Canada introduces third gender option for passports

Aug 30, 2017

Canada has just announced it will allow its citizens to designate a third gender option on their passports, in a move it sees as a step towards protecting Canadians in their right to the gender identity of their choice. 

From August 31, transgender travellers will be able to check X as a gender option to indicate they wish to have their gender recognised as unspecified.

Interim measures will be available until the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are able to print documents with an X field.

Immigration minister Ahmed Hussein said he was making the change so that all Canadians feel safe to be themselves.

“By introducing an X gender designation in our government-issued documents, we are taking an important step towards advancing equality for all Canadians regardless of gender identity or expression,” Hussen said.

The ruling body for international travel, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) stipulates that a sex field is mandatory for passports and allows for one of three options: M for male, F for female and X for unspecified.

While sex refers to biological factors that determine whether a person is male or female, gender has come to mean how a person identifies within society.

According to The New York Times, Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan provide a third option.

It’s unclear how easy it will be for travellers who select the X field as a gender option to travel to countries that do not recognise a third gender option.

Toronto Immigration lawyer Adrienne Smith told Global News that while she is thrilled with the announcement, it doesn’t mean other countries will accept their choice.

“I’m really worried that in countries like Uganda and Jamaica, where being LGBT is illegal and there’s laws on the books that prosecute people for identifying as trans, that this could leave people open to arbitrary detention, it could leave them open to scrutiny at airports, degrading treatment,” Smith said.

It remains up to the traveller to be aware of the travel advisories for that region before leaving Canada.

There have been mixed opinions on the announcement on social media with a clear majority commenting that the move has gone too far (in less polite words). Others supported the move.

One person said: “Do you think other countries are going to accept your ‘gender neutral’ classification? You were born male or female, and even hermaphrodites choose one gender. Just use your birth gender as identification then do what you want and dress how you want.”

“The purpose of the passport is for the government or foreign governments to identify you, not how you identify yourself,” another person said. “It’s not a Facebook profile.” 

“Stupidest f***ing thing I read today,” another commented.

Others were in support of the change and told people to not comment.

“Can people just live their life in peace and everyone mind their business?” one user commented.

Another said: “Queue the people who don’t know the difference between sex and gender getting upset over something that doesn’t affect them.”

Another proposed getting rid of the sex field completely: “If gender makes no difference at all then maybe they should get rid of ‘gender’ completely?”

The Canadian government said in a statement it will “continue this important work in developing a consistent federal approach to how its programs and services collect, use and display sex and gender information so Canadians can have their gender more accurately reflected in government documents while also protecting their privacy.”

Social media comments were edited slightly for accuracy and readability purposes.

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