Genital surgery isn't required for a man to be legally recognized as a woman, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says.
Under current law, anyone who wants a change in sex designation on his or her birth certificate must first produce a certificate signed by two medical practitioners affirming that "transsexual surgery" was carried out.
In a decision issued on April 11, the human rights tribunal said the Ontario government must now drop that requirement.
The government has 180 days to "revise the criteria for changing sex designation on a birth registration, up to the point of undue hardship, so as to remove the discriminatory effect of the current system on transgendered persons," wrote Sheri Price, a vice-chair for the tribunal.
The government is "reviewing the decision," said Ciaran Ganley, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Government Services. He did not provide any further details.
The tribunal's decision stems from a complainant, referred to as XY, who had the testes removed in February 2008. The complainant successfully applied to have the gender designation on the birth certificate changed, despite still having a penis.
The province approved the complainant's application to officially make "female" the sex designation, because the two doctors who had signed the certificate found the procedure sufficiently satisfied the requirement for "transsexual surgery."
Lobby group 'thrilled' with ruling
The fact the government allowed the change of the sex designation to female despite the fact XY wasn't a woman anatomically "suggests that the change in sex designation is about changing the birth certificate to accord with something other than mere anatomical sex, namely a broader notion of sex which includes gender identity," Price wrote.
XY was angry that surgery was needed to be legally recognized as a woman, and contended current laws infringe on the right to equal treatment without discrimination. XY said the current practices discriminated against transgender people and there are less invasive ways to reflect the change.
Price concurred that the current laws resulted in "distinct and disadvantageous treatment" of the complainant.
The Toronto-based Trans Lobby Group said in a statement it was "thrilled" with the ruling.
"Requiring sexual reassignment surgery is differential treatment based upon a personal characteristic, that is, that trans people are treated differently, and face harassment and discrimination when their legal documents do not match how they present in their everyday lives." said Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Lobby Group.