Change Makers Podcast Episode 8: Non-Binary People's Day
On this episode of the Change Makers podcast we are celebrating International Non-Binary People’s Day with a discussion between two gender diverse legal professionals and Amila Perera, a Legal Editor at Thomson Reuters. This conversation will give you the opportunity to understand non-binary identities, particularly within the workplace and the legal profession.
International Non-Binary People’s Day is celebrated on 14 July each year. The date was chosen because 14 July is the midpoint between International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day.
Amila sat down in Sydney with Frankie Sullivan, a NSW Legal Aid lawyer, and Joseph Black, a Juris Doctor Student at the University of Sydney, to discuss their experiences of being non-binary members of the legal profession.
Frankie prefers to be referred to using singular ‘they’ pronouns, while Joseph prefers either ‘she’, ‘he’ or ‘they’ pronouns.
Podcast show notes
In conversation, Frankie and Joseph discussed the impact of the case Norrie v Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which was a case that allowed for Norrie mAy Welby to have their sex registration marked as ‘non-specific’. As Frankie noted, ‘it's a pretty big deal to have the highest court in this country endorsing [the idea that] gender is something that's beyond the binary’. However, although this case represented a significant step in legal recognition of non-binary identities, there is still a long way to go in really recognising sex and gender as two distinct parts of a person’s identity. As Frankie explained:
“To have that non-specific marker on your identity documents, you still need to have some sort of affirmation surgery, which is, again, quite restrictive and quite limiting for various reasons. So even though it's recognised, I think it's hard to actually get that lawful status. You need to … check a whole bunch of boxes, at least in New South Wales in order to be entitled to that nonspecific gender marker.”
The conversation highlighted how important it is for law and policy recognition of gender diversity to be reflected in day to day experiences. In discussing the kinds of things that help them to feel comfortable with their gender identity in professional spaces, both Frankie and Joseph emphasised the value of others being receptive and respectful of their gender expression.
Joseph has become more comfortable with expressing their identity in the ways they would like, in part, because they have been able to situate themself within a supportive community that clearly signals inclusivity.
“Incorporating these symbols that indicate this is a safe space can help indicate to me that this is a safe environment that's inclusive and work and feel comfortable. I think things like this event celebrating international non binary day could be helpful and appreciated.”
For Frankie, navigating court appearances as a young lawyer has meant that they announce themself in court using the title ‘Mx’, rather than ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’. Frankie spoke about being pleasantly surprised by how easily their preferred title was adopted by fellow lawyers and judges. “[It’s] obviously a little bit tricky, and it's been a bit awkward at times. But there's just been a real willingness from the people I work with and within the courts to try and … that’s been a really positive thing.”
Enjoyed the insights from today’s podcast? Add Episode 7: Active Allyship to your playlist, which explores bringing your whole self to work and supporting your colleagues and peers in the legal profession.