Get gender off birth certificates, B.C. activists argue
Published Tuesday, May 26, 2015 12:15PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, May 26, 2015 4:29PM EDT
A group of activists is taking their fight to remove gender from birth certificates to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
The transgender and intersex people behind the push say Canadian birth certificates are discriminatory because they legally assign people a gender from birth.
The label is based on a doctor’s inspection of the baby’s genitals, but the group says that does not always represent the gender with which the individual will later identify.
The group filed a human rights complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which has agreed to review it.
People who are legally assigned one gender, but identify with another, face a range of discrimination, the complainants argue. They say legally assigning gender at birth also hurts intersex children and people who don’t conform to male or female gender norms.
"Having a misgendered birth certificate guarantees that trans or intersex or gender nonconforming children will suffer grief when they go to school, humiliation when they apply for a driver’s license, and discrimination and danger in every other circumstance where someone wants them to 'prove' their gender," according to a statement from the group.
The Trans Alliance Society, which is one of the nine complainants, says it is asking for the removal of gender markers from birth certificates because it isn't a fixed characteristic.
"Birth certificates are supposed to be … things that don't change, whereas gender identity is … something that can change in some individuals," TAS chair Morgane Oger told CTV News Channel.
Oger added that roughly 2.5 per cent of Canadians "live with, or have the potential to live with," the wrong sex designation on their documents.
"It is difficult (for doctors) to tell the sex designation of a child with a 30-second cursory inspection of their genitals when they're born," said Oger.
It is currently possible to go back and change gender on a birth certificate, and a number of provinces have recently made it easier to do so. In the past, transgender people would be required to show proof of reassignment surgery before legally changing their gender designation. That is no longer required in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
However, the group says being able to change gender later in life does not prevent the initial discrimination people face when they don’t identify with their legal gender.
Oger said there is also a "trail of breadcrumbs" left behind by other related official papers that are potentially harmful.
"Even with the change, the old documents follow us around and they're used by people who would discriminate against us," said Oger.
The group also says adding a third gender option would not stop discrimination. In the statement, they say an "other" box would only put "a target on the forehead of anyone with that option recorded."
Instead, the group argues, gender does not belong on a birth certificate at all, and it should be up to the individual to decide who and what they are.
"We aren’t saying that people can’t ask about gender, where gender is relevant. What we are saying is: ask us!" Oger said in a statement.