British Columbia

Parent fights to omit gender on B.C. child's birth certificate

A parent in B.C.'s Slocan Valley is fighting to omit their child's sex on their birth certificate as part of a broader effort to keep anyone's gender from being included on government documents.

Judicial review is part of a broader effort not to include gender on any government documents

Kori Doty identifies as neither male nor female, and wants their child to be able to do the same. (Skype)

A parent in B.C.'s Slocan Valley is fighting to omit their child's sex on their birth certificate as part of a broader effort to keep gender from being included on government documents. 

Kori Doty gave birth to Searyl Atli at a friend's home last November. Doty, a non-binary trans parent who doesn't identify as either male or female, (and prefers to use the pronoun they), wants to keep Searyl's gender off all official records. 

"I'm raising Searyl in such a way that until they have the sense of self and command of vocabulary to tell me who they are, I'm recognizing them as a baby and trying to give them all the love and support to be the most whole person that they can be outside of the restrictions that come with the boy box and the girl box," Doty said.

Doty says the province is refusing to issue Searyl a birth certificate with no gender on it, although last month the province did acquiesce and send out the child's health card with a "U" for gender, presumably for "undetermined" or "unassigned," so they could access medical services.

According to Doty's lawyer, barbara findlay (who doesn't spell her name with capital letters), B.C. birth certificates currently only accommodate a male or female gender designation.

Some provinces, like Ontario and Alberta, are currently reviewing their policies to include a third, non-binary gender option on the documents. 

But Doty, a member of the Gender-Free ID Coalition, has taken that argument one step further and applied for a judicial review to not include any gender identification on Searyl's birth certificate.

Human rights case

The same argument is being presented as part of a case currently in front of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, of which Doty is one of eight complainants wanting to change their own certificates. 

The omission, Doty and the group argue, should apply to all government documents for everyone in B.C. and Canada.

Doty says a visual inspection at birth can't accurately determine what sex or gender that person will have or identify with for the rest of their life — whether it's because they have both male and female genitals, as is the case with intersex individuals or because they don't identify with the gender they present, as is the case with transgender or non-binary persons. 

Feeling contrary to the gender one is assigned at birth and having to then change government documents later in life, Doty argues, is often a difficult process. They feel that omitting any form of gender identification on government documents would reduce that stress. 

"When I was born, doctors looked at my genitals and made assumptions about who I would be, and those assignments followed me and followed my identification throughout my life," Doty said.

"Those assumptions were incorrect, and I ended up having to do a lot of adjustments since then."

Assigning gender at birth is a violation of a child's human rights to freely express their gender identity, Doty argues. Earlier this year, the province and the federal government passed bills to include "gender identity and expression" in the Human Rights Code.

Adding a third option

As for any concerns about Searyl's ability to acquire other government documents that also require gender designation, like a passport or driver's licence, Doty says other groups are working towards changing those as well. 

Currently, countries like Australia, Pakistan, Nepal and Canada are working towards creating a new gender designation for passports. Doty doesn't think adding a third option is ideal,but says it's a viable alternative given international challenges.

A third, non-binary gender option can single out those who use them, Doty says, and can make them targets of discrimination and hate crimes. 

According to findlay, Doty's lawyer, one argument governments often use against omitting gender on official documents is the need to keep gender data as part of their vital statistics.

But findlay says the coalition isn't arguing to forgo collecting those statistics — it just wants them collected anonymously, as Statistics Canada does with its census data and not link them to government documents or a person's identity. 

"Certainly, our culture is obsessed with [a baby is] a boy or a girl, but the government doesn't have any business certifying that information when they don't know it to be true," findlay said.

Next steps for Doty include setting a date for the judicial review.

But like any parent, they also include the more day-to-day variety of watching their child learn to crawl, find out what foods they like, and "doing all of the things that anyone does with an eight-month-old baby."

"I want my kid to have all of the space to be the most whole and complete person that they can be," Doty said.