Inside Politics

Rule creates fear of flying for transgendered

Boarding a plane is more inconvenient than it used to be, but most of us do it without thinking: show your government issued photo ID and find your seat.

For transgendered people, it's a different story. Relatively new regulations adopted by Transport Canada state that no-one can board an airplane if "the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents."

Christin Milloy flew into the U.S. days ago. She says she actually got on a plane even though her ID says she's male. Although she appears as a young attractive woman, she still somewhat resembles her old photo: "Whether the regulation's being adhered to, or not, the regulation is wrong, and to say that (because) no-one is actually following it makes it OK is a bit of twisted logic."

mi-zelda.jpgFlying is out of the question for Zelda Marshall, who describes herself as "bi-gendered". (Zelda Marshall is the female name she uses; she doesn't want to reveal her male name or photo).

When travelling to Toronto for a conference, Marshall would rather be in her female identity.

And, as Zelda there is no way she resembles her photo ID. Zelda is biologically male, is known as a male at work, and is married to a woman.

"I don't have hair as a male. Having hair makes me different already, and make-up, absolutely!"

Zelda concedes that she could fly using her male identity.

NDP MP Randall Garrison suspects the new regulation was born out of "fear of men in burkas."

However, if his private member's bill passes, it would enshrine gender identity and gender expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and would likely force Transport Canada to change its gender regulation.

Photo: Zelda Marshall says flying is impossible in her female persona. (Erik Fauré photo)

A virtually similar bill to Garrison's was passed by the House of Commons last session, with 5 Conservative MPs, including two cabinet ministers (James Moore and Lawrence Cannon), among those voting for it. But that bill died on the Order Paper when the election was called.

In the meantime, Transport Canada doesn't think there's much of a problem.

According to a spokesperson: "Any passenger whose physical appearance does not correspond to their identification can continue to board an airplane by supplying a letter from a heath care professional explaining the discrepancy. We have no records of any individual being denied boarding in Canada because they are transgender or transsexual."

But Zelda Marshall doesn't think a medical certificate would be issued in her case, since she has "no desire to go under the knife."

ChristinBlogPhoto.jpgChristin Milloy flat out refuses to provide proof of surgical transition. "My genitalia is none of the government's business."

Other countries might show the way. Australians can mark their passports with an M, an F, or an X, for "intersexual" -- people who are not entirely male or female. And in the U.S., transgendered people can change the gender on their passports without having to prove that they've had a sex-change operation.

Randall Garrison, who used to teach before he entered politics, wonders why it matters here.

Photo: Christin Milloy says it's none of the government's business whether she has had an operation. (ChrisMilloy.ca)

"Some of my students were quite androgynous. It took me a while as an instructor to realize that it doesn't matter, why do I have to know what gender they are?"

Correction/Clarification:
This blog post has been edited from an earlier version to remove a reference to Christin Milloy's surgical status. In fact, Christin Milloy did not provide information regarding her surgical status.

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