How Ontario decided to change gender information display

Through in-person consultations with trans and non-binary communities and other stakeholder organizations, The 519 was able to better understand and advise on how people across Ontario define sex and gender and the impacts of collecting and displaying that information.

In 2017, Ontario witnessed some monumental changes in relation to gender identity legislation. These changes reinforce advances that are happening on the global stage. This global stage sees Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia all legally recognizing a third gender. And finally, Canada is joining this conversation around what it means to collect and use the gender information of its citizens.

As human rights legislation continues to shift across Canada, with provinces and territories adding gender identity to their list of protected characteristics (starting in 2012 with Ontario), governments realize that they need to rethink what it means to collect sex and/or gender information, and engage in dialogue with those affected. In 2016, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) of Ontario began working with The 519. In this project, The 519 organized and facilitated feedback sessions on what it means for governments to collect, retain, and display sex and/or gender information.

Through consultations with trans and non-binary communities, and other stakeholder organizations such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Transportation (where you get your driver’s license), The 519 was able to better understand how people across Ontario define sex and gender and the impacts of collecting and displaying that information. Using the feedback gathered, MGCS created policy around how all on Ontario ministiries will collect, retain, and display this information on Ontario identification cards (e.g., driver’s licenses).

In May of 2017, MGCS released that policy publicly stating that, among a number of other things,

a) Gender identity will be the default information to collect, retain, and display
b) Individuals will have 3 options “M”, “F”, or “X”  

“X” includes individuals who identify as non-binary, Two-Spirit, and anyone who doesn’t wish to disclose their gender identity [1]

Quickly after this release, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that they will no longer display gender information on Ontario health cards. And on the national stage, Passport Canada started providing the option of using “X” as a gender marker.

The year 2017 saw many changes for which LGBTQ communities have long been fighting for. It was through supporting and amplifying community voices that we have begun to see change in places where change is slow. This demonstrates that a fundamental shift is happening; a shift which recognizes the lives of trans and non-binary communities as legitimate and worthwhile. Yet, these changes are only one part of the larger fight that we must support to ensure that all members of LGBTQ communities are able to realize their fullest potential.


 [1] For more information around MGCS’s policy, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/consultation-gender-and-sex-information-government-ids-and-forms


Piece contributed by Education and Training Specialist, Jacq Hixson Vulpe who facilitated the community consultations for the project: In‐Person Public Consultations Regarding the Use of Sex and Gender Information on Public-Facing Government Products and Forms


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2017 in Pictures