Opinion Column


Duel: Remove gender on docs

By Petr Pospisil

Morgane Oger, Trans Alliance Society chair, is pushing for changes to B.C. birth certificates.
(Stefania Seccia, 24 hours)

Morgane Oger, Trans Alliance Society chair, is pushing for changes to B.C. birth certificates. (Stefania Seccia, 24 hours)


This week’s topic: Should government remove gender identification from birth certificates?

Governments have made several changes to North American birth certificates over the past century. As society advanced, it became clear that designations such as “coloured” or “legitimate” promoted discrimination.

A Vancouver group representing transgender and intersex individuals has filed a petition with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. They ask for the removal of gender from British Columbia birth certificates. Despite a negative response by some, their demand is just and right.

Many people’s gender is incorrectly labeled. As discussed last week in the Duel, the physiology of the brain simply does not match the sexual characteristics at birth. A number of Canadians also do not fall into a clear category of male or female. The government has no place in defining an individual without their consent. Especially if they know this label is wrong for a group of citizens.

Incorrect gender identification can cause real harm. Transgender people suffer significant employment and housing discrimination. By declaring gender at birth, this document provides groups the opportunity to identify and target this minority.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

It is unconstitutional for government to treat individuals differently based on their race or gender. Until recently, one had to undergo gender reassignment surgery to change the sex on their birth certificate.

Despite dropping the surgery requirement, a long, often intimidating and undignified process awaits those who want to make such a change. It is discriminatory to force people into that process based solely on their belonging to a minority group.

Gender on a birth certificate has no utility for Canadians as it does not alter your relationship to government. Passports and driver’s licences still include gender, but they allow for self-identification, making them accurate and dignified.

Canadians continue to make great strides in understanding the nature of sex and gender. Our government’s antiquated documents must now catch up. Several countries, including Germany and Australia, use alternate gender designations on birth certificates, or remove them altogether.

Discarding the male or female classification will have a positive impact on our province. In a just society, even the smallest minorities are entitled to fair treatment. Those who would otherwise be incorrectly identified will no longer suffer the indignity and discrimination caused by the label.

The LGBTQ community makes innumerable adjustments every day to function in our male/female heterosexual society. Removing a useless section from a government document is not much to ask in return.

Petr Pospisil is an educator, musician, union and social organizer. He studied genetics at UBC and co-created crackshackormansion.com. 


Who wins this week's Duel?

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