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REFORMS CALLED LONG OVERDUE – ‘Unfortunately, we’re one of the last two jurisdictions to deal with some of this stuff in the country,’ observes Chase Blodgett, who advocates for Yukoners’ transgender rights.

Transgender rights activist welcomes legal change

The Yukon is catching up to the rest of Canada

By Sidney Cohen on March 15, 2017

The Yukon is catching up to the rest of Canada with a proposal to get rid of sex reassignment surgery as a requirement for changing the sex marker on Yukon birth registration documents.

In every other Canadian jurisdiction, save New Brunswick, residents can change the sex designation on their birth registration documents, regardless of their anatomy.

The Yukon will join their ranks when the government passes amendments to the Yukon Vital Statistics Act, as it’s expected to do this spring.

The Liberal government will also introduce changes to the Yukon Human Rights Act that will ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.

Chase Blodgett, a local transgender rights activist, says the legislative changes are long overdue.

“Unfortunately, we’re one of the last two jurisdictions to deal with some of this stuff in the country,” he told the Star this week.

The government is currently asking Yukoners to provide feedback on possible changes through an online survey, and responses from the LGBTQ2 community are of particular interest.

(Blodgett said the government emailed the survey to him directly, and it’s also been disseminated by Queer Yukon.)

While Blodgett is pleased the Yukon is adopting a more nuanced view of gender, one proposal struck him as problematic.

The government is considering a provision that would require people under age 19 (legal minors in the Yukon) to get consent from all parents or guardians before changing the sex on their birth certificates.

If minors can’t get the consent of both parents – which, the government survey notes, is often the case with transgender youth – they may obtain a court order that says parental consent isn’t necessary.

Blodgett firmly opposes this idea.

No young person, he said, should have to go through the daunting process of obtaining a court order simply to justify who they are.

“We’re going to require a kid, without custodial consent, to stand before a judge and explain to the grown-ups in the room what non-binary means?” asked Blodgett, audibly exasperated.

“It’s not right to put people under the age of 19, or anyone for that matter, in that situation.”

Under the proposed legislation, there would be no restrictions on how young or old a person can be to change the sex on birth registration documents.

Children between the ages of 12 and 19, however, would be required to provide written consent, and a letter from a professional who has known them for at least two years, such as a doctor, teacher, social worker or Yukon First Nation chief or councillor.

Blodgett was impressed with the proposal that would allow doctors and parents of intersex babies to defer decisions about a child’s gender.

Intersex babies are born with sexual and reproductive anatomy that doesn’t fit standard definitions of male or female, according to the Intersex Society of North America.

Intersex advocates, such as Belgian fashion model Hanne Gaby Odiele, have been vocal about problems related to imposing genders on intersex babies and children.

Odiele told USA Today that she was traumatized by vaginal reconstructive surgery she underwent as a child.

She said parents can make their kids feel like something is wrong with them and they need to be “fixed.”

The Yukon is looking to address this issue and is considering adding an “other” or “undetermined” option to the Notification of Live Birth form, which is filled out after a baby is born.

The online survey shows the government is also considering a third, gender-neutral sex designation of ‘X’ (unspecified), in addition to ‘F’ (female) and ‘M’ (Male), on Yukon birth certificates.

Starting this year, Ontario will allow ‘X’ as a sex designation on driver’s licences. The province eliminated sex designation altogether on health cards last June.

The Yukon government says the first step is to change the legislation to allow for the ‘X’ option on birth certificates before moving on to driver’s licences and health cards.

“The Yukon government’s intention to review all of its programs, policies, procedures and legislation to ensure they do not discriminate against transgender Yukoners,” said Michael Edwards, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

“This is a much bigger project that will evolve over time, affecting multiple departments.”

Blodgett sees a movement, in Canada and elsewhere, toward scrubbing gender markers off all identification cards.

“The Yukon does have an opportunity to really set a bar for the other jurisdictions and be a leader in an area that the previous government dragged their heels in,” he said.

Last summer, it was reported that the Canadian government was looking into the possibility of a gender-neutral option for passports.

Australia, for example, allows for the ‘X’ sex on travel documents, but warns passport applicants that the designation could cause them difficulties crossing international borders.

Blodgett said the current Yukon government is doing a better job than its predecessor at acknowledging the diversity and fluidity of genders, but there’s still more work to be done.

“Recognizing our right to exist and our rights to equity under law is just the start. It doesn’t mean we have full access,” said Blodgett.

It remains exceedingly difficult for trans Yukoners to access hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgery (a.k.a. sex reassignment surgery), he said, speaking from experience.

Blodgett called the process “a nightmare.”

He suggested a need for a consistent, transparent and navigable process for transitioning Yukoners.

Overall, Blodgett is glad that changing the Vital Statistics and Human Rights Acts are top priorities for the new government.

“They really put a lot of effort into this,” he said.

“It’s a solid start.”

Comments (8)

Up 0 Down 0

June Jackson on Mar 22, 2017 at 7:05 am

And so? has said it all remarkably well. .

Up 2 Down 4

Jonathan Colby on Mar 20, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Just Sayin'

Yeah? Why's that? Gender is not sex, nor is it reflected by genetics. But then, it isn't really about birth certificates, is it?

Up 5 Down 1

Stephan on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I see Whitehorse star deleted most comments against the law change....nice censorship. Free speech gone in Canada now?

Just a reminder: The Whitehorse Star welcomes and encourages thoughtful, responsible comments. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Comments that are slanderous, have harmful intentions or foul language will be deleted from our comments page.

Up 3 Down 18

Jenna Bourgeois on Mar 17, 2017 at 5:26 pm

I fully support the changes and I remain embarrassed that my family in New Brunswick is behind the times...Go Yukon!

Up 27 Down 13

Just Sayin' on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Changes to all birth certificates should be made to reflect people's genetics rather than phenotype (s). Problem solved.

Up 18 Down 16

At home in the Yukon on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:56 am

I really don't think we have thought this gender thing out well enough to be making too many changes of law. I personally see a lot of sense in the third (X) gender. However, I think that if someone sees themselves as being of the opposite gender to what others see when the person is naked, then they should be required to use either their apparent gender or gender X.

Up 96 Down 6

And so? on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm

"It remains exceedingly difficult for trans Yukoners to access hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgery (a.k.a. sex reassignment surgery), he said, speaking from experience."

It remains exceedingly difficult for yukoners to get knee/hip surgery, vision surgery, heart surgery (speaking from experience) and many other health treatments including, sometimes, just a bed in a real room. So although I don't care one way or another about gender identification on a drivers licence, I very much care about any group jumping the health care cue.

Up 27 Down 8

ProScience Greenie on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Fair enough. We're all equal no matter where we sit on the gender and sexual orientation continuum and that must be reflected in our laws, rules, regulations and policies. Carry on.

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