Most read: Wellington transgender woman denied membership at female gym opens up to Q+A

This story was first published on Sunday July 1.

Penelopy Mansell's case has highlighted the need for more clarity in the law around trans rights. Source: 1 NEWS

Wellingtonian Penelopy Mansell, who is transgender, was recently declined membership by a women's gym despite her birth certificate stating she is a woman.

Mansell was after a WINZ quote at Revive Fitness and the gym happened to be close to where she was living, but when she inquired about joining she was asked about her gender.

"She remained silent for a moment and then said, 'I'm sorry dear but I'm going to have to ask you this question, are you transgendered?'" Mansell said.

"She stated that it was the gym's policy not to let any person into the gym until they've had surgery."

"I informed her it's not possible in New Zealand [as] there's a 30 to 40 year waiting list for surgery, so I'd be 89."

Mansell showed the staff her birth certificate, which states she is female, but that wasn't enough.

Certificates are only changed if the person has undergone surgery or in Penny's case medical or hormonal treatment.

Felix Desmarais, a writer who covers local trans-discrimination said the gym does not need to be asking about surgery.

"I'm sure they don't check every other woman's pants situation," he said.

The gym apologised to Mansell a week later but Desmarais said it's hard to lay too much blame with the owners. 

"They obviously made a mistake, but it's pretty hard to blame them when the government isn't taking any leadership on trans-issues themselves," he said.

Corin Dann is with our panel Dr Bryce Edwards, Dr Wayne Mapp and Laura O’Connell Rapira. Source: Q+A

The fallout had seen staff at Revive Fitness bullied, some of them telling TVNZ1's Q+A they've been aggressively confronted online and in person, which Mansell would learn about later. 

Clashes between those on opposing sides of the argument have occurred in Britain.

The issue in Britain centres around the Gender Recognition Bill, which would allow anyone to self-declare their identity.

In New Zealand when it comes to gender self-declaration, an amendment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act enshrining is almost at its second reading.

"The UK wants to move to where we are moving to which is about people being able to self-identify," Labour MP Louisa Wall said.

Rainbow Wellington board member Jem Traylen said some people who take exception to transpeople identifying as women are known as a TERF – or trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

Renee Gerlich, who gets called a TERF herself, said there's heat around the Births Deaths and Marriages Amendment going through select committee.

"This legislation undermines a lot of the work that suffragettes did, they fought for the women's vote, they wanted to give women a way of making political demands that pertain to our sex when, we can't do that once the definition of what a woman is has fundamentally changed," she said.

Ms Wall acknowledges the bill is significant social shift.

"I actually think it's a profound change, I know some people won't like it but that's their own prejudice," she said.

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