5.27.2015

Why I Won't Change the Gender Marker on my Birth Certificate

One of the reasons I filed a human rights complaint was because government agencies kept insisting that I change my birth certificate in order to prove my identity and validate my gender. One of the most ridiculous examples is from Passport Canada who can't decide what exactly a passport document is for: confirming and validating citizenship or validating identity. 

The thought of having to change my birth record makes me both angry and uncomfortable. I don't think messing around with history is a good idea because the outcome is never good. I haven't found a reason to change my birth certificate that makes sense for me and I've listed some of the reasons I chose NOT to change the gender marker on my birth certificate below:

  1. My mother gave birth to a biologically female baby. This is a fact. It is historically accurate. At the time and to the best of everyone's knowledge, this was the truth. Changing the marker on my birth certificate now will not ever change the events that occured on the day of my birth.

  2. I feel like I would be insulting my mother if I changed my birth record. I can't articulate exactly why I feel like this but I feel like changing my birth certificate invalidates her in some way, that it ignores and disrespects her experience of the day she gave birth. I do not want to alter her memory of the past or attempt to rewrite the truth of #1.

  3. Rewriting my birth record makes me invisible. Changing my birth certificate to say that I was born male, eliminates the "official" record that I was ever female. Rewriting the paper trail to be consistent (and to make the government more comfortable) feels like another way to make trans people "disappear".

  4. Changing my birth certificate won't change history. Even if my birth record was changed to say male, it wouldn't change my story. A new birth certificate wouldn't suddenly make me a boy in all my childhood photos, it won't eliminate or erase all the struggles and problems I endured. Changing my birth certificate erases the truth: I was born a girl. Asking me to change my birth certificate because I'm transexual is as ridiculous as asking a Chinese person to change their ethnicity once they become a Canadian citizen.

  5. Identification should reflect the truth about a person in its entirety and that should be respected. So my birth certificate doesn't match my driver's licence. Big deal. Ask me why. I'll tell you it's because I'm trans. Being afraid that I have somehow manipulated the system to perpetuate identity fraud is ridiculous because I just told you the reason the gender markers don't match is because I'm trans. Trust that I am telling you the truth just like that new bride in the next booth who is trying to explain why the name on her birth certificate and the name on her driver's license don't match....

  6. No one ever really expects to see your birth certificate. You don't whip it out at parties, cops don't ask to see it if you are pulled over at a check stop. The only time you REALLY need a birth certificate for anything is to prove where you were born and when. The gender you are assigned at birth really doesn'e matter when you think about it. Seriously, how different would our lives be if birth certificates just didn't have a gender marker?
Not everyone wants to keep their birth record unchanged. I wonder though, how many people would still change it if it wasn't required? Would you?



5.14.2015

Aftermath

It's has been over a year since my last post and there has been a lot going on to say the least! I will be posting more about things that have been ongoing and give you an update on my moustache because I know that's really why you keep hanging around ;)

After the disaster with my passport and the other disaster with my health care card I finally got sick of being treated badly by governments and their agencies. I filed human rights complaints with both the NWT Human Rights Commission and with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the hopes of changing policies that would allow trans people to self identify and not be required to change their birth certificate or provide proof that they modified their body with surgery to conform to an established gender binary.

Even though I have a new health card and my gender marker has been changed on my permanent health record I am still afraid when I go to the clinic or hospital that I will be outed and treated like and HIV patient in 1991. I Still have anxiety about getting my blood taken and have avoided going to the hospital, particularly the emergency room for fear that my bad experiences will be repeated.

Thank goodness there have been pioneers who have broken ground and created case law that inform and help us make cases for ourselves. I have some really good friends and the ability to do research both of which were important in being able to settle the complaints through mediation.

Oftentimes to get to this point you have to be brave enough to file the complaint. Sometimes governments won't or can't change anything without a court order, or a process that allows them to create change, such as a human rights complaint. It can be scary to take that first step. You will feel vulnerable, but hopefully at the end of the process you will have some sort of reconciliation.

I am glad that my case did not go to to a hearing. Sadly a lot of processes are adversarial, often due to (but not always) due to lawyers who are trained that way. I did not have to prepare to navigate a legal system unrepresented nor did I have to worry about my identity, my story or my case being aired in public as some titillating piece of small town gossip. I am thankful that the parties on both sides of my case worked together to solve the problems, and did not feel the need to lay blame or make excuses. This approach allowed everyone to tackle the problem instead of each other. Win-Win.


I was extremely lucky that the respondents in my cases were willing to mediate and my experience was very positive. I know that isn't the case for everyone but I am happy to have been able to make a positive change in a positive, thoughtful and conscientious manner. I actually have an ongoing relationship with some of the parties and am a valued resource when it comes to gathering "user-experience". I cannot describe how grateful I am that things went well and that real positive changes are being made to the system which will improve it for everyone.

Here's hoping the small changes will lead to improved services and experiences for trans people!