Guessing Genders Ain’t Gonna Fly

Air travel for transgender Canadians is made difficult by worrisome regulations (click here for details).  Sec 5.2(1)(c) of the ID screening regulations of Aeronautics Act states:

“An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

The Canadian” states that this is problematic to say the least (and it strikes me as outrageous to say a bit more).

What if you’re from a province that will not allow you to change gender markers on your ID without surgery?   The Canadian government also will not allow you to change the gender marker on your passport without proof of surgical reassignment or a letter guaranteeing you will undergo SRS within a year.

This issue becomes even more absurd considering not only that surgery is invasive, but also that it is a big decision.  A columnist for the Montreal Gazette explains:

The “passing” issue is a touchy subject with some trans people, particularly Male-to-Females (MtFs). When fully transitioning, it can be a dealbreaker, which is one of the reasons why we have to undergo a minimum one-year real-life test before having sexual reassignment surgery. For those who don’t know, the real-life test for MtFs involves living as a woman 24/7. During that time, we find out how people view us.

Undergoing a test should be just that, trying it out.  Providing documentation guaranteeing SRS within a year seems a little odd!  Does this mean that transgender individuals should get all their travelling done and out of the way before they decide to transition?  But the absurdities seem to pile on: what if someone simply doesn’t fit a gender stereotype the airport security guard might be influenced by?  Are citizens required to renew their passports every time they do “something new” with their hair?  Should travellers, just to be safe, dress in blue or pink while traveling?  And what if I choose the “wrong” colour to wear?

Gender, of course, is one way of identifying an individual, but it’s not the primary mode of identification.  After all, they don’t only check whether a traveller’s gender matches up before letting someone through security.  Is there a real security risk here?  If the name checks out, if the prominent facial features match up, if all other documents are in order, is it really that risky to let a man or a woman on board who doesn’t quite look like Ken or Barbie?  Of course, if a passport photo looks like a completely different individual, perhaps security ought to wonder what is going on. However, if the person looks like a woman and the passport photo is a clear representation of that very same woman, but the gender is listed as male, then that doesn’t strike me as a security risk.  After all, wouldn’t it make sense for a disguised male terrorist who is posing as a woman to change the gender designation on his passport to match the fake photo?  Maybe I’m just not understanding something here.  I certainly am a bit confused!

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