2.28.2014

Crossing the Border: Questioning the Validity of the Body on a Passport.

I did my due diligence. I called Passport Canada and asked them exactly what I needed to do to apply for a gender marker change on my passport. They told me to supply two pieces of Government issued ID in my preferred gender and a written letter requesting a gender marker change. I did both of these things acting in good faith that if I did my part that they too would do theirs and issue me a passport with my gender marker as male.

I received a phone call this evening from guess who. Yep Passport Canada. Apparently there are more hoops to jump through before I can have a passport.

The first thing they want is a letter from my doctor stating that I have had sex change surgery. They don't actually define what "sex change surgery" means or why or how that is related to me wanting to travel. Do they want to know whether I have had a hysterectomy or chest surgery or do they want to know if someone has made me some semblance of a penis? Does a hysterectomy qualify as sex change surgery? Technically that's not a change it's simply a sterilization. And it would be an interesting question to know if they require this same letter from women who have had their uterus removed as a gynecological solution to a different medical diagnosis. Is it chest surgery? Do they ask women who have had mastectomies because of cancer to get a letter from their doctor before issuing a passport?

The second thing they requested which was really the thing that made me furious is proof of travel. Becasue I am trans and asking for a change to the gender marker they need proof that I am actually going to use my passport for travel. Seriously?

I have no criminal record, I hold down a job, volunteer in my community and pay all my taxes. I have given them ALL the documents they have asked for including my not yet expired passport. I have two pieces of valid ID with my gender marked as male one of which was issued by the federal government! Why on earth would I apply for a passport if I had no intention of travelling? Especially if I thought that I was going to have such a hassle?

Sadly even the agent I spoke to felt horrible having to ask me all sorts of personal questions. I was very upset by it all and she got stuck in between common sense and arcane policy. I felt really bad for her and I am positive that the next person who calls will not be nearly as sympathetic.

I told her that I thought the policy was discriminatory and if all of this hassle was because I requested a change to my gender marker that perhaps I should be able to have the gender marker just left off my passport. Leave it blank or leave it off. She said she would ask and have someone else contact me. Without a doubt I will forever be patted down and pulled out of line at the airport. I am suspicious that my "file" has been flagged and no matter how this turns out I am positive it will affect my travel experience. Whether I am right or paranoid is still to be determined.

Interestingly I did a little more research about Passport Canada and the genderless passport and found this:

Very recently, Transport Minister Denis Lebel made statements in the House of Commons that Canada is in compliance with the standards set by ICAO. Other representatives of Transport Canada have officially released similar statements. Despite this assertion, Passport Canada does not offer any standardized application option for a sex-free passport. But if Canada is in compliance with ICAO, as Minister Lebel claims, then Passport Canada should honour any request they receive for an ICAO-compliant passport with sex designation “X,” meaning “unspecified.”

It is so obvious that this issue is NOT about gender but once again about the body and the juvenile preoccupation our culture has with genitalia. Gender presentation is a completely separate issue from whether or not someone has a penis or breasts and some day I hope that is recognized.