Gender and sexuality


This chapter covers laws and services relevant to trans, intersex, takatāpui and queer people. This includes things like updating your legal documents, accessing healthcare, and protection from discrimination.


The language we use to describe sex and gender evolves over time. In New Zealand, different organisations and public services use words differently when talking about sex and gender, which can be confusing when navigating your rights. Because of this, we’ve created a definitions section to make it easier to navigate the chapter.

These are the words we use in this chapter, and what we mean when we use each word. These definitions are here to help navigate your legal rights. For general support and advice on understanding gender, sex and sexual orientation, see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page.

Gender: Gender is a person’s internal sense or feeling of being male, female, non-binary, or another gender identity. A person’s gender may vary or change over time. Gender is not tied to physical sex characteristics like genitalia or hormones, or the sex that a person was assigned at birth. Like ‘sex’, gender is socially constructed. Though the terms sex and gender are not the same, people often use them interchangeably.

Sex: Sex is a way of classifying people as male, female or intersex according to their physical characteristics. Like ‘gender’, this is socially constructed. It is the label assigned, usually at birth, and usually just according to a person’s genitals. A person might change their physical sex characteristics through taking hormones or having surgery.

Cis: A cis or cisgender person is someone who was assigned the right sex at birth.

Trans: A trans or transgender person is someone who was assigned a sex at birth, which turned out to be not right. This includes non-binary people.

Non-binary: A non-binary person is someone who is not male or female.

Takatāpui: Takatāpui is an inclusive te reo Māori term. The traditional translation of the word is “intimate friend of the same sex,” but it is now often used in a similar way to “rainbow person,” “rainbow community,” or LGBTQIA+ in te reo. If you’re otherwise communicating in English, the term should only be used for Māori individuals and communities.

Intersex: An intersex person has a variations of sex characteristics from birth, as opposed to through taking hormones or having surgery. Sex characteristics include things like hormones, chromosomes, genitals, and internal reproductive organs. These variations mean their sex characteristics don’t clearly fit into a ‘male’ or ‘female’ category.

Sex marker: A sex marker is the marker used to confirm your identity on legal documents and records. These are usually the letter M, F, X, or another marker for non-binary gender. There is no consistent approach to sex and gender for identity documents in New Zealand, so options available to you might be different on different forms.

Gender-inclusive: Gender-inclusive is a term used to refer to language, behaviour or services that are intentionally inclusive of all genders and sexes. We prefer this term over ‘gender-neutral’, which is a more passive phrase, rather than focusing on active inclusion.

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Sex, gender and sexual orientation

Where to go for more support

Legal information and support groups

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Access the free “Lag Law: Your Rights Inside Prison and on Release” book.  This book contains practical answers to common questions relating to prisoner rights, including transgender rights in prison. A useful guide for people going to prison, in prison, or getting out of prison and their whānau.

Email for a hard copy:
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928


InsideOUT is a national organisation that provides workshops, resources and support to help make schools, community organisations and workplaces inclusive for rainbow people.

Phone:  027 331 4507

Gender Minorities Aotearoa

Gender Minorities Aotearoa is a nationwide organisation providing support and information to transgender people.

Phone: 04 385 0611

Naming New Zealand

Naming NZ is an organisation to help transgender, gender-diverse and intersex youth with updating their identity documents to correctly reflect their sex and gender.


Intersex Aotearoa

Intersex Aotearoa are an intersex-led education, lobbying, advocacy and peer support organisation in Aotearoa, welcoming all people with intersex variations in Aotearoa, whānau and friends.



Genderbridge is a peer-to-peer transgender community organisation providing support to transgender and gender-diverse people, their whānau and friends throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.



OutLine is a confidential, free, all-ages support line that provides rainbow specialist counselling and trans and non-binary peer support. Call for free from 6pm-9pm.

Phone: 0800 688 5463

Rainbow Rights in Aotearoa

RainbowYOUTH and YouthLaw have collaborated to provide information about the various legal rights afforded to people living in Aotearoa, and how they relate to queer, intersex and gender diverse people.


Rainbow Youth

RainbowYOUTH provides a number of services for queer and gender-diverse youth and their wider communities all across Aotearoa.


Q Youth

Q Youth is a charity run by youth for youth in Nelson. Q Youth provides support, training and education to rainbow youth, friends, family and whānau.


Government departments, agencies and courts

Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs processes applications to legally change your name.

Phone: 0800 22 52 52

NZ Transport Agency

The NZTA deals with changes to drivers’ licences, including changing your name or gender on your driver’s licence.

Phone: 0800 822 422

Te Whatu Ora/Health New Zealand

Te Whatu Ora has guidance for health professionals dealing with transgender people and information on gender affirming surgeries.


Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

See the Human Rights Commission website for information about human rights and discrimination in Aotearoa. It outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission.

Website: or
Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process: 

Other resource of interest: “To be who I am: Report on the Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People”:

Nationwide Health & Disability Advocacy Service

The Nationwide Health & Disability Advocacy Service offers free, independent, and confidential advice to support you making a complaint about health and disability services.

Phone: 0800 555 050

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

MBIE has some guidance for employers with transgender employees.


Department of Corrections

The Prisons Operations Manual Policy outlines the procedure for determining where to place transgender and intersex prisoners in prison (see Movements M.03.05).


Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

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