X marks the spot: Gemma Hickey breaks new ground with gender-neutral birth certificate

Transgender activist Gemma Hickey received a new birth certificate today. Hickey is not listed as female or male on the certificate, but rather as X.

Hickey's court challenge of N.L. policy sparked change in Vital Statistics Act

Gemma Hickey is breaking new ground in Newfoundland and Labrador and can't help smiling. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Gemma Hickey woke up Thursday knowing that the day would likely make history. 

Hickey was about to receive a new birth certificate — one where birth information is listed neither as female or male, but rather as X. 

Gemma Hickey's gender, previously F, is now marked as X.

It makes the day just as enormous as the birthday Hickey celebrated in October.

I'm telling everyone that I'm having two birthdays.- Gemma Hickey

"Now I'm telling everyone that I'm having two birthdays. Today will be my second birthday. And we're certainly going to celebrate tonight for sure." 

The transgender activist does not identify exclusively as male or female, and wanted a birth certificate to reflect that. 

Changing the Vital Statistics Act

To that end, Hickey filed an application in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in June 2017.

The goal of the application was to challenge the Vital Statistics Act in Newfoundland and Labrador via both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But the provincial government has since made changes to the act.

Thursday morning, Hickey made a brief stop at Supreme Court in St. John's to withdraw the application, then drove to the Vital Statistics office in nearby Mount Pearl.

Gemma Hickey is believed to be the first person in Newfoundland and Labrador to be identified as gender-neutral on a birth certificate. (Ramona Dearing/CBC)

As an official handed over the new birth certificate, Hickey studied it for several moments.

"I'm finally taking my life back and my body is my own, no matter what's happened to it."

The old birth certificate listed Hickey as female. 

NL a 'leader in terms of human rights'

It's believed to be the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador that a person has been identified as gender-neutral on a birth certificate. 

Hickey is particularly happy that people over the age of 16 no longer need a note from a doctor to be marked non-binary on a birth certificate and believes it is a huge step for young people who are struggling. 

"This province has proved itself as a leader in terms of human rights," said Hickey. "And I couldn't be happier than I am today." 

People applying for a birth certificate in Newfoundland and Labrador now have a third gender option. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Information about a baby's sex will still be collected at birth. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 who want to be listed as gender-neutral on birth certificates will need parental consent. 

Hickey claims to have received half a dozen or so death threats on social media since pushing for gender-neutral birth certificates.

The threats are reported to the police, and as a long-time activist on numerous issues, Hickey has received other threats in the past. 

A gender-neutral passport is one of the next steps. Hickey is also at work on a book. 


Ramona Dearing has worked as a reporter, host and producer at CBC's St. John's bureau.