I’m at it again

In my WordPress profile I state that I enjoy upsetting apple carts on occasion. At the time I write this, I have no idea if this cart will topple or fall back onto its wheels, but I’ll keep you informed. The name on this particular apple cart is “Ministry of Health and Long Term Care” under the control of Dr Eric Hoskins, who is the Minister of Health etc for the Province of Ontario and the lever I am using to tip this particular cart is the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. As I wrote above, as I type this, I have no idea whether the Tribunal will say “yes” or “no”.

Under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), breast augmentation is classed as cosmetic surgery and as such is not covered. I felt this was discriminatory and therefore filed a human rights complaint on the basis of discrimination based on gender identity. My argument is this:

For myself, and no doubt many other trans*women, breast augmentation isn’t really a cosmetic procedure, but rather a psychological necessity. Whether we elect to have GRS or not, we are living as women and if we are fortunate enough to live in Ontario can change our birth certificates (hence other documents) to reflect that. Breasts are perhaps the most visible sign of a person’s perceived gender. Being on oestrogen is no guarantee we will develop breasts. Therefore my view is that for trans*women, breast augmentation isn’t really cosmetic, but psychologically necessary for us to feel and present as women, rather than as “some guy in a dress”, which is still a common view of the trans* community.

In my submission I suggested applications could be controlled in a manner similar to that instituted for changing the gender on documents – a letter from an Ontario licenced medical practitioner stating that person “X” has been trans* for whatever number of years apply and the procedure is psychologically necessary. I also suggested OHIP could impose restrictions on the size of the augmentation. The cost of anything above a certain size would have to be borne fully by the patient.

As I wrote at the beginning, I have no idea if the Tribunal will accept or deny my complaint, but I’m hopeful. Either way, I’ll provide an update.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and boobs) too.

Cat.

I don’t seem to exist

Obviously I do or you wouldn’t be reading these words, and there are some semi-tasteless photos on Facebook, but I am having extreme difficulty proving the existence of my parents.

Before I go any further, as it says on my profile on WordPress, I am transgendered which should prevent your headaches when reading about my ex-wife.

Last October, acting on an order from the Ontario Human RightsTribunal, the government of Ontario changed the requirements to change gender on birth certificates.  The original requirement was gender re-assignment surgery, and someone took the gov’t to the Tribunal claiming this was discriminatory.  The Tribunal agreed and the requirements were changed.  Under the new requirements, I qualified, so applied for an amended birth certificate.

I sent off the application with all the documents and a $97 money order.  The application was returned with the explanation that the short form (wallet size) birth certificate wasn’t acceptable and they needed the long form.  Okay, fine.  Through my eldest son, my ex-wife said she had some documents of mine at the family home, among which was a birth certificate.  Great!  It took forever but I finally got that document and returned the application to the Registrar-General.   Ten days later it was again returned.  This time the reason given is that the document, clearly labelled “Certificate of Birth”, was not in fact a “Birth Certificate”.  They further advised me I would need to apply for this long form Certificate and included the application for that.

Among the information requested on this form, in addition to the names of my parents, was the date and place of their birth.  For my mother, this was no problem since I knew it.  But all I knew about my father was his name and that he may have been born in Nova Scotia.   I’m the oldest living member of my family and am an only child, so don’t have any siblings to ask about this.  My oldest son is trying to compile a family history, so I asked him.  All he had at the time I asked was my father’s name.  Some online searching revealed that he’d died in 1970, which I knew for that happened about two months before my wedding.  I knew when he died and also where he died, so I suggested to my son he check the obituaries in the archives of the St Catharines Standard.  There is about a 75 year gap in the online records of the Standard, and of course 1970 falls neatly in the middle of that gap.  I told him I’d visit St Catharines and see if I could find anything in the hard copy archives.  That will be early next month.  Finding birth records from Nova Scotia is also proving difficult.  Nova Scotia = New Scotland, so looking up a Scottish surname in their records is similar to finding one particular “John Smith” online.  You need more information than just a name and we simply don’t have more.

Thinking he was going about it the wrong way ‘round, he tried looking up marriage records for my mother.  Again, he came up against that black hole in the Standard’s archives.  He knew when and where she was born and when she died and where she’s buried, but I’d given him that information.  He also found one more piece of information that I had also told him earlier.

The application mentions that a letter from the hospital confirming my birth would constitute proof (as if my $97 money order isn’t enough) of my birth.  Back online.  It seems the hospital where I was born – the Salvation Army Hospital in Hamilton – doesn’t exist any longer.  Right now this seems a minor problem.  At one time I did volunteer work with the Sally Ann in Ajax and know some of the staff there, so later this week I will visit them and explain my problem to the Major.  Apparently the Salvation Army archives are maintained in Ottawa, so it should be a relatively easy job for her to contact them with my request.  I can’t see a problem since the Salvation Army probably still has letters and documents signed by General Booth himself somewhere in the archives.

So, there you have it.  Other than the fact my parents gave birth to me and died, very little is available online about them.  As I said, we’re finding it difficult to prove their existence.  We’ve tried ancestry (the Canadian site) as well as publicly available government and newspaper sites to no avail.

Actually, according to my son, there is very little available on me under my birth name or my current one either.  Maybe I don’t exist.

Anyone got any other ideas?  I’m open to suggestions.

Cat.

The gov’t giveth – sort of

Back in mid-April, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal issued an order to the Ministry of Government Services, specifically the Office of the Registrar General, to find some other criterion for changing the gender on one’s birth certificate.  The Ministry was given 180 days to do this.  Until now, the only way was for the trans person to have gender re-assignment surgery and provide a certificate from the surgeon.  Someone who couldn’t have the surgery felt this was discriminatory and took the Ministry to the Human Rights Tribunal.   The Tribunal agreed and the result was the “you’ve got 180 days to come up with something else” ruling.

As it worked out, the 180 day period expired on Monday October 8, which was a holiday (Thanksgiving Monday) in Ontario.  Without any fanfare or announcement, the Ministry of Government Services quietly made the forms available on the government website on Friday, October 5. I learned of this through a friend’s posting last Saturday.  So, as I wrote (with abbreviation) in the title “the government giveth”.

Now, the “sort of”.  The requirements are extremely restrictive.

The applicant must be 18 years old and born in Ontario.

A letter from a “practising physician or psychologist” authorized to practice in Canada, and on the doctor’s letterhead. This letter must state the following:
 – the doctor is a member in good standing with the appropriate governing body.
 – the doctor has treated the applicant.
– the doctor must confirm the gender identity does not accord with the sex designation on  the birth registration.
– the doctor is of the opinion the change of sex designation is appropriate.

Now, some people don’t have a regular doctor who could affirm these requirements, so they wouldn’t qualify.  And if the person is a minor or not born in Ontario, they too would be shut out.  Oh yes – the doctor will have my letter ready next Tuesday.

The fee for this is $97.  That’s for processing the application, plus copies of the short form (wallet size) birth certificate and a certified copy of the birth registration.  Many trans people are either in low-paying jobs, or not working at all, so this fee is in itself another barrier to  them making use of this ruling.  And there is a Statutory Declaration to be completed stating that I’m the person named and I want to do this.  Naturally there is also a fee for having this Declaration sworn, so the total could be as high as $120, which may be beyond the means of many trans people.

So while the Ontario government did indeed obey the ruling of the Human Rights Tribunal, there is a sense of “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it” about the whole thing.  This is from the same government that, last spring, also passed a Bill guaranteeing trans people the same rights and privileges as the rest of the citizens of Ontario. Their actions on this would seem to belie that Bill.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat