Everyday when I am out in public, I get stares constantly. And I’m familiar with them now.
Sometimes they turn into laughs or snickers. But there are times when the staring turns into something more sinister, where I feel like my safety is at risk. And as a non-binary person, this is my everyday life of being constantly misgendered and caught between one or the other, because society forces me into the binary.
While I cannot control how others see me or how they understand gender expression, the legal misgendering of not having documentation that accurately helps affirm my identity contributes to my experiences of depression and anxiety—to my feelings of being out of place. I was assigned male at birth, but I never felt like a boy growing up and I didn’t feel like a girl either. In my adult life, I’m forced to constantly choose between one or the other.
So now I’ve decided to fight and challenge systems that have only aided in erasing me and to hopefully become one of the first Canadians to have "non-binary" sex/gender listed on my birth certificate—a fight that is on the rise across the globe.
In Canada, explicit protection for both gender identity and gender expression exists in Ontario and B.C. and, hopefully soon, will also be federal law with Bill C-16. Our government must honor human rights and be held accountable to an individual’s right to determine their own gender identity, considering that discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression is prohibited.
In 2016, Jamie Shupe, Sara Kelly Keenan and others won legal challenges to be recognized as non-binary in Oregon and California. Keenan and Shupe have both publicly expressed the significant positive impact that these legal decisions have had on their lives. And, these U.S.-based decisions have undeniably provided hope to non-binary around the world who remain erased and excluded. In Canada, Gemma Hickey appealed to the Newfoundland and Labrador government in April 2017 for a new birth certificate that identifies them as non-binary.
Ontario now has a gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recently announced that the government is working with Passport Canada to introduce on passports a “third box or an ability to mark something other than male or female,” and that Prime Minister Trudeau “has pledged to make all government-issued documents more reflective of gender diversity.”
I am non-binary, so why is my government-issued documentation discriminating against me?
I am applying to Service Ontario’s vital statistics for a Change of Sex Designation on the Birth Registration of an Adult from male to non-binary. I filled out four sets of paperwork, including a letter from my doctor who “is of the opinion that the change of sex designation on the birth registration is appropriate” and confirms that my “gender identity does not accord with the sex designation on [my] birth certificate.”
Vital Statistics Ontario will take approximately six weeks to evaluate the application.
If I am successful, this introduction of a non-binary option on legal documentation in Canada will allow us to turn this alienation we feel into a realized place in society. There are questions currently being raised on a legal level about whether the government should include sex and gender markers on identification altogether. But I believe that the extension of government-based legal recognition to non-binary people will make me feel more protected and less ostracized today.
I am doing this for myself: once I was scared, hurt and alone and I didn’t have the language or the support to be who I am. But I am also doing this for you, the non-binary reader who has had to fight daily to exist in the face of intolerance. Let’s all contribute to a horizon of hope, and fill the light with our truth and diversity.
As non-binary people, we have had to hide our existence for too long. We are real and we deserve to be legally recognized. The time is now to put an end to our erasure. We aren’t asking for much, we simply want to be respected for who we are and not who the government tells us to be.