Passport Inclusion and Change of Sex Designation Canada

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

transgender inclusion matters
Photo: Lyndsay Doyle Photography

Canadian passports are more gender inclusive for trans and gender diverse people then our family realized.

After months of debating whether to keep an 'F' gender designation on our 11-year-old sons passport, or go with the 'X' designation with an added 'Observation' card, there is an entire other option available to us - but, despite much research, we didn't know about it.

Our passport options weren't looking ideal.

Passport Canada's page states the following: Applicants must include a proof of Canadian citizenship or immigration status document that shows the same sex as the one you are requesting. We currently aren't eligible for this option. It does offer other options, but in our opinion they're vague and the form links are dead links. The 'X' marker option; with 'an Observation' card inserted inside a passport is clearly outlined as the main option for change of sex (they mean gender, but state sex).

Our son was born in Ireland and he has Canadian Citizenship. He identifies as Male. He has for the past year and half. To renew to a new passport with an 'F' gender marker simply wouldn't match who he his and how he presents.

What this means for him:

1. We were able to legally change his name from his birth name to his preferred name within Canada and update his Canadian Citizenship.

2. However, because Ireland has not yet incorporated an inclusive policy allowing us to update his birth certificate, the Gender Marker on his Canadian Citizenship is incorrect. It's a misplaced 'F'. (Sidebar: In Ireland you have to wait until your child is 16-years-old and you must go to Court to change a name and gender marker. That's an overseas trip, at an unreasonable price for inclusion, and it's not even possible for another four years until he is 16).

To renew to a new passport with an 'X' designation and a secondary 'Obersvation' card insert frankly, puts him in potential danger when travelling and it exposes his birth gender. This policy, while trying to be forward thinking, places all gender diverse, non-binary and transgender people at risk of harassment or undue delays and discomfort when navigating passport control.

An example of this occurred just a few weeks ago on Westjet when a passenger was left "...feeling "unsafe" and the target of stares and pitying comments after a WestJet agent outed (a woman) as a transgender woman to the other passengers on her flight."

'All passengers must feel safe to be themselves,' says Transport Canada spokeperson, so I wonder, how does something like this happen? (CBC: Ministry contacting WestJet over outing of transgender passenger)

'Either option is going to 'out' me Mom,' says Dillon.

And so we choose to go with the 'X' Observation Card option over the 'F' and planned to limit our travel.

Good News!

When we arrived at the Passport Office, our agent informed us we'd filled out the incorrect form. If our son wants an M on his passport, this would be possible by submitting Form PPTC 152a.

Created in February 2017, this form came into effect sometime late 2017 or earlier 2018. A printable version of this form doesn't yet exist online (it's mentioned, but the link is a dead-link at time of writing this).

When we spoke to an agent over the phone, the Passport agent was also unaware this was form was an option for us and never suggested we'd be able update our child's gender without any hassle.

And, while I pride myself in being an efficient researcher, I missed it - and you might too if you haven't walked into a passport office in person.

Perhaps you've been avoiding applying for, or updating, a passport for this reason?

PPTC 152a signifies huge peace of mind for our family. We want to keep our son safe and when policies are in place and readily accessible, then the system is supporting our child and the 240,000+ gender diverse and transgender children across Canada.

Unfortunately, this policy does not forward the safe travel of non-binary people. The best, most inclusive solution for all is the removal of sex markers or gender markers on passports altogether. As one passport officer reflected, there are many other ways we can identify people, besides a sex marker.

Progress is happening, but it's not fast enough.

Until recently, transgender people were never even given an option to update their documents to the gender they identify as without having undergone sex reassignment surgery. This ignores the fact that many transgender people choose not to have surgery and having surgery is not what makes a person transgender.

Being a cisgender parent of a transgender child, I cannot begin to fathom the barriers trans people have had to face for so many decades. There really was never a place of acceptance for them in mainstream society and it's still a battle today. It's no wonder there are so many ties to anxiety and depression, when simply being included and accepted by society could have potentially made a life experience so much better.

Our kiddo will now have a passport that reflects his gender identity. And this i.d will be used to keep him safe. It does not affirm who he is. He knows who he is. But it does affirm who he is to a society that is still trying to understand what is gender diversity.

It's a good move forward.

To Passport Canada

It's time to make your online information clearer and more accessible for those looking for it. It's important.

And get rid of the dead links.

And please make the policy common knowledge to all your passport agents for future inquiries. I suspect you'll have many.

We likely would have updated this passport 12 months ago, instead of wrestling with a decision, it turns out, we didn't have to make.


The name of the form is: Declaration - Change of Sex Designation For a Child Under 16 Years of Age - PPTC 152a

You can find information here but we believe it's confusing and the form link is a dead link:

Check out Destination Pride for safe travel destinations.

#inclusionmatters #transrightsarehumanrights #transrights #LGBTQ2 #passportCanada