What was once impossible for transgender Ontarians is now attainable in six to eight weeks for a $37 fee.
And that’s good news, say activists.
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled in April that the Government of Ontario’s regulations on changing the designated gender on a birth certificate were discriminatory. It sent Queen’s Park back to the drawing board to come up with some new ideas.
Previously, transgender people had to undergo full sex reassignment surgery before being permitted to change their gender on birth certificates – the document that acts as a foundation for the information on all other government-issued identification. Many in the trans community thought this an unnecessary hurdle.
But now all that’s required in an application is a signed declaration and a note from a doctor or psychologist. The only caveat for changing a birth certificate is that the applicant must be 18 years of age.
The cost for editing the designated gender is $37, plus the $25 or $35 fee for ordering the new birth certificate – either short form or long form.
These changes – published to the Ontario Government Services website – came in right under the wire. The Human Rights Tribunal gave the government 180 days to edit its procedures, which meant a deadline of Oct 8. The changes went online Oct 5.
“The reaction has been positive,” says John Friesen, spokesperson to Harinder Takhar, minister of government services. “We were able to find a balance.”
He says that ministry people collected input from various stakeholder groups to try to strike a middle ground. He says the consultations were a channel for those groups to have a hand in crafting good policies.
"This is a fantastic decision," says Susan Gapka, chair of theTrans Lobby Group, which was a part of the government consultations.
"While it is not perfect, it will substantially improve the lives of trans people."
The one improvement the group would like to see implemented would be a guarantor system, which would allow trans people under 18 or without a regular physician to change their documents.
Still, Gapka "applauds this significant improvement" and says she looks forward to working with the government and all the MPPs in Queen's Park.
The landmark decision – the first of its kind in Canada – could set a precedent for other provinces to follow suit. Some of the requirements outside of Ontario require both the surgery and other cumbersome documentation. That sets up obstacles for trans people looking to avoid the problems that are caused by having their documentation, such as passports, give the wrong gender.
The federal government is said to be reviewing this issue. Rumours swirled in May that Ottawa was looking to introduce gender-neutral passports for those who haven’t been able to change their gender legally. Nothing has come of this yet, leaving open the glaring question of whether trans Canadians can be certain that they will even be allowed to fly under new government regulations.