Christin Milloy:

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Surgery No Longer Required to Change Sex on Ontario Birth Certificate; Tribunal Ruling Epic Win for Trans Ontarians

Today the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal issued a ruling, declaring that the portion of the Vital Statistics Act requiring “proof of transsexual surgery” as a pre-requisite to changing the sex designation on an Ontario Birth Certificate is a human rights violation.

As first reported by Andrea Houston at XTRA, The Ontario provincial government has been given 180 days to rectify the Vital Statistics Act to implement a policy for allowing trans people to change their legal Sex designation (on their birth certificate) that does not require them to prove they have had surgery performed.

Prior to this landmark ruling, Ontario Drivers’ licences have been the easiest ID documents for trans people to have changed, requiring only a doctor’s note saying it is “medically appropriate.” That was also as the result of another human rights case that went before Tribunal, A.B. v. Minister of Transport and Minister of Government Services, which settled in 2006.

While some have advocated for a similar “doctor’s note” solution to be implemented for the birth certificate change, I believe we need a solution which promotes greater access to personal liberty for all; not every trans or gender variant Ontarian has the benefit of regular access to a cooperative healthcare practitioner to write a note (also many doctors charge money for such letters which not everyone can afford). A more equitable solution is called for.

What I hope to see evolve in the next 180 days is for Service Ontario to implement a revised, much simpler version of their existing form package “Application for Change in Sex Designation on Ontario Birth Certificate.” This (difficult to access) package of documents previously required both a surgeon and a medical doctor to sign off on transsexual surgery and a follow-up examination.

As a trans advocate and Libertarian, I believe that this form package should be abridged to a simple “Declaration of Gender Identity” form. The applicant indicates their name, birth date, and any other applicable identifying information, indicates a statement with respect to their gender identity (for example, by ticking a box), and then signs the form affirming it to be true. Perhaps a Guarantor would also sign.

Oppression costs us all, in so many ways; liberty is free. If the above policy is implemented, it will net out to a reduction in bureaucracy—while dramatically liberating trans Ontarians, it simultaneously reduces bureaucracy at Service Ontario, ultimately saving Ontarian taxpayers money.

Since other methods of identification, such as the (federally administrated) Canadian Passports, require proof of surgery only for those trans persons whose birth certificates are not yet updated, it is easy to see why this is such an epic win for trans Ontarians. For example, since I have consistently refused to provide any documentation of surgery to government agencies (nor do I disclose my surgical status to news media), I am still stuck with all-male ID. If, as a result of this ruling, I am able to update my birth certificate to read “female,” I can bypass the surgical requirement on the Canadian Passport application by simply submitting my new female birth certificate.

Ideally, Ontarians (and all people) should also be able to opt-out of the gender binary altogether (i.e. choose an option other than “f” or “m,” or have nothing indicated whatsoever), but that will likely take another court case further down the line to achieve.

This ruling could pave the way for similar changes across Canada. I will be watching and reporting very carefully over the next 180 days. With Toby’s Act up for second reading at Queen’s Park on May 10, and with C-279 resuming its second reading debate some time soon in Ottawa, 2012 is indeed shaping up to be a year of dramatic change for trans and gender-variant Canadians.


One Comment

  1. Saturday, 2012.04.21 at 16:06

    We at Pure Sophistry support the change and think it’s important to be able to change one’s gender without undergoing invasive surgery. We’ve outline our position and included a poll for all to vote and comment/debate the issue here:

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Christin Milloy