'It's massive': Yukon gov't moves to protect transgender rights

Yukon gov't designates gender neutral washrooms in public buildings

Chase Blodgett, an advocate for transgender rights, has long advocated for changes to Yukon legislation. So he was delighted to hear of the government's plans to bring the issue forward this spring.

"I was pretty shocked, and very excited," Blodgett admitted. "For the people — the trans-individuals, the non-binary individuals — it's massive."

On Monday, the government announced plans to amend Yukon's Vital Statistics Act to remove the requirement for sex reassignment surgery before an individual can change the gender on their birth registration.

Another amendment would be made to the Human Rights Act to "prohibit discrimination on the grounds of both gender identity and gender expression," according to a government news release.

Blodgett says that sort of explicit recognition is key.

"Policies only do so much, but it gives a lot of comfort knowing that if your human rights are protected, you know that you have an avenue that you can take, that you'll be supported if someone is discriminating against you repeatedly.

"Not having it in there, you're always a little nervous."

Blodgett, who founded the advocacy group All Genders Yukon, has been pushing for amendments to the Vital Statistics Act for more than two years. He says Yukon has been a laggard among Canadian jurisdictions when it comes to making such changes.

"Not that progressive, I guess you could say. We're catching up.

"If you can get those documents [IDs] that reflect the gender that you express, you're absolutely much safer across a variety of institutions."

Need for parental consent

Blodgett says he has some concerns, though, about how the amended legislation would apply to youth. 

The proposed changes to the Vital Statistics Act would require a custodial parent to apply on behalf of a child under 19 years of age. The application would need the consent of all custodial parents.

"The problem with that is, if you're a trans kid and you don't have custodial support, you are probably no longer living at home," Blodgett said. "Some trans kids don't have custodial support."

Failing custodial support, the amendments would allow a transgender youth to apply for a court order stating that parental support is not needed, but Blodgett worries that could be too onerous especially for youth in more remote areas.  

Blodgett also wants to know whether there will be training for government staff at places like the Vital Statistics Office, so they understand the law and the rights of transgender people.

Still, he's gratified to see Yukon's laws evolve.

"There's more and more people aware of these issues," he said.

"I definitely think that transgender issues are the human rights conversation of my lifetime. And you know, for a different generation, it was Stonewall and gay rights. I think this is shifting the social landscape."

The Yukon government is looking for public feedback on the proposed amendments, through an online questionnaire. A public consultation period is open until Mar. 24.

The spring sitting of the legislative assembly begins April 20.