Transgender group wants sex dropped from B.C. birth certificates

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
A portion of one of B.C.'s special commemorative provincial birth certificates.

When a child is born, their name, date of birth and sex are recorded on their birth certificate.

Penis: M. Vagina: F.

But a group of transgendered British Columbians wants that to end. They’ve filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging that identifying newborns as male or female discriminates against transgendered individuals.

“Every time a compulsorily gendered person is requested to produce a birth certificate which does not ‘match’ either their gender identity or their gender presentation or both, they are exposed to ridicule, censure, discrimination and/or life-threatening danger,” says the complaint filed by the Trans Alliance Society and eight transgendered individuals.

Although transgendered people can apply to change the sex designation on their birth certificates, it’s an unnecessary barrier, the complaint says, and one that is not helpful for gender variant transsexuals, gender non-conforming cisgendered or intersex individuals.

The human rights tribunal did not respond to a request for information.

Morgane Oger, chairwoman of the Trans Alliance Society in B.C. and one of nine people who filed the complaint, says it is proceeding. No date has been set for a hearing.

“It’s used all the time to discriminate against transgendered persons and intersex persons,” Oger says of the birth certificate.

There are not simply two sexes, Oger says. Between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent of Canadians fall outside the male/female gender identity, she says.

“Gender and sex are not immutable,” she tells Yahoo Canada News.

The complaint has sparked much discussion, including over the definition and difference between “gender” and “sex.”

“There are no ‘gender references’ on birth certificates,” writes National Post columnist Barbara Kay. “What there are on birth certificates is certification of the baby’s sex based on the objective fact of male or female genitalia. Whether that baby turns out to be heterosexual, homosexual or transgender will not be revealed for some years, but even when it is revealed, that baby will still have grown up as a child of the male or female sex.”

The transgendered deserve no less respect than anyone else, she writes, but the demand to drop sex identification from birth certificates is absurd.

“The next time a Human Rights tribunal gets a complaint, how about before agreeing to review it, they consult a dictionary,” Kay writes.

Oger disagrees.

“In British Columbia, sex and gender identity are synonymous in law,” she says, as a result of an earlier human rights decision.

The B.C. government’s Vital Statistics website refers to the “gender designation” on the birth certificate, though the certificate itself lists “sex.”

Since last year, people have been able to apply to change the sex designation in B.C. without sex re-assignment surgery. Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia have also made that change.

Oger says the complainants – among them a 13-year-old Comox girl whose earlier human rights complaint led to the easier birth certificate changes – aren’t asking for gender markers to be removed from society.

But they should only be used when necessary, she says.

Birth certificates used to record race and parents’ occupation, as well, Oger says. Those are still tracked in medical records, driver’s licences and other official records but not on the birth document.

“It’s not relevant at birth and it’s not something that defines you as a human being,” Oger says.

Health Minister Terry Lake told local media that B.C. allows birth certificates to be changed but removing sex altogether could affect such things as statistics used in medical research or a person’s ability to travel internationally.

He says B.C. is looking at what other jurisdictions do but must proceed carefully.