The GIRARE project – Gender Identity Registration And human Rights Effects

Nation-states systematically attribute  legal sex to individuals and enter that sex in national registries. Although sex and gender are typically understood as binary (M/F), legal and administrative practices as well as biological, social, and cultural understandings of sex as binary are increasingly subject to debate worldwide. Such discussions are often initiated by LGBTQI organisations, who typically invoke human rights standards and discourses of inclusion/exclusion.

The personal status of individuals in terms of gender is particularly relevant for their possibilities to establish legal ties with others and enjoy their right to family life in the broadest sense possible.

The interdisciplinary GIRARE project explores two aspects of these developments: (1) the relationship between short-term and long-term changes in sex registration practices and human well-being and (2) the interaction between the invocation of human rights discourses and changes to the institutionalisation of a binary conception of sex. In this sense, the project asks how the invocation of human rights in comparison to other possible arguments affects such changes, that is, if it is effective to rely on human rights and how invoking human rights interacts with local context, particularly culture. To assess the impact of changes to the binary registration system, the project involves empirical and theoretical components, exploring how institutional change can be seen as a combination of evolution and design. Tensions between new legislation and long-standing social attitudes are an important focus of attention.

While the project is in an exploratory phase, we are currently at work on two related sub-projects to identify future possibilities. Sub-project 1 (GIRARE Local) focuses on changes in the policies and practices of Dutch municipalities regarding the collection and dissemination of information on legal sex. Sub-project 2 (GIRARE Travel) is internationally oriented and examines how changes in passport policies (e.g., the Australian decision to allow for an X in passports in addition to the standard M or F) affect movement and mobility, particularly for trans* and gender-nonconforming populations.


The initial stages of the project have been carried out with the financial support of Institutions, one of Utrecht University’s strategic research themes.


dr. Marjolein van den Brink, SIM/IER and UCERF, Utrecht Law School,

dr. Christine Quinan, Media & Culture Studies / Gender Studies,