‘The system’s violating everyone’: the Canadian trans parent fighting to keep gender off cards
Baby Searyl has a health card with no gender marked but for trans parent Kori Doty it is a small win in a broader battle
A parent whose baby has been given a health card that does not specify a gender believed to be a world first has said the aim is to allow the child to discover their gender on their own.
I think were starting to understand that gender identity is not directly attached to genitals, Kori Doty, a non-binary trans person who does not identify as male or female, told the Guardian in an interview.
I dont want to put them in a box where they only get to wear pink and ruffles or they only get to wear blue and trucks. Im just trying to leave that space open, so that when they can say who they are, that they dont have to say your guess was wrong.
Canadian authorities have issued baby Searyl Atli a health card that does not specify male or female in what campaigners describe as a victory in the fight to have gender omitted from government documents.
But since giving birth to Searyl at a friends home in November, Doty is still fighting to have the babys gender kept off the birth certificate. The fight is part of a broader, years-long push. Doty is one of eight trans and intersex individuals who have filed a human rights complaint against their home province of British Columbia, pointing to their personal experiences to allege that it is discriminatory to publish gender markers on birth certificates.
At the heart of their complaint is the presumption that only two genders exist and that babies must be slotted into one of these at birth, regardless of what gender identity they might develop later in life. Doing so leaves some struggling to contend with incorrect assumptions made about them at birth while others face a logistical nightmare of carrying identification that fails to accurately reflect who they are. In 2015, the human rights tribunal of British Columbia agreed to hear their complaint.
I think really this is about recognising a structure, or a system, that is violating everyone, said Doty, 31. The binary gender system causes problems for everyone, including people that find ways to fit and conform in it. It is a disservice to all.
Doty would instead like to have gender seen as part of a spectrum a view that would not only benefit trans and intersex people but also every boy who is cut off from their emotional wellbeing and told to suck it up and not cry and enculturated into toxic masculinity, said Doty. It also serves every girl who is told she shouldnt want to make things or be good at math or be strong.
After Searyl was born, the province refused to issue the child a birth certificate, pointing to the requirement that gender be noted on the document. In response Doty filed a legal challenge, citing the protection of gender expression in the provincial human rights code as well as in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Recently the province issued Searyl a health card marked with a U for gender assumed by Doty to mean undetermined or unassigned allowing the child access medical care. Despite the card arriving without explanation or comment from the ministry, Doty described it as a victory but noted: Its just not the end of the game.
Without a birth certificate, Searyl is listed as a non-citizen in the provinces system. The court case is expected to be heard in late autumn, said barbara findlay, a human rights lawyer who chooses to spell her name without capital letters and is working with Doty on the court challenge.
There used to be a reason to put sex on birth certificates. You used to need to know that because only men could vote, only men could own property, only men could sit in the Senate, and so on. Those days are long gone, said findlay. And just as we used to have race on birth certificates, but we dont any more, its time to take sex off birth certificates and treat it, like race, as a private matter.
As Doty pushes forward with the case, the parent has heard from both supporters and detractors. I know that Im being discussed in mens rights activist forums, I know that there are articles written about me and the way that my parenting practices are tantamount to abuse.
But the cost of doing nothing is too high, said Doty, pointing to polls that suggest as many as 40% of transgender people in the US have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. I want to raise my kid in such a way that whatever their gender is, it doesnt have to give them angst.
While the health card was a step forward, the ultimate goal is to have gender markers taken off all government documents, said Doty. Were talking about what is essentially a large-scale systemic change. Not just in the way that offices that issue documents function, but also in the way that our culture understands who we are, to ourselves and to each other, Doty added. That kind of change, it isnt a one-step game.