News / Vancouver

'Shocking and shameful': B.C. government denies non-binary gender ID request

Leading Canadian 'X' gender advocate rejected over 'missing information' on application: 'M' versus 'F' — despite legal changes and increasing recognition across Canada.

Vancouver resident Joshua M. Ferguson is fighting to have their non-binary gender recognized in B.C. and federal government identification documents, through an 'X' designation instead of M or F. They are seen here in this file photo from Vancouver's downtown Passport Canada offices, where they applied for an 'X' designation on Aug. 31, 2017. They earlier applied for a B.C. ID with an 'X' designation but was denied on Sept. 28, 2017

David P. Ball / Metro Order this photo

Vancouver resident Joshua M. Ferguson is fighting to have their non-binary gender recognized in B.C. and federal government identification documents, through an 'X' designation instead of M or F. They are seen here in this file photo from Vancouver's downtown Passport Canada offices, where they applied for an 'X' designation on Aug. 31, 2017. They earlier applied for a B.C. ID with an 'X' designation but was denied on Sept. 28, 2017

Despite human rights legislation protecting British Columbians of all gender expressions and identities, the B.C. government has rejected one of Canada's most prominent "non-binary" gender advocates.

Someone who is non-binary identifies as neither male nor female. B.C. passed legislation last year explicitly guaranteeing human rights to all gender expressions and identities — shortly before Canada passed history-making transgender rights legislation.

But six weeks after Vancouver filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson submitted their application for a B.C. health card and driver's license, on Aug. 17, they had heard nothing back.

So when the government's deadline to issue the ID expired Thursday, they phoned Health Insurance B.C. — only to learn they'd already been rejected outright.

"It's disappointing," said Ferguson (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun "they"), in a phone interview Thursday. "Every B.C. resident has a right to receive the change-of-gender designation request if they provide the evidence for it.

"It was a really upsetting, stressful conversation on the phone with Health Insurance B.C. … The first (employee) said there was missing information in my application, but typically they’d send out correspondence alerting the applicant to the missing information; the representative wasn’t sure why they didn’t do that."

But when Ferguson was transfered to an enrolment specialist, the missing information turned out to be simply that they had placed an "X" instead of "M" or "F" for gender — and they said the staffer "flat-out told me my application was denied because I didn't check either the male or female box, and they will not put an 'X' on a Care Card."

"For this government to show such negligence in the face of changing policies and laws around Canada, as they rel to non-binary people — it’s shocking," they said. "… It reminded me of some of the difficult experiences I've had with people who don’t believe that non-binary identity is real – that it’s somehow made up."

Metro was not able to immediately speak to a B.C. government spokesperson.

But this month, Newfoundland and Labrador made history as the first province to allow an "X" option on birth certificates, joining the North West Territories. Ontario allows "X" gender designations on driver licenses, but not yet birth certificates.

On Thursday, Ferguson launched a legal case against the Ontario government over the matter. And as for B.C., they've now retained a lawyer here and plan to challenge the decision and "pursue a legal remedy" alleging a violation of their human rights.

"I expected so much more from this new B.C. NDP government," they said. "I think it’s shameful.

"They left me in the dark."

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