The Gleaner
Arts & Life

Bill 2 walks back rights of transgender, intersex, and non-binary individuals

Rachel Patenaude

On October 21, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette brought forward Bill 2 to amend the Quebec Civil Code. Article 23 of the bill proposes having the option for separate sex and gender indications on government identification, which would require transgender, intersex, and non-binary people to undergo gender-affirming surgeries on their sex organs before being able to change their sex on IDs. This amendment would be a step backwards in terms of the rights of trans, intersex, and non-binary individuals, and has LGBTQ+ advocacy groups speaking out strongly against it.

The amendments in Bill 2 are part of the minister of justice’s response to a Quebec superior court ruling in January, which ordered the government to change certain articles in the civil code including one that prevented trans and non-binary people from changing their sex on their birth certificates.

If passed, Bill 2 would pull back rights gained in 2015, when the provincial government removed surgical and medial requirements that were needed to change sex indication on IDs. “This would be going backwards in terms of trans peoples’ rights,” says Rafaël Provost, director general of JAG, an LGBTQ+ awareness and support group in the Montérégie.

This bill offers the illusion of choice, by letting trans, intersex, and non-binary people have a gender indication on their ID instead of a sex indication. This lack of sex indication on their ID – or worse, different sex and gender indications – will automatically out people as trans, which could put them in danger. Their only other choice is to get surgery, which is not a simple process. To get gender-affirming surgeries in Quebec, a person needs to first be on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for one year. To begin HRT, a clinical diagnosis of gender dysphoria is needed, which is not financially feasible for all as related therapy and psychology services are not covered by Quebec health care. And, if one lives in a rural area such as the Valley, travel to a large city is required to access any of these services. Therefore, this bill disregards the reality of many trans people in Quebec.

On top of the major barriers to health care access, not all trans, intersex, and non-binary people even want to get these surgeries. These are sterilizing surgeries that remove the person’s ability to have biological children, and like any surgery, there are risks. “I’ve had to wait to get my name and gender marker changed, but when I found out that this bill was being proposed I panicked. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to get certain surgeries, and forcing that decision onto people is really unfair,” says Mathieu Brault, a trans man from Ormstown.

Regardless of the intent of the bill, it forces trans, intersex, and non-binary people to make the decision between expensive surgeries that will render them sterile, or having to out themselves in every situation requiring ID. “Article 23 takes for granted the idea that every time a trans person is forced to show documentation that outs them as trans, they’ll be greeted with open arms, which is not the case in many places,” says Provost. If this bill passes with Article 23 untouched, it will take choice away from many people, returning to a time when trans, intersex, and non-binary people didn’t have the same right to privacy and bodily autonomy as cisgender people.

“It’s putting up so many more obstacles in a part of our lives that already has lots of obstacles,” says Brault. “It bars a lot of people from living their authentic lives in peace.”

Transgender/Trans: A term used for someone whose gender is not (exclusively) the one they were assigned at birth.
Intersex: Someone born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosomes that don’t fit into strict binary understandings of sex. Intersex people can be any gender and may or may not consider themselves trans.
Non-binary: An umbrella term for genders other than man and woman.
Cisgender: A term used for someone whose gender is exclusively the one they were assigned at birth.

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