Changing your – or your child’s – record of sex on a birth certificate is a significant event. If you weren’t born in Victoria, you can ask the Registrar to have your record of sex recognised on a recognised details’ certificate.
The Registrar can register most sex descriptors used by the trans and gender-diverse community. However, some sex descriptors are not permitted (‘restricted’) under the law. BDM will not register a restricted sex descriptor.
This page sets out:
- How we decide whether to register a particular sex descriptor on:
- your or your child’s birth certificate, or
- a recognised details certificate
- What happens if we can’t register a particular sex descriptor.
Which sex descriptors are restricted?
A ‘restricted’ sex descriptor means one that is:
- Obscene or offensive
- Impractical (for example, it is too long or contains symbols)
- Restricted for other reasons (for example, chosen for an improper purpose).
A sex descriptor that is obscene or offensive
Obscene or offensive sex descriptors include:
- Swear words, including in another language
- Descriptions of lewd or sexual acts
- Racial, ethnic or cultural slurs or that imply racial, ethnic or cultural slurs
- Ones that might be likely to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate a person or group on the basis of race, religion, ability or other distinguishing characteristics.
A sex descriptor that can't be established by repute or usage
This means a sex descriptor that is impractical for daily use or for some other reason. This includes sex descriptors that:
- Are too long
- Contain symbols without phonetic significance, like "?" or "@"
- Are statements or phrases
- Are initials or acronyms.
Sex descriptors that are too long
There is a character limit for sex descriptors. This is so that they can fit on a birth certificate or recognised details certificate.
The character limit is 100 characters in total, including spaces.
Sex descriptors that contain symbols without phonetic significance
The Registrar will not register sex descriptors that contain:
- Numbers or symbols, including prefixes and suffixes
Examples of descriptors that the Registrar will not register include:
- 1st, 2nd, or 3rd
- Roman numerals.
Other reasons a sex descriptor is restricted
A sex descriptor may be restricted for other reasons. This includes where the sex descriptor may be for an improper purpose.
How the Registrar decides whether to register a sex descriptor
The Registrar decides on a case by case basis whether a sex descriptor can be registered, taking into account a range of factors.
After you apply, we may contact you to understand why you chose the sex descriptor. In particular, we may seek to understand whether it has specific meaning or significance for you.
The Registrar also considers other factors. These include:
- Perceptions of the sex descriptor in the trans and gender-diverse community (noting that community perceptions change over time)
- How the sex descriptor is spelt and how it sounds when spoken
- Suitability of the sex descriptor for administrative purposes
- Consideration of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic). This includes a person’s right to equality and the protection of families and children, and right to privacy
- BDM’s legal obligations.
What happens if the Registrar can’t register the sex descriptor?
You must enter a sex descriptor when making an application to change a record of sex.
If you apply to register a sex descriptor that is restricted, we will contact you. We will work with you to ensure the sex descriptor is personally meaningful and can be registered.
If you don’t provide a registerable alternative within 28 days, the Registrar won’t be able to register the change.
How the Registrar’s decision can be reviewed
- Write to the Registrar to ask for a review of their decision or
- Apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review within 28 days of the Registrar making a decision.