An interesting political action took place in Montreal last year, initiated by a young group called PolitiQ. I wish I could’ve been more involved in it because this is an issue I’d been wanting to take action on for years. Indeed, this was more important to me than the fight to get trans surgeries covered by the government. But the timing was all wrong for me as I was in the final stages of preparing for fieldwork. I did what I could to help but it wasn’t nearly as much as I wanted to do. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with how things turned out.
The action was directed at Quebec’s Directeur de l’état civil (DEC), the organisation in charge of birth, marriage and death certificates as well as change of name and change of sex marker certificates. Although they have improved the process somewhat for trans people in the last few years, namely by allowing trans people to obtain their change of name faster than the typical route requiring use of the chosen name for 5 years, many of us take issue with their criteria for a change of sex marker. Not only is the section on dealing with the topic hidden in the change of name section, the description of the requirements is ambiguous:
Any person who has successfully undergone medical treatments and surgical operations involving a structural modification of sexual organs intended to change his or her sexual characteristics may obtain a change of designation of sex his or her act of birth and, if necessary, a change of given names.
Since we know that most bureaucrats (apologies to any bureaucrats reading this who actually have a clue, but you have to admit that most do not) are completely out of touch with reality, it was doubtful in many of our minds that this institution actually had a clear idea of the wide variety of “surgical operations” available to trans people. So upon reading this, the reaction that I and many trans folk in Quebec have is: “OK…so what, concretely, do I need? A hysto, top surgery, a meta or a phallo (for FTMs)? A vaginoplasty and breast construction (for MTFs)?”
Many, but not all trans people, feel that medical procedures should’t even be a requirement. I am of this school. Not everyone wants to go through medical transition in order to socially transition. This should be an option. However, by the state’s current requirements, we are required to undergo sterilization to be able to legally change our sex designation – clearly a human rights violation.
PolitiQ’s action consisted of a manifesto decrying the problems with the current requirements for both name and sex designation changes for trans people. We collected signatures of support from many LGBT groups, women’s groups, student groups, activists, professionals working with trans people and university professors. The manifesto was sent to the DEC on June 17th, 2010 along with a call for a meeting to discuss ways in which to improve their criteria.
On that day, we also held a peaceful protest in front of the DEC’s Montreal office. From what I heard, this was the first specifically Trans action to take place in Montreal. I was very proud to be a part of it! Spirits were high as people begun to gather – on time! This was notable as Montreal Time tends to mean that people start thinking about getting dressed at the time an event is supposed to start! But within the first half hour after the announced assembly time, there were already about 100 people if I recall correctly (anyone reading this who has more specific numbers, please feel free to correct me.) And by the time the demo actually started, I think there were 200 people. We sang, we danced, we handed out flyers to passers-by. And then there were speeches. I was one of the people asked to speak and I felt very privileged to do so. At the end, we had a “die-in.” The police officers nearby were actually very helpful in stopping traffic so that we could hold it, which was surprising since this was an unregistered demo.
There is a video with excerpts from the demo, including bits of all the speeches, here.
Kudos to all who worked hard to make this happen! Let’s hope that it is fruitful in the long run. As it stands, I haven’t heard whether the DEC has accepted to meet with community representatives.