This month, Bill 35 was finally implemented in Quebec, abolishing surgical and medical requirements for trans people wishing to change their gender markers on legal documents. New regulations for implementing the bill were released on September 16, showing a vast improvement from the previous version, which had been heavily criticized by trans communities. These improvements and the bill’s implementation, though overdue, mark a success for trans rights – community groups’ calls for change are finally being acknowledged. But this is just a first step, as both Bill 35 and Quebec society remain discriminatory against trans people. Legislators must continue to listen and pay attention to the ongoing oppression of trans people in order to fight persisting violence and discrimination.
The change in regulations is the result of a long and slow process which began in December 2013, when a law to alter requirements for changing gender markers was passed by the National Assembly. Although the law technically eliminated the need for sex reassignment surgery, the government dragged its feet in providing the necessary regulatory framework for its implementation. Only after a year did the government unveil new regulations, which stipulated that those wanting to change their gender markers need to have “lived under the appearance” of the gender they want marked on legal documents and require evaluation by a medical professional to confirm their gender. In response to ensuing criticism, these requirements have been scrapped, marking a significant improvement.
Still, many aspects of the bill remain discriminatory toward trans people who are already marginalized in other ways. In addition to testimony under oath, the new regulations require “corroboration” of the person’s gender by someone who has known them for a year – a problem for trans people who may be isolated from their family or social circle. The change is also not available to minors. All official forms continue to allow for only two genders, erasing non-binary identities. Finally, the bill’s citizenship requirement makes Quebec the only province where permanent residents cannot change their gender marker on official documents.
Trans people, especially trans women of colour, are vulnerable to hate crimes and police violence, and face extreme rates of harassment, depression, and suicide. Legislation cannot sufficiently address these problems, but it plays an important role, and as such, it is disappointing that the new bill leaves so many legal barriers in place. Nonetheless, the improved regulations are a victory for the trans community – illustrating that change, legislative or otherwise, is most effective when informed by the concerns and priorities of directly affected communities.
—The McGill Daily editorial board