As non-binary filmmaker prepares to apply, Ontario says they are 'developing' gender neutral birth certificate

On Friday, Ontario-born filmmaker and writer Joshua M. Ferguson will apply for a new birth certificate that identifies the 34-year-old as non-binary — but the Ontario government might not be ready to grant it.

Joshua M. Ferguson applies for new birth certificate Friday — but success isn’t guaranteed

Writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson uses the pronouns they, them, and their to reflect their gender identity as a non-binary trans person. They will apply for a non-binary birth certificate on Friday. (Preston Emerson)

On Friday, Ontario-born filmmaker and writer Joshua M. Ferguson will apply for a new birth certificate that identifies the 34-year-old as non-binary. 

The issue? The Government of Ontario might not be ready to grant it.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services indicated that the government is in the process of "developing" a gender neutral birth certificate, but offered no dates as to when people could begin successfully applying for one.

Because the birth certificate is the foundation for many other forms of identification, "we need to make sure we get it right for Ontarians," wrote provincial spokesperson Harry Malhi in an email to the CBC.

Malhi also said that the province would be using lessons learned from a recent consultation with trans and non-binary people to inform future policy options for birth certificates.

Ferguson, who identifies as neither male nor female and uses the pronoun they, told CBC Toronto the move to apply was driven by both personal and activist reasons.

Joshua M. Ferguson (right) is born in Ontario but now resides with their partner Florian Halbedl (left) in Vancouver. Ferguson says that a gender-neutral birth certificate will help combat the "alienation" non-binary people can feel in Canadian society. (Joshua M. Ferguson)

They'll have to wait up to six weeks to find out if the document will be granted.

Driver's licenses, health cards already have option

A third birth certificate option is part of a larger shift taking place in the way the province grants identification documents.

"Ontario has already changed the way it displays information about a person's sex on health cards and driver's licences to make it easier for people to have documents that align with their gender identity," said Malhi.

The same conversation is also happening at the federal level, with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould saying in early May that the government will soon provide Canadians with another option besides "male" or "female" to tick off on their passports.

"The introduction of a gender-neutral, non-binary, option on legal documentation in Canada will allow me and others to turn this alienation we often feel into a realized place in society," wrote Ferguson in a statement about their application.