Penis not a prerequisite to being considered a man, Australian court rules


Transsexual Amanda Lepore leads the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney, Australia, on Feb. 27, 2010.


Brendon Thorne

Australian men do not need a penis, the country's High Court has ruled.

Or words to that effect.

What the Australian Associated Press newspaper was trying to convey in this slightly sensationalized lead paragraph was a court ruling that:

"The physical characteristics by which a person is identified as male or female are confined to external physical characteristics that are socially recognizable. Social recognition of a person's gender does not require knowledge of a person's remnant sexual organs."

The ruling arises from an appeal by two transgender people against a decision by Western Australia's Gender Reassignment Board, which refused to issue them certificates of recognition of gender because both retained a female reproductive system.

The pair, who have had their breasts removed and are having testosterone therapy, which renders them infertile, say they are men.

The effect of the judgment is that female-to-male transsexuals do not have to undergo penis construction surgery, which is dangerous and no doubt expensive, given its not performed in Australia, to legally swap genders.

Nor do they have to have their internal female reproductive organs removed for WA to issue them with gender certificates, the West Australian reports. 

The paper quoted one of the men as saying: 

"After over three years of fighting this case, we are incredibly excited that the High Court has upheld our appeal.

"The High Court has taken a common sense approach to the interpretation of the law, recognizing that it is unrealistic to require people to undertake specific, medically unnecessary surgical requirements that are neither practical nor attainable.

The decision is completely in line with the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission, as well as with other, similar cases around the world."