The 4,000 mile birth certificate

My computer has been down, so I’m just posting this now.

671 miles.  According to what I can see on Google, that is the shortest distance by road from Ajax, where I live, to the Registrar-General’s office in Thunder Bay Ontario.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving last October, the Ontario government quietly announced new requirements for changing the gender on one’s birth certificate. It took about a month for me to save the $97 fee, so it was late November before I sent off my application.   671 miles.

According to information on the form it would take about three months to process and sure enough, just about three months later, an envelope arrived from Thunder Bay. Unfortunately, it was a rejection since I had not included my original “long form” birth certificate. 1,342 miles.

As I wrote in “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10, there were certain documents still in the family home, which took until mid-May to get.  One of those documents had the title “Certificate of Birth”.  Made a copy for my files and sent the application back to T Bay. 2,013 miles.

This time it took about a week to be returned. It seems “Certificate of Birth” is not the same as “Birth Certificate”.  2,684 miles.

My son has been working on a family history and through his efforts, we were able to determine that apparently my father didn’t exist. I covered all this in “Whatever is left…” and how I found some information, not through the ancestry; government or newspaper sites, but by typing his name into Google.  That didn’t give me all the information I needed for the application for the long form birth certificate, such as his place of birth. Because I was also able to find the names, birth dates and dates of death for my paternal grandparents, my son was able to contact the Government of Nova Scotia and get the information we both needed – he for the history and me for the application.  I couldn’t find the information requested from the hospital as neither the hospital nor their records exist any longer. I wrote a letter explaining this, attached it to the application and mailed the whole package back to the Registrar-General’s office on August 9.  3,355 miles.

Friday October 4, the mail finally brought my new short form birth certificate legally identifying me as “female.” 4,026 miles.

The following Monday, I received yet another envelope from the Registrar-General.  This one contained a certified copy of the long form birth certificate.  Another 671 miles.

So, from my initial application until receipt of all documents at my address, paper of various kinds travelled a total of 4,697 miles. Total time, including finding information was just over 10 months.

A friend who has seen what I’ve gone through asked a very good question: If I’ve had this much trouble finding information on my father, what about people who were adopted and need the long form birth certificate?  Are they to be denied one because they have no idea who their birth parents were?

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