P.E.I. transgender community applauds ID changes

Some people in P.E.I.'s transgender community are applauding the MacLauchlan government's move this week to make it easier for Islanders to change their gender on official documents.

'P.E.I. has definitely come a long way ... to be more accepting and supportive of trans people'

Jesse Macmillan says the transgender community is 'very happy' about the government's planned changes. (Submitted by Jesse Macmillan)

Some people in P.E.I.'s transgender community are applauding the MacLauchlan government's move this week to make it easier for Islanders to change their gender on official documents. 

The government tabled a bill to amend the Vital Statistics Act, requiring people only to declare the gender they identify with and have a letter from a doctor. Sex-reassignment surgery will no longer be necessary

"I think it's a very good step in the right direction. We're all very happy about it," Jesse Macmillan, a newly-minted member of the board of directors of Pride P.E.I., told CBC News.

[P.E.I. is] definitely trying to be more accepting and supportive of trans people.- Jesse Macmillan

"It's one of the barriers that was in the way that made it difficult for trans people to really be themselves," Macmillan said, noting that sex-reassignment surgery is very expensive and the closest place to have it done is in Montreal. Not all transgender people even need or want surgery below the belt.

Third category

Macmillan, a 22-year-old UPEI journalism student who is transitioning from female to male, would like to see the government eventually take the extra step of adding a third gender category for those who don't identify as either male or female. Such people sometimes call themselves gender-fluid, genderqueer or non-binary. 

Macmillan has quite a few friends in Charlottetown who fall into a third category, he said. Instead of referring to those people as he or she, they prefer the pronoun they. 

Macmillan uses testosterone therapy and last summer had a double mastectomy, after the province announced it would fund three surgeries for gender reassignment surgery including mastectomies, hysterectomies, and orchiectomies — or testicle removal.

Everything went smoothly with the surgery and Macmillan said he was treated well at the Q.E.H. He's looking forward to going shirtless at the beach this summer, and plans to get tattoos to cover any lingering scars. 

Health PEI does not know how many Islanders have had surgeries for sex-reassignment purposes, as they do not track the reason a patient gets a surgery, officials said. 

P.E.I. has 'come a long way'

"Maybe I'm just lucky, I don't know, but I feel like P.E.I. has definitely come a long way and they're definitely trying to be more accepting and supportive of trans people," Macmillan said, noting his coming-out as trans a few years ago in high school also went surprisingly well. 

He plans to change his government identification right away — something he's wanted for a while. 

There have been seven requests in the last two years from people wanting to change their IDs, said officials in Premier Wade MacLauchlan's office, and they anticipate the number will increase with the changes.

In December 2013, P.E.I. passed legislation to include "gender identity" and "gender expression" in its Human Rights Act.