Canada considers genderless passports
Canadians may soon be able to choose a non-gender-specific category when applying for passports.
According to Canada's National Post, the agency Passport Canada is currently reviewing its policy on whether citizens have to display a choice of either male of female on their passport.
Currently Canadians can only change the sex on their passports if they have undergone gender-reassignment surgery. Those in transition can obtain temporary passports in their new gender, but only if they furnish proof they will undergo surgery within 12 months.
Passport Canada spokeswoman Béatrice Fénelon told the National Post “the policy regarding transgender people is still under review.”
It is suspected Canada may follow the example of Australia which adopted "genderless" passports in September 2011.
Under Australian regulations, people can choose which gender is displayed on their passports without the need for surgery, or they can choose to have neither gender displayed; a statement from a medical practitioner is all that's required.
Sally Goldner of trans advocacy organisation TransGender Victoria told gaynewsnetwork “Any documentation policy needs to consider all situations and be based on self-determination.”
“To use myself as an example, as a non-op trans woman I want an F on all my documentation not an X,” she said.
“So I don’t believe the proposed Canadian policy is quite the same as our [Australian] policy. But I think it would be better than rigid surgery-based binaries that just use M and F and - to use me as an example again - would probably see me travel on a passport with an “M”: a recipe for trouble.”
Gina Wilson, president for intersex organisation OII Australia told gaynewsnetwork the Canadian system could be an improvement over the Australian system if they allowed people to leave their gender unspecified rather than using a third “X” category.
“Our policy is to oppose any policy that might create a third sex. Such systems have marginalised and disadvantaged intersex wherever they have been used,” Wilson said.
“There are no sensible reasons to have sex specified on passports just as there is no reason to have that specified on other documents save to entrench sexist policies and paradigms,” Wilson continued.
“The Canadian proposal allows all people to remain silent on the matter of their sex.”
Wilson said OII Australia would continue to push for the “X” category to be opened up to all Australians who choose not to specify their gender.
“X does not indicate a third sex. It indicates ‘not specified’,” Wilson said.
“In that it gives anyone who has it the right to remain silent on the question “what sex are you” and the opportunity to opt out of the sex binary.”
The existing Canadian system has been criticised by advocates as excluding those in transition or intersex who are unable or unwilling to undergo expensive, invasive surgery and hormone treatments.
The issue has become doubly important since changes last year to Canada's Aeronautics Act. Under new guidelines, airlines are not permitted to seat a passenger if “the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”
Without changes to the passport regulations, this would effectively bar some Canadian trans and intersex people from air travel altogether.