Canadians can now choose to have their sex identified as X on their passports, as well as other documents issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
This was emotional news for Lane MacIntosh, who uses pronouns they, them and their.
“I bawled,” said MacIntosh, about hearing the news. “I was really excited because I didn’t think it was going to happen that soon.”
Last month, the NWT became the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow a third sex on birth certificates. MacIntosh was interested in taking advantage of the change, but wasn’t sure how that would affect their ability to apply for a Canadian passport.
“If one of your territories is already there, it doesn’t look so hot if Ottawa’s not there,” they said.
Chelsea Thacker, executive director of the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife, sees this as opening a door for the future, especially for the youth she works with every day.
“It’s going to tell them the world is opening up for them, at least the country is,” she said. “Now there’s that space for them. And more people will recognize that the non-binary population exists in Yellowknife and across the country.”
She said she’s already received “plenty” of requests from agencies and different groups across the city asking for advice on how to change the way they collect information.
“It’s super cool,” she said. “Because for once I’m not always knocking on their door, they’re coming and knocking on my door.”
But it’s a door people who opt for the X might still have to be cautious walking through. Nancy Chan, communications advisor for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told Yellowknifer in an email the federal government cannot guarantee entry or transit through another country, regardless of whether their passport has an X designation. She recommended “discretion” when selecting travel destinations.
“Not all countries have the same values and legal systems as Canada,” she stated.
Australia, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand all already issue passports with an X.
In many countries, where LGBTQ people face ongoing oppression and violence, the X designation could be misunderstood, rejected or even be a scarlet letter identifying non-binary people.
Chan advised it is the traveller’s responsibility to check with the embassy of all the countries they intend to visit or transit through.
“I would love to see the whole entire world if I could,” said MacIntosh.
Earlier this year, they travelled to the U.S., an experience they describe as “very very scary.”
Ideally, MacIntosh would like to see that line removed from all identification, for everyone. They described the X as a “bandaid.”
“By not having your gender on your ID it doesn’t take anything away from you,” said MacIntosh. “But having an identifier which is not correct for me, that affects me … It’s how I’m introduced at jobs, when I go pick up medication, at airports. Everywhere. Every single thing that is of semi-importance links back to my identification.”
Chan stated removing the sex field entirely is not on the radar at this time, however.
“As Canada is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Canadian passports and other travel documents must comply with international standards and specifications,” she stated. “The sex field is mandatory for all international travel documents.”