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Gender 'X': Ontario issues its first 'nonbinary' birth certificate

The Canadian province is now allowing residents to choose a nonbinary gender option, "X," or remove their birth certificate's gender marker altogether.
Image: Joshua M. Ferguson
Joshua M. Ferguson who received Ontario's first non-binary birth certificate talks to media at the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa, Canada on May 7, 2018.Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press via AP

Ontario, Canada's most populous province, is now allowing those born there to choose a nonbinary gender option on their birth certificate or remove the document's gender marker altogether.

Joshua M. Ferguson, an Ontario-born filmmaker who identifies as neither male nor female and uses gender-neutral pronouns like "they" and "them," was issued the province’s first known nonbinary birth certificate on May 4. The document has an "X" instead of an "M" or "F."

In a statement sent to NBC News, Ferguson called the new policy a victory for their community and said the policy makes it clear that “nonbinary people exist.”

Ferguson, 35, said they initially filed an application for a nonbinary birth certificate in May 2017, but Toronto's ServiceOntario office delayed the request. Four months later, Ferguson filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging Ferguson's rights were being violated under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Ferguson's case was successfully resolved in April 2018, and they were issued a nonbinary birth certificate shortly after.

While Ontario is not the first in the world — or even the first in Canada — to permit people to select a nonbinary gender marker, like an "X," on their birth certificates, it is the first to allow people to remove the gender marker from their birth certificate altogether, according to Ferguson.

“While I did not expressly advocate for Ontario’s second announced policy, the so-called 'gender-neutral' option allowing people to voluntarily apply to remove their sex marker altogether from birth certificates, this second option recognizes the diverse needs of the trans community and beyond,” Ferguson stated.

The new Gender Identity Policy, according to ServiceOntario's website, aims to “recognize and respect all transgender and nonbinary people in Ontario, and give all Ontarians access to identification that matches their gender identity.”

Ferguson said the new policy will not affect the vast majority of Ontarians who do not want to change or remove the sex marker on their birth certificates. Their birth certificates will stay the same, and the "M" and "F" gender markers will remain available for all new birth registrations.

“The policy strikes a good balance between recognizing nonbinary people with an 'X' designation, people who may not want sex markers, and the many Ontarians who don’t want any changes to their birth certificates,” Ferguson added.

The Canadian provinces of Northwest Territories (NWT) and Newfoundland and Labrador implemented nonbinary birth certificate policies last year. In the U.S., three states — California, Washington and Oregon — earlier this year started to allow birth certificates to display a nonbinary gender marker. Canberra, the capital city of Australia, passed legislation in 2014 allowing for nonbinary birth certificates.