Ministry contacting WestJet over outing of transgender passenger

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau has instructed his staff to contact WestJet after a passenger said one of the airline's gate agents outed her as a transgender woman to other passengers on her flight.

'All passengers must feel safe to be themselves,' says Transport Canada spokeperson

Lenore Herrem said a WestJet agent outed her as a trans woman in front of the other passengers on her Calgary-to-Saskatoon flight. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press, Supplied by Lenore Herrem)

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau has instructed his staff to contact WestJet after a passenger said one of the airline's gate agents outed her as a transgender woman to other passengers on her flight.

"When the incident was first reported, the Minister instructed his office to get in contact with WestJet so that measures are taken to prevent this type of incident from reoccurring," said spokesperson Delphine Denis, in an emailed statement.

Lenore Herrem was flying from Calgary to Saskatoon last week when she says the gate agent expressed confusion while checking her ID and boarding pass. 

Herrem's gender presentation is female, but her gender on her Quebec health-care card is marked as male. The accompanying five-year-old photo on the ID card also presents as male. But the name on both her ID and boarding pass matched.

One of the agents was confused over the male ID, but Herrem said she quietly explained that she was transgender, hence the discrepancy. 

"My face is the same and my ID matches the name on my boarding pass," Herrem said.

She boarded the plane, but shortly both gate agents boarded and the agent who had been confused again demanded her ID.

"She said something like, 'Oh, that's not the name I remember seeing on the computer when I looked at it,' and she started spouting off different, other women's names that were not mine," Herrem recalled.

"She rolled her eyes at me and said, 'Are you sure it wasn't your girl name that was on the computer?' … She outed me in front of the whole airplane."

Company has apologized

WestJet has since apologized to Herrem. The company is investigating and also provided her with a credit for her flight. 

Outing a transgender person against their will can put them in a dangerous or threatening situation and can have significant impacts on their mental health, according to the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust website, a non-profit group that works to improve the lives of LGBT people. 

"Canadians are proud of our country's diversity and inclusion. Minister [Marc] Garneau strongly believes that all passengers must feel safe to be themselves when travelling and is very upset about this incident," Denis said.

About the Author

Sarah Rieger

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Sarah Rieger worked in digital media developing social strategies for non-profit organizations and writing and editing online news, before she joined CBC Calgary as an online journalist in 2017. You can reach her by email at sarah.rieger@cbc.ca.