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Newfoundland and Labrador Pledge Gender-Neutral ID.

(ST. JOHN'S N.L.) Gemma Hickey will no longer be at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in November to challenge the provincial Vital Statistics Act.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced in late September that it will introduce legislation this fall to allow its vital statistics branch to issue gender neutral birth certificates--which is precisely what Hickey wanted.

"I am so proud that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will be introducing this historic legislation and will soon be issuing birth certificates that reflect non-binary status," Hickey said. "Having official documents that display how I identify is of great importance to me and many other non-binary Canadians."

Hickey identifies as non-binary and prefers to use they (them, their) as a personal pronouns. They applied for a gender-neutral birth certificate at the Vital Statistics division of Service NL in April. The province's birth certificates offered just two gender options: male or female. Believed to be the first person in Canada to apply for a gender neutral birth certificate, Hickey says that having only male and female gender designations is unconstitutional.

"If you don't identify as male or female, there's no other category for you. You essentially don't exist," said Hickey. "And so, non-binary people have been erased by society because of this, because there's no category for us."

The province's intention to issue gender neutral birth certificates is in direct response to Hickey's court challenge.

"It ensures that non-binary people are not erased from society and reaffirms what experts have already confirmed: that there are more than two genders," Hickey said.

A handful of Canadian jurisdictions already offer either gender-neutral ID, or a third gender option, such as "x" in addition to "m" and "f." In July, the Northwest Territories announced it would allow people to change their birth certificates to a third gender option. Ontario now issues gender-neutral driver's licences and health cards to all residents. And the Senate recently passed Bill C-16, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual identity and expression.

Several countries already offer a third option on passports, including Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Nepal, Denmark and Germany. Starting August 31, Canada joined their ranks, and now allows "x" as a third gender option on passports.

Hickey was involved in the legal battle for same-sex marriage in Newfoundland and Labrador and is a past president of the LGBTQ-rights group EGALE Canada. An activist for 20 years, Hickey has had property damaged and has received harassing messages, including death threats. But those reactions paled in comparison to what Hickey has experienced since going public as non-binary.

"It's worse," Hickey said. "I'm getting followed, death threats, physical threats, threats of sexual violence. Social media gives everyone out there a platform, and it makes you more accessible and more vulnerable. So I've had to change my life considerably."

Hickey received a flood of support from across Canada and the world.

"I don't regret it, but it's certainly been a challenging time for me personally."

Caption: Activist Gemma Hickey led the Newfoundland and Labrador campaign for the right to obtain a gender neutral birth certificate. (Photo: Elizabeth Whitten)
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Author:Whitten, Elizabeth
Geographic Code:1CNEW
Date:Sep 22, 2017
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