PEI

P.E.I. government 'open to exploring more changes' for gender ID on paperwork

The P.E.I. government says it is open to exploring changes to government-issued identification, and is already doing so in some cases.

'It's a great step in the right direction'

Ontario's first non-binary birth certificate was issued this spring to Joshua Ferguson. P.E.I. says it is 'paying close attention to the work being done in other provinces.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The P.E.I. government says it is open to exploring changes to government-issued identification, and is already doing so in some cases. 

This week, the Nova Scotia government added a third gender option of "X" on the province's birth certificates — those who don't exclusively identify as male or female can choose the X. This follows the lead of Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

If I had an 'X' on my passport, what would this mean if I show it to a border guard? Would I be safe?— Russell Louder

"We have been providing options for an 'X' or leaving sex blank on other Vital Statistics paperwork like marriage certificates," said Adam Peters with P.E.I. Vital Statistics in an emailed statement.

"We are open to exploring more changes like this that would be responsive to the needs of Islanders. We are paying close attention to the work being done in other provinces on this topic," Peters added.

'Great step'

Members of P.E.I.'s transgender community have mixed reactions to the idea of an "X" option on birth certificates and other documentation.

'I think it's a great step in the right direction,' says Cybelle Rieber of P.E.I.'s PEERS Alliance, of Nova Scotia's decision to offer a third gender option. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

"I think it's a great step in the right direction," said Cybelle Rieber of PEERS Alliance, previously AIDS P.E.I., which supports the LGBT community with programs and services. 

"Having people be able to be accurately and adequately represented in their identity on their own identification is essential." 

Having official documentation reflect that there are more than two genders, and that some people identify as neither or as both, reinforces and sends a message that government and institutions believe and respect those identities, Rieber said. 

'I think it would be great if P.E.I. chose to follow suit,' says Cybelle Rieber of PEERS Alliance. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"I think it would be great if P.E.I. chose to follow suit," she said. 

PEERS Alliance brought up the issue with P.E.I.'s health minister in the spring along with the P.E.I. Transgender Network, a group that formed last year to support and lobby for the community. Rieber said they both plan to meet with the minister again soon to discuss the issue. 

Could make trans people a 'target'

Russell Louder is a P.E.I.-based musician and non-binary transgender Islander, and uses the pronoun "they" rather than he or she. Louder is also a member of the P.E.I. Transgender Network. 

Having one's gender validated in legal documentation is important to many people who identify as non-binary or transgender. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"I think non-binary folks having their genders validated in legal documentation is incredibly important, and seeing it happen on P.E.I. would be fantastic in many ways," Louder said. "It would set an administrative standard of gender inclusion, which would bring the conversation around how trans [and] non-binary folks have been systemically erased and invalidated, and where we can go from here."

Gender is a rainbow, and we live in a world of black and white. Adding one shade of green isn't the answer.— Mother of non-binary child

However, Louder said even though they want gender-inclusive options to be available on legal documents, they will not be jumping on the opportunity to change their legal sex option to "X" any time soon.

"As someone with a job that requires me to travel constantly (sometimes internationally), is the current wind shift of the international political climate and what that means for trans and non-binary folks when traveling through a country that may not have the most progressive views towards them," Louder said. 

"I can't help but wonder: If I had an 'X' on my passport, what would this mean if I show it to a border guard? Would I be safe? Too often trans and non-binary folks are forced to make the trade-off between validation and potentially becoming a walking target," Louder said.

'Inherently negative'

There are also some in the trans community who believe the best possible case would be to allow citizens not to check a box at all. 

'I, personally, will not be jumping on the opportunity to change my legal sex option to "X" any time soon,' says P.E.I.-based musician Russell Louder. (Romeo Bleu)

"The 'X' designation is inherently negative. It indicates that the individual is neither male nor female," said the mother of a P.E.I. child who doesn't identify with their assigned gender. CBC has agreed not to publish the mother's identity to protect her child's privacy.

"It can reinforce a person's status as a minority. And, though there are some people who do identify as having no gender, the 'X' negates the identities of people who see themselves as a combination of both, or fluid. 

"Gender is a rainbow, and we live in a world of black and white. Adding one shade of green isn't the answer."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca

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