Should gender be removed from birth certificates in Canada? A group of British Columbians says it should and is taking their fight to the province’s Human Rights Tribunal, which has agreed to hear their case.
Morgane Oger, the chair of the Trans Alliance Society in Vancouver, and one of the complainants in the case, argues birth certificates should only contain things that don’t change, like the time and place a person was born and their parents’ identity at the time – gender, Oger said, should not be included.
“Gender identity is not determinable, even sex is not determinable at birth in 100 per cent of the cases,” Oger said. “Sex designation is not something that’s measurable by doctor.”
Oger identifies as a female. But was identified by documentation as a male until last year, when she changed it to female on her provincial documentation 1.5 years ago, and on her federal documentation this year.
“Yet my birth certificate, that I’ve had to hand out a number of times says male on it, until now. So now my proof of identity can say female. But all the documentation in the past has said male.”
Including gender on birth certificates presents two significant problems, Oger said. First, it’s not reliable as a person can identify with either gender and the sex can’t always be determined accurately by a doctor’s observations. Second, it can lead to discrimination.
Oger said the designation follows transgender or intersex people “like breadcrumbs.”
“People or groups, organizations, that would discriminate against you, they use this information against transgender people and intersex people, which is one of the root causes of trans people and intersex people suffering significantly worse outcomes in life than non-trans or intersex person.”
Harriette Cunningham, an 11-year-old girl who recently had her sex designation changed is among the complainants fighting to have gender removed from the birth certificate.
“When I have to show ID and I’m going through customs, people give me dirty looks and they kind of question me, who is this, and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have to go through that,” she said during an interview with 16×9.
Human rights complaints have also been filed in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Oger likened gendered birth certificates to past practices of including a person’s race or their parents’ occupation.
“When we figured that out, that it was wrong, we took that away,” Oger said.
Most birth certificates in Canada like British Columbia’s include several pieces of information including the name, place and date of birth, name of parents, birthplace of parents, and sex.
Most provinces allow gender to be changed on birth certificates without proof of sex reassignment surgery.
A handful of countries, including Germany, Nepal, and Australia have started to do away with the binary of gender identities on their birth certificates. Australia allows a third “non-specific” option, Nepal allows an “other” gender, and Germany allows parents to leave the field blank.
But Oger wants the field done away with altogether to avoid an “othering” of people.
“If I’m asked to present ID, and my ID says X instead of M or F, let’s say, then there will be some people who will use that as confirmation that I’m not supposed to be in that space, or I’m not supposed to be doing this thing, or I’m an imposter in some way.”