Midway assessment: When law decides what gender is: a look at legal gender recognition through life

PhD candidate Anniken Sørlie at the Department of Public and International Law is presenting her doctoral project "When law decides what gender is: a look at legal gender recognition through life" Tuesday 20 September.

Anniken Sørlie. Photo: UiO

  • Assessor: Professor Dianne Otto, Melbourne Law School Carlton
  • Leader of the assessment: Head of Department Professor Ulf Stridbeck, University of Oslo
  • Supervisors: Professor Anne Hellum, University of Oslo and May-Len Skilbrei, University of Oslo

In 41 of 49 European countries, transgender people can change their registered gender so as to match their gender identity. However, in many countries, access to legal gender recognition is confined by invasive requirements for this change to be granted, such as sterilization and a trans* related diagnosis. Earlier this year, Norway’s first law on change of legal gender entered into force and medical requirements and medical examination were cast aside as preconditions for change of legal gender. One would assume that this change would imply that the state recognizes transgender people’s gender identity, but is that really so? What does or should the right to gender identity mean in a Norwegian context?

The subject matter of this thesis is the protection of the rights of transgender people living in contemporary Norway and the extent of legal gender recognition. The thesis takes legal gender as its starting point and looks at how gender operates under Norwegian law by applying a life cycle perspective. Legal gender means the gender we are registered with in the national population registry by way of a gender specific national identity number. There are two options available: man or woman. Some people are not aware of the gender specific information embedded in the national identity number. Others, on the other hand, face widespread discrimination and challenges in their everyday life due to this number and prevailing norms on gender and sexuality. This thesis identifies some challenges and their possible implications.

The thesis addresses the following questions: to what extent does law recognize the gender identity of transgender people, and consequently, whether law applies and recognizes gender as social and fluid. What are the implications for transgender people both in respect of their legal protection and in respect of their everyday life when law decides the frontier and extent of gender? What are the human rights obligations of the Norwegian State and to what extent does the State fulfill its obligations? I approach these questions through four in-depth case studies linking legal sources, empirical data and ethical considerations:

- Legal Gender Meets Reality: A Socio-legal Children’s Perspective
- Governing parenthood – holding onto biological connection and heterosexuality
- Being transgender at binary schools: an anti-discrimination approach to physical education (preliminary title)
- Equal, dignified and legitimate access to hormonal therapy (preliminary title)


For outline and draft text, contact Anniken Sørlie.

Published Sep. 5, 2016 1:27 PM - Last modified June 1, 2018 12:37 PM