20 Apr 2012

One Step Forward For Human Rights

A momentous decision for transgender people has come out of Ontario today: the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the provincial government to amend its legal requirement for sex designation change within 180 days. Currently, Ontario's Vital Statistics Act stipulates that a trans person must undergo sex reassignment surgery before his/her gender marker can be changed. The human rights tribunal declared this to be discriminatory.

Male symbol
Today's decision is huge for transgender people across the country, including myself. I transitioned from female to male by taking testosterone and having a chest surgery. I have a beard and my voice is deep - no stranger on the street would ever think that I am anything other than a regular guy. But since I have not had a complete ovariohysterectomy (or in veterinary language, a spaying), I am legally female. My driver's license has an F on it, and my passport blares FEMALE in giant print. When we applied for Jacob's birth certificate, we had to check off the "mother" box for me, and then we attached an essay in explanation.

Your birth certificate is the go-to document that must be used to apply for passports or to make changes to any other document. I am required to out myself as transgender every time I present my ID or other legal documents.

So why didn't I just get bottom surgery? Well, it is hugely expensive, rather risky, and involves a long recovery. And... I would not have the family I do now if I had removed my female organs. I live happily and comfortably as male, and what is between my legs is nobody's business besides my partner and my doctor.

Sometimes the discrepancy between my appearance and my documents is just an annoyance and a hassle, but in other situations it is a matter of personal safety. Two years ago Ian and I traveled to India and Nepal - every time I showed my passport to board a plane or even apply for a park pass, I worried that someone would notice the word FEMALE. In those countries, could I be harassed by police or customs officials? Could I be detained? Before we left for our trip, my doctor wrote me a note of explanation, and that's all we had to depend upon. Luckily, my fears were never realized and I am grateful.

It is my hope that the tribunal's decision will quickly help to change regulations in other provinces as well as at the federal level. I know I will breathe a great sigh of relief on the day when my legal documents finally match my gender identity. I look forward to being recognized by my government as my son's Dad.


  1. So glad to have discovered your blog! I came from PhD in Parenting. I have a 5 month old and in the midst of nonstop nursing. It's lovely to hear your story.

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading (isn't it great to nurse and read or surf the net at the same time? that's what I'm doing right now :)

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