Sask. parents push province to erase gender from birth certificates
'If you remove it, it puts everybody on an equal playing field,' says parent of non-binary teen
Saskatchewan's Dustin Dyck believes his teen, Jordyn, might have been spared some of the bullying faced on a near daily basis had gender not have been listed on the 14-year-old's birth certificate.
Jordyn identifies as "agender" or "non-binary," meaning the pronoun "they" is preferred and they do not identify as a boy or girl.
As the teen's father, Dyck is one of three families involved in a case against the Saskatchewan government on behalf of trans or non-binary children to erase gender markers — the M of F — from birth certificates.
After years of waiting, a hearing has been set for Monday at 10 a.m. at the Court of Queen's Bench.
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"Young kids are identifying as something as other than cisgender or identifying as something other than the gender they were born," said Dyck, who also chairs the Trans Umbrella Foundation.
"Those kids are hurting themselves because they're not able to change their gender marker."
Gender is 'archaic'
Saskatoon parent Fran Forsberg first filed a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission four years ago on behalf of her now nine-year-old child, Renn.
The province's Vital Statistics Agency had refused to change the child's sex designation from "Male" to "Female" on Renn's birth records even though the child is transgender.
Forsberg said there's also been issues when it comes to the ID issued to Renn's brother, Tana, 12, who identifies as two-spirited and gender-fluid.
"It doesn't state who they truly are," she said of the children's IDs.
Forsberg said that gender itself is "archaic" and doesn't belong to any official identifications for anyone, period.
"We are doing this to make the world a safer place for kids, to educate people, to educate our government," she said.
"It's going to start a conversation about gender and acceptable of people that are different than ourselves."
David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Forsberg's case deserves to be heard by a Court of Queen's Bench judge. An application for a hearing on that specific complaint must be filed by July 31.
He said there's reasonable grounds for a judge to rule that in Forsberg's case for Renn, gender signifiers violate her child's rights.
Arnot said the hearing process is still in the early stages and couldn't speculate on what impact a court ruling could mean for the province.
He said the case is nuanced because identifying gender on birth certificates doesn't necessarily violate everybody's rights.
"Some trans people may prefer to have the gender mark changed on their ID, so for instance from an M to an F … rather than remove it altogether."
Dyck said their family was pushed to join Forsberg's efforts in a joint complaint because of the bullying Jordyn was experiencing, which included harassment about whether they were a boy or a girl.
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"If there was a different letter on their ID or lack of letter in their case, people couldn't ask, 'Are you a boy or a girl,' 'cause you could actually show them," said Dyck.
"If you remove it, it puts everybody on an equal playing field and if everybody's equal then there's no room for bullying, right?"
Dyck said Jordyn has attempted suicide multiple times and missed this past year of Grade 9, as well as considerable parts of Grade 8. The 14-year-old will begin a new school in the fall and hopes things will be better.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of transgender youth have attempted suicide.
"I don't think it should be necessary for a judge to [be] needed because you should just be able to be who you are," said Jordyn Dyck.
These local families are not alone in their efforts to erase gender from IDs.
- Parent fights to omit gender on B.C. child's birth certificate
- It's a ... non-binary infant? Toronto couple wants genderless identify cards for all
Recently, a baby in British Columbia was issued what is believed to be the first genderless health card, displaying a U instead of an an M or F.
Parent Kori Doty has applied for a judicial review to keep their infant's gender off all official records.
With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen