Transgendered Ontarians now allowed to alter birth certificates without sex-change surgery
London Community News
By Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow transgendered people to change the gender on their birth certificates without sex-change surgery.
“It’s a huge decision. It’s a remarkably positive decision. This is an important victory,” Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Lobby Group, told the Toronto Star on Thursday.
The new rules, published this week, mean a transgendered person can apply to ServiceOntario for a new birth certificate with only a letter from a physician or psychologist.
Previously, the Vital Statistics Act required proof of “transsexual surgery.”
Ontario was acting on a ruling in April from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
The commission acted on a complaint brought by a transgendered woman known as XY who argued she was exposed to discrimination and violence because the gender she lived with didn’t match her documents.
The old rule “perpetuates stereotypes about transgendered persons and their need to have surgery in order to live with their gender identity,” Sheri Price wrote in a 95-page decision for the commission.
Price pointed out an anomaly in the law. XY did eventually have surgery to satisfy the old rules: she had an orchiectomy that removed her testes.
“She is not biologically, genetically or anatomically female. She still has a penis and she does not have any female genitalia,” wrote Price.
Nevertheless, that surgery was enough for the Ontario government to agree she could change her birth certificate, she said.
The government had argued to the commission that other documents, such as a driver’s licence, could already by changed by transgendered people and were better identity documents. Birth records were also important data for statistical data, medical research and in decisions about federal-provincial transfer payments.
The transgendered woman’s lawyer argued birth certificates were the basis for many other important documents, such as passports.
Deputy Registrar General Judith Hartman told the commission her office processed an average of 40 requests a year for a change of sex designation on a birth certificate.
Hartman admitted she did not know why “transsexual surgery” was declared a requirement in 1978 to change a person’s sex on their birth certificate.
In back and forth negotiations leading to the change, the human rights commission and Trans Lobby Group persuaded the ministry not to limit the corroboration to just a physician.
“Not everyone has access to a physician. A lot of places in rural Ontario don’t,” said Gapka, explaining their rationale.
“Ontario is the first jurisdiction to do this in Canada,” she said. “This provides a chance for other provinces to do the same.”
Not all transgendered people want or can afford sex-change surgery, previous cases have argued, not least because the surgery leaves the person sterile.
- Torstar News Service