Saskatchewan

Some gender diverse people say new option to leave sex field blank on Sask. ID a complicated decision

Saskatchewan Government Insurance’s new option to leave the "sex" field blank on driver's licences and photo identification cards has some members of the province’s gender diverse community weighing the pros and cons.

Residents can now get their photo IDs updated for free at any licence issuer

Saskatchewan Government Insurance’s new option allows people to leave the ‘sex’ field blank on driver's licences and photo identification cards. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

When Miki Mappin looked down almost a decade ago to see a long-awaited "F" for female on her driver's licence, she remembers rushing to post a picture of it on social media in excitement.

After much back-and-forth with government officials to have her sex designation changed, it offered the Saskatoon transgender woman and LGBTQ+ activist a sense of validation.

"It was great. I felt so happy and proud," Mappin said, recalling the event during an interview with CBC News on Tuesday.

Now, Saskatchewan Government Insurance has announced it will allow people to leave the sex designation blank on their driver's licence or SGI-issued photo identification card should they so choose. 

The move comes in the wake of a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission complaint and after feedback from customers that the "X" designation for "unspecified" — which roughly 300 residents currently use — didn't resonate with everyone, said SGI spokesperson Heather Hubic. 

SGI began offering the unspecified 'X' marker under the sex designation on its identification cards in 2019. (Submitted by SGI)

"We heard from members of our community who said they'd prefer the option of no letter, so — in consultation with the human rights commission — we've now been able to put the resources and processes in place for us to leave that spot entirely blank," Hubic said.

Any Saskatchewan resident can now make the change to their identification at no cost at any licence issuer in the province. Documentation is not required.

Creating conversations

Morgan Moats, chair of UR Pride in Regina, is among those in Saskatchewan who plan to update their driver's licence as soon as they can.

As a non-binary person — someone who doesn't identify as either male or female — Moats says an empty space offers them more safety than an "X" because it leaves room for fewer questions.

"An 'X' says, 'I'm not a man or a woman,' whereas the blank says, 'It's none of your business,'" Moats said. 

"Some people might feel more affirmed to have no sex on the card at all … because 'none of your business' is much better than 'I am transgender' when you're showing your ID to whoever has to see it."

Morgan Moats, chair of UR Pride in Regina who identifies as non-binary, plans to update their driver’s licence with a blank sex designation, after years of living with a marker that doesn’t represent who they are. (Morgan Moats/Facebook)

For Mappin — who fought so hard to have the sex designation changed on her driver's licence — the idea of taking that off is complicated.

"There's just the validation. If someone says, 'Oh, you're not a woman!', you can say, 'You know, I am — here's my driver's licence!' Mappin said. "But we really shouldn't need to have our driver's licence to prove our gender or our sex."

Mappin hopes that this change from SGI will lead one day to the sex designation being removed from everyone's photo identification.

Miki Mappin, a Saskatoon transgender woman and LGBTQ+ activist, says she’s still undecided on whether to keep the ‘F’ sex designation on her driver’s licence after having to fight for the marker almost a decade ago. (CBC)

Meanwhile, Moats fears leaving the marker off completely could take away from much-needed discussions.

"Saying there's no gender isn't going to stop someone from having a gender; it's just going to change the conversations and maybe stifle them," they said, noting this new option creates room for dialogue.

"People who are confused or uninformed can maybe take a moment to go, 'Why do we even need this?' And hopefully there's someone in their life who can respond with, 'So that people can be safe and comfortable and authentically themselves.'"

A move in solidarity

In 2019, when SGI brought in the "X" sex designation, Mitchel Sherar was among the first to make the switch.

Now, after hearing that he'll be able to leave that marker blank on his licence, the cisgender Regina father quickly decided he'd make the change again in solidarity with the gender diverse community.

"To me, you're not defined by your sex or your gender — it's irrelevant," he said, acknowledging that for some people, having the designation offers a sense of affirmation.

As a teacher with two young children at home, Sherar says that he's mindful of how LGBTQ+ youth are affected when they aren't supported and he hopes his move as an ally shows them they are.

"Whether it's my kids or someone else's kids, I don't want how they identify to possibly be a death sentence," he said. "I've never had to worry about my identity being validated … and it's quite a humbling experience to look into it more and realize that."

Moats says they appreciate the idea of more people — regardless of how they identify themselves — choosing to opt for the blank sex designation on their photo identification. Moats equates it to more people having their pronouns in their email signatures or social media biographies.

"I love it," they said. "The more people who do it, the more normalized it is — and the more normalized it is, the less people are going to be harmed."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessie Anton is a Regina-based journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She began sharing stories from across the province on television, radio and online in 2016, after getting her start in the rural weekly newspaper world. Email her: jessie.anton@cbc.ca.

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