Remove gender from birth certificates, B.C. urged

Health Minister Terry Lake says he's concerned about medical research, limits on travel for B.C. residents

Morgane Oger, chair of the Trans Alliance Society (left); and Harriette Cunningham holding her revised birth certificate last year.

Gender identity should be removed from birth certificates, according to a complaint filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of nine intersex or transgender people.

Morgane Oger, a transgender woman and chair of the Trans Alliance Society, says the forced assignment of gender identity at birth – quickly decided by a doctor inspecting the genitals – discriminates against intersex, trans and other gender non-conforming residents whose assigned gender turns out to be inaccurate or who don’t fully identify as one sex or the other.

A statement issued by the society says misidentified children “suffer grief when they go to school, humiliation when they apply for a driver’s licence and discrimination and danger in every circumstance where someone wants them to ‘prove’ their gender.”

Oger argues there is no valid reason to put gender on birth certificates, adding there are many more sophisticated methods to help identify someone.

“It is indefensible to use a marker which will certainly be wrong, and create havoc for, a predictable number of people.”

Health Minister Terry Lake said B.C. has moved to allow birth certificates to be changed, but removing gender would affect statistics used in medical research.

“We are studying this and looking at other jurisdictions, but we have to be really careful with foundational identity documents like birth certificates, because we want to make sure that we don’t impair people’s ability to travel internationally,” Lake said.

Transgender advocates elsewhere are also advancing cases seeking to remove gender from passports.

Oger said it’s not acceptable to have a third gender option like “other” because “that puts a target on the forehead of anyone with that third option recorded.”

Among the complainants is Harriette Cunningham, a Comox girl labeled male at birth who last year succeeded in getting her birth certificate gender changed to female. In 2013, at the age of 11, she won a Human Rights Tribunal case that led to new provincial legislation making such identification changes easier.

 

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