News | Over a year later, Bill 35 remains unimplemented

Trans activists argue proposed implementation still harmful

Correction appended January 26, 2015.

On December 17, the Liberal government drafted regulations to put Bill 35 into effect, more than a year after the bill was passed into law by the Quebec National Assembly on December 6, 2013. Bill 35 struck down several requirements of the Quebec Civil Code for trans people who wish to legally change their gender marker on official documents.

Prior to Bill 35, legislation required a person who wanted to change the name and gender markers on their official documents to publish their old name, new name, and civic address in a local newspaper and the official Gazette of Quebec, and to undergo surgical gender reassignment.

While Bill 35 legally eliminated these requirements, they are still effectively in place pending the implementation of new regulations – and these newly-proposed regulations still pose challenges to individuals wishing to change the gender markers on their official documents.

“We are in a crunch right now. We have between now and January 31 to make our voice heard. We need all the support we can get.”

The new regulations require that an applicant for a gender marker change must declare that they have “lived under the appearance” of the gender they want reflected on their documents for at least two years, and have this corroborated by an affidavit from a person who has known them for at least two years. Further, the application must also include a letter from a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or sexologist that “confirms that the change of designation is appropriate.”

According to Gabrielle Bouchard, Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA), these new regulations pose serious harms to trans people.

“The government is essentially saying that we promise you two years of discrimination before we will allow you to change your gender marker. It means that trans people will be the only group in Quebec that will be forced into a gender norm, forced into a femininity and masculinity,” said Bouchard in an interview with The Daily.

Bouchard also noted that the requirement to have an affidavit from someone who has known the applicant for at least two years could be difficult to satisfy or even unsafe for some trans people, who often cut ties with people in their lives who do not accept their transition.

“Now the government is saying that you’d better stick to people even if they are not nice to you, because if you don’t stick to them, then you won’t have anybody proving that it has been two years. And your two years will be delayed until you are actually in a place in your life where you can actually have this person that will be willing enough to find you worthy of their affidavit,” said Bouchard.

Furthermore, the requirement for a person to explicitly present themselves as a gender that does not match their documentation for two years poses its own difficulties. Not having a gender marker changed on one’s birth certificate means that one cannot have access to one’s right gender on Medicare cards, drivers’ licences, school documents, or student permanent code.

“[The regulations] will force people to live under the appearance of a gender without being able to defend their identity with a document. These people are exposed to harassment and violence,” said Caroline Trottier-Gascon, founder of the Groupe d’action trans at Université de Montréal, in French in an interview with Metro.

“[…]People just coming out of school are trained to believe that trans issues and trans lives are pathologies. So how can we think that those people will actually be there to help trans communities, to give them possibilities to have legal status?”

Trottier-Gascon noted that having documents that do not ‘match’ one’s appearance can make finding housing and employment particularly difficult.

Bouchard also pointed out that the medical professionals authorized by the legislation are trained to believe that being trans is a medical condition.

“Now there are some people who are trying to deconstruct this knowledge. But people just coming out of school are trained to believe that trans issues and trans lives are pathologies. So how can we think that those people will actually be there to help trans communities, to give them possibilities to have legal status?”

Particularly frustrating to members of trans communities has been the unfruitful dialogue with the government. “A year ago they [the government] came to us with those ideas [in the proposed regulations], and we told them what was wrong with it. They’ve known for a long time, yet they have decided not to listen,” Bouchard told the Daily.

In order for the new regulations to be put into effect, they must be published in the Gazette of Quebec for 45 days, during which time the public can raise any concerns they have with them. Bouchard pointed out that the new regulation to Bill 35 was published during the holidays, when news like this tends to go under the radar.

“We are in a crunch right now. We have between now and January 31 to make our voice heard. We need all the support we can get.”

An earlier version of this article stated that prior to Bill 35, legislation required a person who wanted to change the gender markers on their official documents to publish their old name, new name, and civic address in a local newspaper and the official Gazette of Quebec. In fact, that was a requirement for a name change. The Daily regrets the error.


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