N.L. activist receives one of Canada's first gender-neutral passports

With a history-making passport in hand, Gemma Hickey went to a history-making destination.

'We exist and we're here,' says Hickey

Gemma Hickey picked up their gender-neutral passport Oct. 5. (Submitted by Gemma Hickey)

When Gemma Hickey received one of Canada's first gender-neutral passports, they naturally planned a trip.

And with an LGTB history-making document in hand, they planned a trip to an LGTB history-making spot: the Frankfurter Engel, a memorial to gay people persecuted and executed by the Nazis.

"My eyes filled up with tears … thinking about how far we'd come as a province and as a country," Hickey said.

"Feeling like I was a part of that was a really big moment for me."

The government of Canada began issuing gender-neutral passports Aug. 31. It's the first North American country to do so, and joins a handful of other countries across the globe offering the option, including Denmark, Germany and Australia.

"I was first in line," Hickey told The St. John's Morning Show.

'Triumphant and wonderful'

Hickey, who doesn't identify as a male or a female and uses the pronoun "they," picked up the passport Oct. 5. There was a slight delay since they'd surrendered their old birth certificate in favour a new, gender-neutral one, which also made history: it's believed to be the first gender-neutral birth certificate ever issued in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

They said the moment was "triumphant and wonderful," and that everybody at the Service Canada office was "very proud" to be part of it.

The passport allows Hickey to identify their gender as "X," which they say is a common symbol for people who don't identify with the male or female gender.

Hickey's new passport allows them to select "X" as their gender. (Submitted by Gemma Hickey)

'We exist and we're here'

A gender-neutral passport means a lot for a number of reasons, Hickey said.

When trans or non-binary people look different from the gender on their documentation, things can get "uncomfortable" with airport staff and security, they said.

Gemma Hickey says the gender-neutral passports affords transgender travellers the same rights as everyone else. (Paula Gale/CBC)

But Hickey said there were no problems at all during the trip to Europe with the gender-neutral document in hand.

"It means a lot to people who are transgender to have their identification cards match how they identify and it certainly makes a difference with how people see you and how people treat you."

It also affords non-binary travellers the same rights as male and female travellers.

"We exist and we're here and we deserve the same rights as everyone else."

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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