Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

New travel ID rule angers transgendered Canadians

Arlene Gee/Thinkstock

A controversial Transport Canada regulation has many accusing the government of discrimination. According to the department's Identity Screening Regulations, if "a passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents," that person shouldn't be allowed to fly.

Members of the LGBT community are concerned this will pose a problem for transgendered people. Canadian citizens can only get the gender on their passport permanently changed if they've had sex reassignment surgery or can provide a letter guaranteeing the procedure will take place within a year, Xtra! reports. In the government's eyes, hormone therapy, mastectomies and other interventions are not enough.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Talia Johnson, a transsexual woman in Ottawa, says she was told by Passport Canada that there is also the option of a temporary, two-year passport identifying them as their preferred gender but, again, this is only available to those who can prove that they will have SRS in the next 12 months. (Neither Britain nor the United States require people to undergo SRS before they can change the gender on their passport.)

Story continues below advertisement

But these are terms many transgendered people are unable to meet. In Ontario, for instance, the government will only cover SRS for people who've lived as their preferred gender for at least two years.

And some transgendered people undergo hormone treatments but choose not to have surgery for financial or medical reasons.

Transgendered blogger Christin Milloy wrote that "for non-operative transgender persons, for gender non-conforming (genderqueer) persons, and for the vast majority of pre-operative transsexual persons, it is literally impossible to obtain proper travel documentation marked with the sex designation which 'matches' the gender identity in which they live."

The Transport Canada regulation isn't, as some might suspect, an archaic rule leftover from decades ago. Though it's only gained notoriety in the blogosphere in the past few days, it was enacted in July 2011.

In contrast, as of September, Australia has offered three gender options (male, female and indeterminate) on passports and allowed people to declare a gender other than their biological sex, as long as they can provide a letter from their doctor.

Pierre Floréa, spokesman for Transport Minister Denis Lebel, wrote in an e-mail to The Huffington Post that the identification rules are necessary for security reasons and are not discriminatory. "They apply to all passengers, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. … Any passenger whose physical appearance does not correspond to their identification can continue to board a plane by supplying a letter from a health-care professional explaining the discrepancy."

So far, no one has come forward with an allegation of being denied travel under this rule but, as Ms. Johnson says, "all it takes is one person to start implementing the letter of the law."

Story continues below advertisement

Do you think this rule is discriminatory? What sort of documentation should transgendered people need to provide?

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
We have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We expect to have our new commenting system, powered by Talk from the Coral Project, running on our site by the end of April, 2018. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to