Gender “X”: Manitoba to Add Third Gender Option to Official Documents

In All Posts, Gender by Mia Ryder-MarksLeave a Comment

By: Mia Ryder-Marks

Ever since my friend C.J started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns of “they/them” in 2014, they have combated various forms of skepticism regarding the “legitimacy” of their identity. C.J, born in Manitoba but currently residing in Ontario, found it difficult to cement their identity when their government documents did not reflect it. “I felt like every time I had to check the “female” box I was just moving backwards from the place I worked so hard to get to,” they stated in response to having to mark a misrepresented gender on their driver’s license, when going through airport customs, and even when going to vote. 

Manitoba to Add Non-Binary Gender Option

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission tribunal recently ruled that it is a violation of the province’s mission to force individuals who identify as non-binary to classify as “male” or “female” when applying for a birth certificate. Adjudicator Dan Manning ordered the province, which is home to almost 1.4 million people, to offer a non-binary sex designation on its birth certificates. Manning illustrated how pressing this new policy is, stating that “gender identity is a part of our concept of selfhood. The difficulties faced by trans{gender} and non-binary individuals in our society are many. Human rights tribunals have long recognized the disadvantages faced by trans{gender} people and non-binary individuals in society.” 

This new policy will be implemented in Manitoba within the next few months. 

The Importance of the ‘X’

Trans Pride March
Photo Credit: Eduardo Lima

Beyond the catch-all “X”, Canadians who are non-binary are identifying as “agender”, “two-spirited”, “pangender” and/or “genderqueer”. There is thus no single way to define what being non-binary entails. “It is more of an experience rather than a definition or label. There is no right or wrong way to be a non-binary person,” C.J summarized. Gender ‘X’ gives individuals the option to represent themselves beyond the barriers of ‘M’ and ‘F’ and removes the confines of selecting one gender (some people identify as both male and female or have a fluid identity).

Non-binary individuals, especially those who are also a visible minority, an immigrant/newcomer or live with a disability, often experience widespread discrimination in workplaces, healthcare, education, counselling, and housing resources. The mismatch of identity documentation fuels the fire that often leads non-binary individuals to face discrimination across diverse boards. For instance, social service and homeless shelters that assist the non-binary/transgender population have, at times, denied such individuals shelter based on their gender identity and/or inappropriately-housed them in gendered spaces they do not identity with based on the documentation they may show. Having a certificate that matches who you are gives individuals a level of identity, secureness, and raises less skepticism on ‘who they are’. This new policy will allow gender non-conforming Manitobans to live with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

First Wave of Recognition of ‘X’ on Official Documents 

Beyond benefiting the individuals who identify as ‘X’, this third gender option benefits another population: researchers interested in studying the LGBTTQ+ community. A major challenge has been – and continues to be – the lack of populationbased surveys that collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. Research often hides how many non-binary individuals are forced to confine themselves into the two options that official documents provide them. 

Gender X on Birth Certificate
Photo Credit: CBC

On the official Government of Canada website, however, it states that “Canada is committed to ensuring the gender identity, diversity and inclusivity of Canadian citizens and residents are respected.” The federal government is continually adapting and improving programs and services that collect and use the information regarding sex and gender. For instance, in May of 2018 they decided that future data collection would include a third gender option.         

Additionally, as of June 2019, gender ‘X’ is also available on passports and travel documents and those who wish to replace their current documents with gender ‘X’ can do so with no fee until June 4, 2020. 

Which Provinces & Territories Allow the ‘X’?

The traditional birth-certificates, which only allowed people to identify as “M” or “F”, generated inaccurate statistics regarding the true identities of those living in that jurisdiction. Since 2014, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island have added ‘X’ as a gender marker on the majority of driver’s licenses and birth certificates. Nova Scotia is in the process of adding ‘X’ onto their birth certificates. Newfoundland and Labrador presently allow ‘X’ on birth certificates but not driver’s licenses. Québec, New Brunswick, Yukon, and Nunavut still only use “M” or “F” markers on both birth certificates and driver’s licenses; and Saskatchewan does not allow an ‘X’ gender market, but can issue a birth certificate with the gender marker hidden. 

How Can You Change Your Sex Designation in Manitoba? 

To be eligible for a change of sex designation on a Manitoba birth certificate, your birth must be registered in Manitoba. The newly-formed application process includes the following steps:

  1.   Complete an ‘Application for a Change of Sex Designation on Birth Registration and Birth Certificate’. 
  2.   Provide proof of identities, such as a driver’s license or your passport. 
  3.   Return all previously issued birth certificates.
  4.   Complete an Application for a Manitoba Birth Document.
  5.   Pay the fees to change your birth registration ($30) and have a new Manitoba birth certificate issued ($30). 

For more information, please refer to the official instructions.

Next Steps 

Introducing an ‘X’ gender designation on government-issued documents takes an important step towards advancing equality. The decision to include ‘X’ markers requires more than just a singular law or administrative shift, it necessitates a series of systemic changes in government agencies. Recognizing non-binary people on official documents promotes the acceptance of diverse identities, a value that ought to permeate through society. The third gender option is a starting block for provinces/territories, as well as those inhabiting them, to build on as we strive towards inclusive spaces that recognize, appreciate, and respect all the identities who make up the areas we call home.

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