By Luke Simcoe, Metro
Ten-year-old Harriette Cunningham knows she’s a girl, even if her birth
certificate and passport say otherwise.
“Harriette has been a little girl for a long, long time,” said her
grandmother, Cathie Dickens. “But every time my daughter tries to enrol her
in something, there’s this big explanation process, and anytime she gets
close to the border, she gets worked up worrying about what’s going to
Born male, Harriette started living as a girl last summer. She wants her
identification to reflect that choice, but B.C. law prevents her from
changing her birth certificate unless she’s undergone sex reassignment
“She’s a very clear-thinking girl, and she gets that it’s discriminatory,”
Dickens said. “She says ‘grandma, why can’t my identification say who I
With help from Dickens, Harriette — who lives in Comox — is mailing letters
to local MLAs and MPs asking for the surgery requirement to be dropped.
They’ve also scheduled a meeting with Comox MLA Don McRae, who happens to
be the minister of social development.
Dickens hopes B.C. will look to Ontario as an example. Last year, the
Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled the surgery requirement was
http://metronews. ca/news/canada/ 400521/transgend ered-ontarians- now-allowed- to-alter- birth-records- without-sex- change-surgery/>
and had it scrapped.
However, the province still prevents youth under the age of 18 from
changing their identification.
“I have no idea why they added the age requirement. We were quite surprised
and disappointed,” said Ryan Dyck, director of research and policy at Egale
Canada <http://egale. ca/> . “You can get married or change your name if you
have parental consent, so why is this different?”
For Dyck, proper identification is a matter of human rights and safety.
“Every single week, we get calls from families with transgender youth, from
as young as six years old. They need access to safe spaces and access to
appropriate identification,” he said. “And if you refuse to allow them
access to appropriate identification, you’re going to expose them to harm.”
Transgender youth face “an alarming degree of discrimination,” Dyck said.
According to an Egale survey, 78 per cent of trans youth feel unsafe at
school, with 37 per cent reporting they’ve been victims of physical
violence. A majority of trans youth also identify gendered washrooms and
change rooms as unsafe spaces.
“Without accurate legal recognition of a youth’s gender identity, many
schools are extremely reticent to recognize the student’s chosen name or to
accommodate their access to spaces that match their gender identity,” read
Egale’s submission to the Ontario government <
http://egale. ca/all/sex- designation/> .
The same survey found 44 per cent of trans youth have missed school because
of anxiety — a statistic that resonates with Hariette.
“Before, she was always worried about things like going to school, but
[since coming out] she’s so much more content and happy with who she is,”
Dickens said. “There’s been a complete turnaround in her personality.”
Dickens expects some people will bristle at the notion of letting children
determine their own gender, but she hopes B.C. will live up to its
“If any other trans kids out there want to send a message to their MLA,
we’d encourage them,” she said.
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http://metronews. ca/news/victoria /796860/10- year-old- transgender- girl-on-vancouve r-island- lobbies-for- id-change/