Changing gender markers on ID can be a challenge

Comedian Lara Rae embarks on a journey to change what is commonly called a 'gender marker' — the gender identified on her birth certificate. And she discovers that because she was born outside Canada, it's not a simple process.

Changing birth certificate a 'Kafkaesque' process for U.K.-born Lara Rae

Transgender activist Kyra Rees won a 2015 court battle to have the gender marker on her identification changed to the gender she identifies with. It's a relatively simple process in some jurisdictions, but can be complicated for those born outside Canada. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

Comedian and Winnipeg Comedy Festival artistic director Lara Rae has been charting her gender transition journey on CBC Radio One and online.

In her final column, Lara embarks on a journey to change the gender marker on her birth certificate and other ID.

Here in Manitoba, where I live, the province no longer requires you to have undergone gender reassignment surgery before you can change the gender on your birth certificate.

This is a relief, as surgery is not an option for some transpeople.

In many Canadian jurisdictions, the process of changing the gender marker on all your identification begins with changing your birth certificate.

Once done, it will read that I was born female. Medically, this is sound, as my brain registered my gender as female as soon as I was conscious of gender — around the age of two-and-a-half. My earliest memories are of being distressed by my maleness at age four.

If I was born here in Winnipeg, changing my birth certificate would be easy — a process taking a mere three months or so.

A Kafkaesque call to the U.K.

But I was born in Glasgow, so I have to change my marker in the U.K., and provide some medical documents from Manitoba.

But alas, the information the U.K. gives me is outdated. Namely, I'm told I need to wait until after I have gender reassignment surgery before I can change my marker.

And so the long distance phone calls begin, to the Orwellian-sounding "Gender Recognition Panel."

The woman on the phone is pleasant, but when I let her know the info on the U.K. website needs a simple update, the call turns Kafkaesque.

She tells me the only way to change the information would be to contact a member of Parliament to take it to the secretary of state. 

She then tells me I'll need medical reports from British doctors — they won't accept reports from a Canadian doctor, she says.

There's a reason the novel Catch-22 will never go out of print.

I'm joking on the outside, but the call has left me utterly despondent. To go through another battery of invasive medical questions after 10 months is heartbreaking.

Still, I will try to remain cheerful and keep my sense of humour. And maybe one day, the law will recognize what I have known since I was four years old — that I'm a female.

About the Author

Lara Rae


Lara Rae is a stand-up comic, comedy writer and the former artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.