BC Government: Not discrimination to have gender markers on birth certificates

“The government claims the right to be wrong, knowing it is trans and intersex people who have to bear the burden of their mistake,”

says Kori Doty, one of eight trans and intersex complainants in a human rights case to have birth certificates issued without “m” or “f”.

Yesterday, the BC government filed a response in the case of Cunningham v Vital Statistics Agency.  In their Response, the Ministry of Health is stating that putting gender markers on birth certificates, is not discriminatory.

“The government knows that the current system of designating gender at birth for a document that follows you throughout life is predictably incorrect for many trans and intersex people. The government knows exactly how much hardship and danger these systems can cause in our lives. It is thoroughly disappointing that they are choosing to ignore this, while fully aware of the risk of harm that this choice leaves on those impacted”

says Doty.

Doctors assign the sex of a baby as “m” or “f” based on an inspection of the baby’s genitals at birth.  This assigned sex is recorded in the birth registry of the Vital Statistics Agency.  When a Birth Certificate is issued, it contains the gender marker “m” or “f”. Science now knows that one’s gender is determined by one’s innate sense of themselves.  That is called ‘gender identity’.  One’s gender identity may or may not “match” one’s genitalia. and one’s gender identity does not develop for years after birth. Some people have a gender identity that is neither “m” nor “f”.  Some people labelled “m” identify as female; and some labelled “f” identify as male.

So: the doctor assigning “m” or “f” is sometimes wrong.

The birth certificate based on the doctor’s guess is also sometimes wrong.

Misgendering identity documents contributes to the severe mistreatment and discrimination that trans and intersex people experience.

“We’re not saying we want gender taken off all ID. What we are saying is that when you assign sex at birth, you will get it wrong in some of the cases. Until you can ask someone what their gender is, you cannot know it. Getting it wrong discriminates against trans and intersex people”

says Felix Gilliland, one of the Complainants. The Complaints say that putting “m” or f” on birth certificates is a violation of privacy and inexcusably exposes trans and intersex people to harm.

Milan Halikowski, a 13 year old Complainant says “Having a gender marker on my birth certificate has directly impacted my life in a negative way. It has caused my exclusion and bullying in sports, school and in my daily life. I thought the government’s job was to help keep kids safe and the current policy puts us at risk.”

The Complainants are now waiting on the BC Human Rights Tribunal to set a date for Hearing.

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