July 29, 2015 8:30 am
Updated: July 30, 2015 3:19 pm

Saint John transgender woman fighting province to change gender marker on ID

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WATCH ABOVE: A transgendered woman in Saint John is launching a human rights complaint against a rule that is stopping her birth certificate from reflecting her true identity. Global’s Alex Abdelwahab reports.

SAINT JOHN – A transgender woman in Saint John is launching a human rights complaint to force the province to allow her to change the gender marker on her birth certificate and driver’s licence.

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According to New Brunswick’s Vital Statistics Act, the province will only grant a change of sex designation on a birth certificate upon proof of gender-reassignment surgery and other supporting documents.

Gloria Halvorsen says the surgery’s several-thousand-dollar price tag is prohibitive for her, and she also doesn’t believe she is medically eligible because she is a cancer patient.

She plans to file the complaint on the grounds of undue hardship and medical discrimination.

“There is a kind of Catch-22 in New Brunswick,” she said. “By law you’re required to have the surgery, or by the act, yet they won’t pay for it.”

New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that doesn’t provide public funding for any kind of gender-reassignment surgery.

“I can’t afford it, like many, so I’m excluded from it and have to go around with the wrong gender marker on my identification, on my licence,” she said.

Halvorsen was granted her official name change on her birth certificate in May and her driver’s licence also reflects her new identity, but both still have an ‘M’ instead of an ‘F.’

Halvorsen said she is a bit of a unique case, because of her cancer. Doctors removed her prostate and lymph nodes, and she also underwent radiation therapy. Neither worked.

She is currently undergoing hormone treatment, which seems to be working.

“The type of cancer I have is actually fed by testosterone,” she said. “My maleness is literally killing me.”

Halvorsen said after her cancer surgery, she tried getting her doctor to sign documents that could convince the government to change her marker, since she lost all her male sexual function, but the doctor was unwilling to do it.

And now that her prostate is gone, she doesn’t believe she is a candidate for full gender-reassignment surgery. She is waiting to hear back from a gender-reassignment surgeon in Montreal to get a full report on what surgeries she can and cannot have as well as the specific costs involved, so she has accurate information to file the complaint.

Halvorsen showed Global News that she has all the paperwork, and says she expects to file it within the next two weeks.

Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have already dropped the requirement for proof of gender-reassignment to change the sex designation on a birth certificate, following similar human rights complaints.

Michelle Leard, of the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network and UBU Moncton, said changing the Vital Statistics Act in New Brunswick to allow transgender people to change their gender markers without surgery is one of the critical issues they have been fighting for, along with getting public coverage of the gender-reassignment surgery.

She said the group has been following developments in Nova Scotia and believes Halvorsen has a strong case.

“The process isn’t really any terribly dissimilar, I mean we know what we need to do, we have the expertise, we have a huge component of the community that’s sort of stepping out to help us out,” she said.

In a statement to Global News, government spokesperson Vicky Deschênes, wrote Tuesday, “The government of New Brunswick is closely following developments in other provinces and is exploring how these changes could be applied in New Brunswick in the future. As a government we are studying the matter.”

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