A landmark case occurred in 1966 when the police charged Carmen Rupe with ‘behaving in an offensive manner in a public place’ after they found her dressed as a woman. The judge found that it was not against the law for men to dress as women. It was an important case for all trans women and Carmen never dressed as a man again. Since the 1970s many forms of gender diversity have been visible and celebrated at gay and lesbian community events such as Auckland’s Hero Festival and Big Gay Out. Gender-diverse people have become increasingly visible in the early 21st century.
In 2019, Counting ourselves, a national survey of the health and wellbeing of trans, gender-diverse and non-binary people living in New Zealand, found that a very high proportion of the community experienced mental health issues. These issues largely resulted from the discrimination and marginalisation trans and non-binary people experienced, with many respondents reporting that they had been bullied or made to feel uncomfortable at school, on the sports field or in the workplace. Many reported facing significant issues and delays accessing gender-confirming healthcare. Almost 40% of transgender and non-binary people surveyed had received threatening messages on social media, and over 80% had the wrong gender on their birth certificate.
Activism amongst the gender-diverse community has increased in recent years. Agender, a nationwide transgender support group, has worked since 1996 to improve the acceptance of trans people. In 2017 the group expressed its frustration at the continued difficulties people found in obtaining gender-confirming surgery in New Zealand, which sometimes involved a decades-long wait.
Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ) is a national organisation which provides information to intersex people and their families, and campaigns to promote acceptance and to end surgeries on intersex infants.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa is a nationwide transgender organisation which is run by and for transgender people, and operates on a kaupapa Māori public health framework. It offers information, advocacy, and support for all transgender people. It has campaigned for the legal rights of irawhiti takatāpui, transgender and intersex people, particularly in relation to birth certificates and healthcare.
The Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa (PATHA) was established in 2019 as an interdisciplinary professional organisation working to promote the health, wellbeing and rights of transgender people. It is led by both transgender and non-transgender health workers.
The advocacy group People Against Prisons Aotearoa was set up in 2015 in response to the conditions experienced by trans people in prisons.
The needs of trans people were increasingly recognised by other groups, such as the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association. In 2017 the PPTA published a report on sexual and gender diversity which recommended, among other things, gender-neutral school toilets and uniforms.