Primal Numbers – X and Why

In most places and most times, biological gender wasn’t open for debate. You either had two X chromosomes or an X and a Y, making you female or male. From toys to jobs to bathrooms, tradition drew firm lines between the sexes. Now, a Saskatchewan mom wants the province to remove any record of a person’s sex on birth certificates. Is it political correctness gone too far, or a change That’s long overdue?

As the CBC reports, Fran Forsberg is the mother of a transgender child named Renn. Six years ago Renn was born biologically male, but ever since the age of three has identified as female. Renn has her family’s support, but not the government’s?at least not when it comes to changing the youngster’s birth record to read ?female? instead of ?male.?

Although Forsberg ?submitted reports from a physician and psychologist confirming that Renn identifies as a female,? the Vital Statistics Agency refused to change the birth record. That’s because, in Saskatchewan, authorities will only change the sex on a birth certificate after an individual has had sex reassignment surgery. Now, Forsberg has filed a human rights complaint on behalf of Renn, and would ideally like to see the province remove sex designations altogether from birth certificates.

To be honest, my first reaction was skeptical. Not about the fluidity of gender?research has long shown that gender and sexual identity are remarkably unfixed, and, as this Boston Globe article reports, there are well-established clinics that evaluate and treat transgender kids. Instead, my skepticism was based on practical matters. After all, a person’s sex is an important method of identity on all kinds of documents, such as driver’s licenses and passports. Isn’t it?

Marginally, yes, but not nearly as important as other features, like a person’s height or photograph. Indeed, if sex were that important as a method of identity, why do license and passport photos only include a person’s head and shoulders? Biometric measurements, such as fingerprints and retina scans, are far more reliable for identification, and their commonplace use makes sex designations even less vital.

That case has already been made in Ontario, which ruled in 2012 that individuals can change the sex on their birth certificates whether or not they ever choose to have sex reassignment surgery (though they do have to be over 18 and provide a physician’s note that confirms which gender they identify with). The B.C. government is set pass a similar law.

There are, of course, useful reasons for identifying people by sex. In a doctor’s office, hormonal differences matter whether You’re talking about cancer rates or reproduction.

But as an identifier on general documents, it doesn’t make as much sense. Society and laws evolve and, as Forsberg told the CBC, a person’s birth certificate used to include their race and their father’s occupation. No doubt there’d be an outcry if governments tried to include that data now.

In a world where females are still so often considered second-class citizens, where women routinely earn less than men for the same work, the shift toward taking sex out of the equation is a refreshing and overdue change. Some countries are already moving in that direction?Australia and New Zealand, for example, allow ?citizens to mark an ?X? for gender on their passport, rather than ?M? or ?F?.?

When it comes to sex on birth certificates, maybe It’s about time we stopped asking X or Y. Indeed, the better question now should be ?why??

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.