Whitehorse Daily Star

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A STARTLING EXPERIENCE – Shaun LaDue, a transgender man, encountered unexpected frustrations in trying to obtain his driver’s licence in Ross River.

Man’s licence plight spurs policy review

A Ross River man was in for a slight surprise when he went to his local motor vehicles branch offices to get his driver’s licence swapped from British Columbia to the Yukon.

By Aimee O'Connor on September 11, 2015

A Ross River man was in for a slight surprise when he went to his local motor vehicles branch offices to get his driver’s licence swapped from British Columbia to the Yukon.

Beside the photo of the First Nations man with a moustache was the gender “Female.”

Shaun LaDue, 48, is a transgender man.

“Until it gets changed again, if I get pulled over by police, there are going to be some serious questions,” LaDue laughed in a recent interview.

He began his transition four years ago, and legally changed his name in B.C., where he was living.

When he went to get his driver’s licence in B.C., he brought with him the name change documentation and a doctor’s note.

“I had a letter from my doctor that said because I was transitioning, and I look male and I’m under the care of a doctor, then my gender should reflect that,” LaDue said.

Seventeen dollars and no problems later, LaDue had his “M” for male.

“They were very accommodating,” he said.

But when he came home with a licence set to expire soon, the Yukon motor vehicles branch could not let LaDue keep his male-status on his renewed driver’s licence under its policies.

“The primary identification document is the birth certificate,” said Vern Janz, director of transport services for the Department of Highways and Public Works.

“In order to change the gender on a driver’s licence, the birth certificate needs to be updated.”

Section 12(1) of the Yukon’s Vital Statistics Act is dreaded in the trans community – it simply states that people wishing to change their gender must have had their “anatomical sex structure changed” and have it confirmed by two medical practitioners.

It is this legislation that LaDue and other transgender people in the territory are calling outdated and archaic.

The required surgeries in the Vital Statistics Act apply specifically to “bottom” surgery, said Pat Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

LaDue has had “top” surgery, but even though the government covers the costs of “bottom” surgery, it can be a long and painful process, he said.

Frustrated by the process and the end result at motor vehicles branch, LaDue wrote a letter to Justice Minister Brad Cathers.

“I recall earlier this year while in the legislature, you stood up and said that any Yukoner that felt discriminated by (any) government organization to contact you,” LaDue wrote in his letter.

Cabinet spokesperson Dan Macdonald indicated Thursday that several departments are still working to give a response to LaDue’s letter.

Chase Blodgett, 29, is a transgender man who moved to the territory from Ontario, where he was able to have his gender changed on his birth certificate without having surgery.

“Previously, Ontario had required medical intervention,” Blodgett said.

“(Then) it was determined that it was discriminatory to mandate that trans people have surgery before amending documentation.”

When he went to DMV to get his driver’s licence, he had all of the required documentation, but it wasn’t exactly smooth, he said.

The employee assisting him at DMV was unsure of what to do, as his old driver’s licence had his birth name and assigned gender from birth.

The employee issued Blodgett a temporary driver’s licence with the amended name and gender, which would be active for 90 days.

“I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just amend the formal one if they had issued a temporary one,” Blodgett told the Star.

He immediately phoned the Yukon Human Rights Commission.

A few hours later, Blodgett said, DMV called, telling him that he could pick up his licence.

“They apologized several times.”

If it weren’t for the legislation in Ontario, Blodgett would have ended up with the female designation that LaDue did.

“What this issue really highlights is how trans issues are patchwork.

“It’s not right that two trans guys residing in the same area, receive different treatment when it comes to documentation because of something as arbitrary and out of control as the place in which one is born.”

This morning, Janz said the Star’s recent request for information has prodded the department to give its policies a second glance.

“Because of this recent request ... we’re going to have an examination of our protocols,” Janz said.

The review will include looking at the protocols in other jurisdictions.

“We did have an idea that this was coming on the horizon, (but) this is prompting us to look at our policies.”

This is a small victory for LaDue and others seeking to change their gender on their licences.

It’s part of a larger battle that LaDue, Blodgett and other transgender Yukoners are fighting.

Last winter, the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association drafted a board policy permitting transgender players to participate in the league – setting a precedent for other Canadian hockey leagues.

During the same time, Blodgett circulated a petition to gain support in a motion to amend the Yukon Human Rights Act to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds for discrimination.

LaDue had voiced his concerns about the act to territorial NDP justice critic Lois Moorcroft, who put the motion forward to the assembly.

The petition was brought to legislature in this year’s spring session.

After debate, the motion passed to make amendments to the act the “next time it is reviewed.”

There is no specific date set by the cabinet to review the act before the end of the Yukon Party’s mandate in 2016, or beyond.

“What I want is the Vital Statistics Act changed immediately to reflect our society, which means there are trans people living out there who want their identification to match who they are,” LaDue said.

In the meantime, the transgender community in the territory will continue to support each other – with Blodgett and LaDue acting as role models for younger trans folk.

They will soon be hosting in-person group talks for transgender Yukoners, an initiative supported by local youth empowering organization BYTE.

Comments (6)

Up 1 Down 0

Avery Choudhury on Oct 22, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Show me your wee-wee laws are very similar to the pencil tests of apartheid days. "We'll treat you as human as long as you meet OUR standards." The childishness of Humankind never ceases to amaze me.

Up 28 Down 10

Reason on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:57 am

@ Natasha, so it's perfectly alright for you to throw around names like 'Bigot'. Where I come from name calling and labeling someone you don't agree with is a form of bullying, think about that for awhile.

Up 29 Down 26

Natasha adsit on Sep 12, 2015 at 5:54 pm

June jackson your entirely correct only issues that affect you or issues that you deem important should get attention. .... Now off to the food bank with identification that doesn't have gender corrected..... Oh right, its not important that these young men starve coz you only push your agenda. If you support human rights only for some your a bigot, human rights means ALL humans.

Up 6 Down 10

Patricia on Sep 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Birth certificate information can cause a real problem, based on religious background, as well, and I consider this potentially dangerous with regards to profiling, and a real nuisance at best.
For example, Catholics are baptised with the name of Mary or Joseph, according to conventional gender specifications, followed by the name of the godparent, and then the given names.
When you get a driver's license, a passport, any official document, a plane ticket, all these names appear. Now all Catholic passengers are named Mary or Joseph with their family name... So very confusing, and incorrect.

Up 32 Down 37

Yvonne on Sep 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

This needs to be reviewed and changed immediately. Forcing a man to carry ID that identifies him as female is discriminatory. The transition process takes years and bottom surgery is often the final step after years of living male.

Up 62 Down 50

June Jackson on Sep 11, 2015 at 11:37 pm

OMG.. the food bank is nearly out of food, there are no jobs and a huge unemployment list, a small roast was $37.00, theft, break ins, drugs, murder on the rise.. and the STAR wasted an entire page on a drivers license?????

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