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(TORONTO STAR) For years, having to tick one of two boxes to describe gender identity has left many feeling ticked off.
Gender non-conforming, gender fluid or non-binary individuals, who don’t identify as male or female, were forced to choose a label they didn’t feel comfortable with.
Lane Silas Patriquin, a 22-year-old from Toronto who identifies as non-binary, found a workaround: applying whiteout to the gender markers on ID cards.
“I am very much aware of the fact that the reason why I feel comfortable doing that is because I’m in a position of relative privilege,” Patriquin said. “I have the privilege of being very open about my identity. I’m out at school, in my workplace and with my extended family.”
The omitted sex markers on the IDs haven’t been an issue so far, except for one time when Patriquin was filing documents for a new passport and forgot to scratch out the whiteout beforehand.
The Ontario government recently announced it will be rolling out a third gender option for drivers’ licences in 2017, one Patriquin is happy to get. The X marker will be available for those who don’t identify exclusively as male or female.
Last month, the province started issuing health cards that no longer display information about a person’s sex.
For more than a year, the federal government has been grappling with how to change sex markers to reflect gender diversity more accurately.
Many in the LGBTQ community are hoping to see gender and sex designations removed from ID altogether, including transgender activist Nicki Ward.
“The driver’s licence having an option for X is interesting — maybe it elevates the level of discussion. But frankly it shouldn’t even be on there in the first place,” she said. “Why does it matter what your gender is? Surely driving is a privilege that should be enjoyed by all Canadians.”
A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation said the X marker is being offered for drivers’ licences to comply with rules established by other international jurisdictions and the International Civil Aviation Organization, which recognize the X identifier as “unspecified.”
Unlike with health cards, Ontarians use their drivers’ licences as identification across North America, making the “X” marker necessary, the spokesman said.
As for passports, seven countries currently allow for a third sex designation — Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan — and Canada could soon follow in this vein.
Transgender activist Christin Milloy said she would like to see the federal government take it one step further.
“We’re hoping that Canada will become the first country in the world to mark all of its passports with ‘X’ for ‘unspecified,’ because it’s an unnecessary piece of information for identification purposes,” Milloy said.
Her end goal is to see all sex and gender markers removed from pieces of identification and databases.
The process would have to start with birth certificates, which are the first pieces of ID people need to change in order to edit other forms such as drivers’ licences and passports.
Changing sex markers on ID requires a doctor’s note, money to spare and sometimes legal help. Each step raises an extra barrier for LGBTQ people, who are already disproportionately represented among the poor and homeless.
Jack Hixson-Vulpe, a specialist in education and training at the 519 Community Centre, said that although the 519 doesn’t have a specific program set up to help people change their IDs, it does offer help navigating the system.
Changing the sex markers on an ID card can take anywhere from three or four months to a year, Hixson-Vulpe said.
Patriquin doesn’t think the process should cost any money.
“The government still charges you to change your gender marker, and I think that’s kind of messed up,” Patriquin said. “If you were assigned a gender at birth that you don’t identify with, then that’s their mistake.”
According to the most recent Trans Pulse report from 2015, one in five transgender people in Ontario don’t identify as primarily male or female, preferring to identify by another term, such as “gender fluid.”
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