears to use the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably as if they mean one and the same thing. He even says ‘phenotypic gender’ when real authorities on sex and gender would only use the term ‘phenotypic sex.’ The law does not distinguish between sex and gender, and this can complicate matters for intersex people.

For example, this quote from the Wikipedia page on the XY sex-determination system:

Humans, as well as some other organisms, can have a chromosomal arrangement that is contrary to their phenotypic sex, that is, XX males or XY females. See, for example, XX male syndrome and Androgen insensitivity syndrome.

Up until the 1950s the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ meant the same thing, although ‘sex’ was mostly used in reference to biology and the sex act and the use of ‘gender’ was limited to grammar and linguistics.

Then along came John Money, and second wave feminism.

Legally being neither female or male

In Australia at least federal law states that only a man and a woman can marry. The law does not and cannot define precisely what a man and a woman are, but we are aware of cases where marriages have been annulled because one participant was intersex (example here).

Under Australian state and federal laws intersex people have no legal protection against discrimination and vilification (see here).

It is unlikely that federal, state and territory legislators will change their laws to take Norrie’s situation into account and extend full equality and human rights specifically to Norrie and those like Norrie who will be receiving recognition certificates of this nature in future.

OII Australia believes that all human beings everywhere must demand and receive full equality, human rights and patient-centred healthcare.


We note that Nicholas Tonti-Filippini’s statement is being read by some in the Catholic community as tacit approval of the existence of androgynous people and for birth certificates to be issued with no gender or sex.