BY Tu Uyen Nguyen

Sacha Fort spent four months preparing and filing documents to obtain the X gender marker on the provincial registry after the federal law was changed in 2022. Fort also changed their gender marker on Canadian civil status. After many months of waiting, they received a favourable outcome in September of 2023.

Queers banner at a protest

Protesters holding a Queer banner. Photo by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

The day Fort received their residence card with an X marker, the months of effort and wait felt worthwhile. Fort had a newfound sense of confidence to live under their true identity with the new ID card.

“When I finally received it, I was crushed by emotions. I cried happy tears. It was the first and only document accurately reflecting my identity,” Fort says. “We hear a lot of transphobic discourses saying that there are only two genders, and non-binary is an invention and it doesn’t exist. [But] this ID proves that legally there are other possibilities than man and woman, and I am officially seen for who I am.”

However, the journey to recognition was fraught with challenges, delays, and bureaucratic hurdles.

“In the approval letter I received, the administration mentioned that the driving license and the health card would be done too, but that was not the case. For different reasons like allegedly technical, political and ideological, it [wasn’t] possible to get the gender marker on the driving license and the health card,” Fort recalls.

As the province only decided to allow the use of the X marker on driver’s licenses recently, Fort persists in their efforts to secure the legal changes on other provincial documents despite the possibility of having to continue the wait.

“I remember that the biggest challenge at the federal level was the wait with no info on my case. I had no visibility of when I would receive my updated card. In Quebec, the struggle is also being left in the dark,” says Fort.

Timeline of the evolution of trans rights in Quebec. Media by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

The first protest advocating for the rights of trans people was in 2010, when the community rallied against the government’s mandated requirement of forced sterilization, a barrier that hindered the process of gender marker changes on civil status documents. This surgery requirement was removed in 2013.

In 2015, Quebec legalized the change of gender designation. However this provision was limited to options of male and female, excluding recognition for non-binary individuals.

Then in 2021, a court ruling removed the ban on non-binary gender designations, names and gender changes. The court also urged the province to amend its Civil Code to allow citizens to ensure the recognition of non-binary people on birth and death certificates.

However, in the same year, the CAQ government introduced Bill 2 which proposed two major changes: The reimposition of the surgical requirements for gender changes and the separation of “gender” and “sex” categories on provincial identification documents. After 3 years of pushing back the legalization of the X gender marker, Quebec approved its use on driver’s licenses in March 2024.

X Marker option on a website

The option of an X marker on the Porter Airlines website. Photo by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

Celeste Trianon, a transfeminist activist, has been at the forefront of the case, pushing legal actions against the government, leading demonstrations and running a legal clinic to help people get their paperwork renewed.

“The government basically just refused to enforce the law despite the fact that people have been waiting for months, even years, for so long,” Trianon underlines. “It was so much effort by our team members and everyone needed to pressure the government. It was not from nowhere. It was not the government that [initiated] it. Instead, it’s what people fought for.”

Trianon also emphasizes the provincial government’s delays in implementing new laws and rights for transgender and non-binary individuals have been causing trouble for many individuals.

“It’s not just a piece of ID, it shows who we are to the state so that’s why it’s so important and essential,” Trianon says.

Celeste Trianon, a trans feminist activist, is giving speech

Celeste Trianon at a protest demanding trans liberation. Photo by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

Francesco MacAllister-Caruso is a Ph.D. student in political science, studying citizenship and political presentation of trans and non-binary people in Canada and Quebec. He explains that the issues that have delayed the implementation of the X gender marker in Quebec are the administrative challenges in introducing new legislation and creating new procedures to manage these requests, as well as political challenges such as backlash from the CAQ’s more socially conservative supporters who opposed trans rights.

“As stated in the 2021 court decision that required the allowance of [the] X gender markers in the first place, the refusal to enact such changes is a breach of human rights that cannot be sufficiently justified under our human rights legislation,” MacAllister-Caruso says.

Banners at the protest

A protest demanding trans liberation in Montreal. Photo by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

Quebec is one of the three provinces with the largest transgender and non-binary populations in Canada, with 16 per cent of the country’s transgender and non-binary population. This data underscores the significant presence of transgender and non-binary individuals within Quebec, highlighting the importance of considering their needs and rights within the province’s policies, services, and societal framework.

Protesters

Hundreds of people marched on the streets of Montreal to show solidarity supporting trans rights. Photo by Tu Uyen Nguyen.

Looking toward the future, Fort envisions a society where transgender and non-binary individuals can live authentically and openly without fear of discrimination or marginalization.

“I hope that the legalization of the gender marker in Quebec will normalize non-binary people and bring more acceptance to us,” Fort says. “But I’m skeptical as trans and non-binary people are used as political punching bags to score points in the political game.”

Main image by Tu Uyen Nguyen.
Published May 1, 2024.