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Welcome to the ’90s, Alberta!

Alberta is notoriously regarded as the least gay-friendly Canadian province. (Just going by word of mouth, it’s possible Prince Edward Island is a close second.) On Thursday, the Edmonton Journal reported that the province known as Wild Rose Country has finally amended billing codes used by doctors that grouped gays and lesbians in with sexual deviants, including pedophiles. 

The “Progressive” Conservatives made this change after years of pressure from health officials and queer advocates. Coincidentally, this announcement comes just in time for Pride celebrations in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

Until this year Alberta would reference the ninth edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (better known as the ICD-9), source material that was penned in 1975. Although the WHO updated this text in 1990 and removed homosexuality from the list of diseases, it wasn’t until earlier this year that Alberta adapted the ICD-10, 22 years after it was published.

The codes in question are used by Alberta’s physicians to bill the province when treating patients. Although the code now states that being gay is not a disorder, the specific code in question, numbered 302.0, is still used to reference those suffering from ego-dystonic disorder. In other words, self-hating gays or those suffering from gender-identity issues. 

Alberta’s government first vowed to change this code in 1998 yet took no action for years. Prolific queer activist Rob Wells fanned the flames of change in 2010 when he uncovered government documents that showed doctors had used this code to bill the province for treating queers more than 1,750 times between 1995 and 2004. The Alberta government scrambled into damage control and removed all traces of the code from online sources. Then earlier this year it was discovered the diagnostic code was still in use.

So welcome to the 1990s, MLAs of Alberta. I expect to see you all wearing neon spandex and blasting MC Hammer from boom boxes cradled on your shoulders when you reconvene at the legislative assembly.



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