Sexually Dimorphic Bodies: A Production of Birth Certificates

Holzer, Lena. 2019. Sexually Dimorphic Bodies: A Production of Birth Certificates. Australian Feminist Law Journal, 45(1), pp. 91-110. ISSN 1320-0968 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Registering a newborn’s gender/sex on the birth certificate is usually seen as a mere formality that reflects a natural state of affairs. This article, however, shows that the registration of gender/sex does something else than record naturally given sex differences in bodies; it actually produces and shapes bodies to develop in a way conformant with understandings of sexual dimorphism. Sexed bodies are therefore not pre-discursive and static objects, but they are constantly in the process of becoming, influenced by socio-legal procedures, including gender/sex registration. By analysing the effects of registering the legal gender/sex on birth certificates and the change of gender markers thereof in various jurisdictions, in particular Australian states and territories, the article aims to show how bodies of intersex as well as endosex cis and trans persons are made into what they are expected to be: sexually dimorphic. It concludes that legally assigning a gender/sex has intrinsically violent effects on bodies, something that could be avoided by eliminating the public registration of gender/sex.

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“This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Australian Feminist Law Journal on 27 November 2019, available at: t is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.”

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27 November 2019Published Online

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Date Deposited:

17 Nov 2022 15:45

Last Modified:

06 Jan 2023 16:21

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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