Ef­fort to re­move in­fant’s gen­der from health card ad­vances equal­ity, ex­perts say

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

A par­ent’s re­quest to ex­clude their child’s sex on gov­ern­men­tis­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is push­ing past the bound­aries of gen­der stereo­typ­ing, ex­perts say.

Kori Doty, a B.C. par­ent who iden­ti­fies as trans­gen­der and prefers the pro­noun they, re­fused to pro­vide the sex of their child Searyl to the gov­ern­ment when they were born in Novem­ber.

Doty said it was a vic­tory when Searyl’s provin­cial health card ar­rived in the mail in April dis­play­ing a “U’’ in­stead of an “M’’ or “F’’ to des­ig­nate the child’s sex.

Van­cou­ver-based lawyer bar­bara find­lay, who ad­vo­cates for gen­der-free iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, said race is no longer recorded on birth cer­tifi­cates or other iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­cause it’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and gen­der should be treated the same way.

“One’s sex, one’s gen­der iden­tity is as per­sonal a piece of in­for­ma­tion as how you iden­tify your race and it shouldn’t be on ID doc­u­ments,’’ said find­lay, whose le­gal name is not cap­i­tal­ized.

His­tor­i­cally, the gov­ern­ment used in­for­ma­tion about gen­der to dis­tin­guish who — specif­i­cally men — could own prop­erty or vote, find­lay said. Since those bar­ri­ers no longer ex­ist, she said it’s un­nec­es­sary to con­tinue dis­play­ing gen­der on ID doc­u­ments.

Aaron Devor, chair in trans­gen­der stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria, said an in­fant’s gen­der iden­tity may not de­velop as ex­pected. As­sign­ing gen­der may also force in­ter­sex ba­bies into a cat­e­gory in which they don’t be­long.

There shouldn’t be a need to iden­tify some­one by gen­der on their ID at all be­cause dis­crim­i­na­tion is pro­hib­ited, he said.

Peo­ple also shouldn’t be “la­belled and pi­geon­holed’’ to a par­tic­u­lar stereo­typ­i­cal set of gen­der ex­pec­ta­tions, Devor said.

Stereo­typ­ing is es­pe­cially dam­ag­ing to peo­ple who are trans­gen­der and whose iden­tity cards don’t match the gen­der in which they present.

“They’re sub­ject to any num­ber of un­pleas­ant cir­cum­stance, which could range sim­ply from be­ing looked at funny to be­ing de­nied ser­vice that they re­quire to be­ing abused ver­bally or even phys­i­cally,’’ he said.

It’s be­cause of those re­stric­tive stereo­types that Doty didn’t want to pre­scribe a gen­der to Searyl. In­stead, Searyl can de­ter­mine their own gen­der iden­tity when the time comes and not be limited by so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions of how boys and girls should be, Doty said.

“I’m not im­pos­ing a non-bi­nary gen­der iden­tity on my kid, I’m just hold­ing the space for them to fig­ure out who they are with­out the ap­pli­ca­tion of a rigid as­sump­tion,’’ Doty said.

Jen March­bank, a pro­fes­sor of gen­der, sexuality and women’s stud­ies at Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity, said stud­ies have shown that in­fants are treated dif­fer­ently when la­belled a boy or girl with ba­bies dressed in blue get­ting played with more than those dressed in pink.

Rais­ing a child with­out an as­signed gen­der could help avoid peo­ple im­pos­ing their bi­ases, March­bank said, adding it would be im­pos­si­ble to avoid stereo­types en­tirely.

“Even if it’s not be­ing im­posed on them, they will wit­ness my friend Patsy, who is a girl, is treated this way and my friend Bobby, who is a boy, is treated that way,’’ March­bank said.

CP PHOTO

Kori Doty holds their child Searyl in Slo­can, B.C., in this re­cent hand­out photo. A par­ent’s re­quest to ex­clude their child’s sex on gov­ern­men­tis­sued iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is push­ing past the bound­aries of gen­der stereo­typ­ing, ex­perts say. Kori Doty, a B.C. par­ent who iden­ti­fies as trans­gen­der and prefers the pro­noun they, re­fused to pro­vide the sex of their child Searyl to the gov­ern­ment when they were born in Novem­ber.

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