Manitoba wants to make it easier for transgender people to change their records to reflect their new gender.
The minister responsible for the Vital Statistics Act, Ron Lemieux, said proposed changes he introduced Friday mean transgender Manitobans will not have to undergo surgery to change the sexual designation on documents such as birth certificates, health cards or marriage certificates.
Lemieux said governments across Canada, including Manitoba, are working to address what he called an issue of basic human rights.
"In our case, removing the requirement for transexual surgery to change sexual designation on government documents is really an issue basic fairness," he said.
Lemieux said the proposed changes will make it easier and more acceptable for transgender people.
"Most Manitobans would say, 'Why would someone have to go through surgery and have all kinds of surgical procedures?' Not only are they expensive, but indeed, could be extremely painful, to go through all of that, just to change their official records," he said.
Instead of having transsexual surgery, a person would make a statutory declaration and provide the written support of a health-care professional.
Lemieux said changes made to records under provincial jurisdiction would end up on documentation under federal laws, such as passports and driver's licences.
Ontario is the only other province that does not require surgery for a person's sexual designation to be changed.
Transgender community welcomes changes
One Manitoba teen undergoing changes to become male is thrilled with the province's move.
Porsh Lachance was born female and is undergoing changes to become male.
"I was really excited about it, since I'm only 16 I'm not going to be getting my surgeries until I'm 18, most likely," the 16 year old said. "And plus, changing your gender is going to be a lot less expensive than having to get the surgery."
Xavier Raddysh, 18, is also in the process of becoming male and applauds the news.
"Its comforting, definitely getting into surgery and getting all the appointments done is going to take a lot longer than it would be to go to an office, fill out some forms," Raddysh said.
Lachance said as it is, it's tough to use documents that don't reflect who you are.
"Feeling disgusted about yourself, that people are thinking you're someone that you're not and you just want to be known for who you really are," he said.
Both Lachance and Raddysh identify as male and are taking testosterone and waiting for mastectomies.
Raddysh said a lot is riding on one letter on documents, M or F.
"Even though it's just a letter, it still does a lot of damage because I'm not what my passport says I am," he said.
Ashley Smith, a nurse at Klinic Community Health Centre who works with transgender clients, said the province is taking a big step forward.
"It eliminates a major barrier for patients and recognizes that not all individuals are required to have surgery for their transition because that isn't the case for everyone," she said.
The Manitoba government hopes there is unanimous support for the bill.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives said they haven't read the bill yet and have no comment.