News / Vancouver

'Non-Binary' doc filmmaker seeks 'X' gender on B.C. ID

Vancouver producer of upcoming documentary raises $10,572 for film about their struggle for recognition.

Vancouver writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson, 35, prepares to mail in an application on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 to change their listed gender on B.C. government identity documents' from 'male' to 'X' or non-binary. If approved, it would become the first such change in Canada.

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Courtesy Joshua Ferguson

Vancouver writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson, 35, prepares to mail in an application on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 to change their listed gender on B.C. government identity documents' from 'male' to 'X' or non-binary. If approved, it would become the first such change in Canada.

It's a big week for Vancouver writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson.

A month-long fundraising campaign for their upcoming documentary Non-Binary — about their journey navigating the world as neither male nor female gender — hit $10,572 at its close.

And last Thursday, they mailed an application to be recognized as "X" on their British Columbian identity documents, instead of "M" or "F."

They identify as "non-binary," and while that means they are neither female nor male, it's a sort of "anti-label" in the sense that it offers people freedom to express their gender in whatever way is authentic.

"It's not as if non-binary is this new thing," Ferguson told Metro in a phone interview. "It's not a trend; it's not something emerging out of a young generation.

"But the younger generation is definitely mobilizing around non-binary in such an inspirational way."

B.C. has passed legislation last year explicitly guaranteeing human rights to all gender expressions and identities — shortly before Canada passed history-making transgender rights legislation.

But no province has yet allowed gender non-binary citizens to change their birth certificate; only the North West Territories has made such a move, while Ontario allows "X" gender designations on driver licenses, but not birth certificates. So Ferguson's application for the latter remains "pending," they explained.

A still from an upcoming documentary about Vancouver writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson, 35, who identifies as 'non-binary' and applied on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 to change their listed gender on B.C. government identity documents' from 'male' to 'X' or non-binary. If approved, it would become the first such change in Canada.

Courtesy Turbid Lake Pictures

A still from an upcoming documentary about Vancouver writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson, 35, who identifies as 'non-binary' and applied on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 to change their listed gender on B.C. government identity documents' from 'male' to 'X' or non-binary. If approved, it would become the first such change in Canada.

"We typically think about trans people as being either trans men or trans women," Ferguson explained. "The narrative people hear about is a trans person transitions from one to the other.

"But the trans community is very diverse and there are many different trans identities; non-binary is one of those."

Earlier this year, a B.C. baby's parents successfully applied to place "U" (unknown) on their birth certificate as their sex this year. But Ferguson's attempt to apply for an "X" designation on their birth certificate in the province of their birth, Ontario, was unsuccessful.

The former Liu Institute Scholar at the University of B.C.'s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice has lived in Vancouver eight years. Now they're hoping the new B.C. NDP government will move quickly to make their human rights promises a reality.

"The B.C. NDP have been very vocal about supporting the trans community, and I think it's time for the new government to recognize non-binary people in our province explictily by issuing me and others with an 'X' designation on our IDs."

While they wait for a provincial response — hoping for better luck than from LGBTQ rights advocate and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's government — this week they're completing filming of their 22-minute documentary Non-Binary and heading into post-production for the fall.

Money raised on Indiegogo for Ferguson's upcoming 22-minute documentary Non-Binary, directed by their partner, filmmaker Florian Halbedl, and filmmaker Jules Koostachin.

"Applying for a birth certificate in Ontario really inspired me to realize there are myths and misconceptions about non-binary people," they said, "and that it would be helpful to tell my story.

"The short documentary is based on my life, my story, and my fight for legal recognition … (We) really wanted to enteratin audiences while educating them and creating awareness. Film has the incredible potential as an medium to do just that: to create significant change."

Already they've been approached by "multiple" non-binary people online who said they've been inspired by their struggle for recognition — and seeking advice on how to apply for an "X" gender designation too.

"It's really been so incredible and encouraging to receive such an immense amount of support for the project within just 30 days," they said. "Not only did we have more than 100 contributions from people all over the world, but … multiple people asked, 'How did you do it?'

"It's really quite amazing that people are just waiting in the wings for this to happen."

For more information on the film project, visit their website.

Update (Aug. 24): Story updated.

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