Updated Canadian Aeronautics Act Permits Discrimination Against Transgender Passengers

Even though I’m a little late on finding out about this, details concerning this story are a bit sketchy at the moment, and my google fu is sadly failing me to be able to find much (if any) reporting on the subject, but it appears that recent amendments to the Canadian Aeronautics Act, the laws and regulations regarding aviation in Canada, have added a regulation that permits discrimination against transgender passengers, entitling airline employees to refuse them permission to board. Specifically, this one:

Sec 5.2(1)(c) of the ID screening regs of Aeronautics Act: “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

Oh hell no, Harper.

Why is this a problem?

Well… remember all that stuff I discussed recently in regards to the problems with Sweden’s sterilization law? Canada (and the United States) aren’t a whole lot better. In order to obtain a passport with a gender marker indicating one’s identified sex, a transsexual Canadian needs to obtain an updated birth certificate. In order to obtain the updated birth certificate, you need have undergone sexual reassignment surgery (as defined, ambiguously, by the Department Of Vital Statistics for whatever province you were born in. Some provinces make this more difficult than others.)

Let’s remember again an important consideration: not all transgender people desire SRS, are able to undergo SRS, or can afford SRS.

(many Canadian provinces provide coverage for SRS under their health plan, but not all of them, and regardless there are many related expenses which are not covered, and the time off work, at the very least, is something not everyone is able to afford)

And here’s something fun: Canada’s only surgeon who performs vaginoplasty, Dr. Brassard, is located in Montreal. Meaning most of us need to fly in to have our surgery.

For domestic flights, in which a passport is not necessary, one could present a driver’s license or other form of identification card. The laws pertaining to gender markers on these forms of identification are typically not as stringent, but that is not always the case, and regardless are typically a bureaucratic nightmare.

This is all to say nothing of transgender individuals who identify outside the binary spectrum, who are going to be screwed by this no matter what.

It’s also very much worth noting that the regulation, as presently phrased, makes absolutely no definition as to what constitutes “appearing to be” a given gender. This would allow Canadian airport and airline employees to boot you off a flight even if your gender marker was updated to match your presentation just because that employee doesn’t think you pass well enough.

We would not even be able to object against such treatment on grounds of discrimination because presently, gender identity, gender expression and transgenderism are not protected statuses under Canadian human rights law. The Conservative victory during the election last May put a halt to the bill that would have introduced us to the list of protected minorities (unsurprisingly, this got virtually no coverage in the Canadian media, just like this update to the aeronautics act is being ignored).

So you know what? Fuck this law.

I can think of absolutely no reason why it needed to be included in the updated regulations anyway. No good reason except for giving the cis majority another opportunity to drive their boots deeper into our neck.

I don’t believe that was the actual intent. I don’t think the lawmakers were sitting around twirling their mustaches and going “nyahaha, how can we make things even worse for trans people!?” …instead they probably just thoughtlessly included the clause as something they thought important to the issue of people posing as other people. But that they would consider the existence of cross-dressing terrorists, but not bother considering how the law would impact real life trans citizens (or just not caring), is a glaring oversight and example of cisnormative, privileged blindness to the existence and needs of our community.

I am beyond disgusted with what Stephen Harper and his party have done to my country. And I really don’t like it when he fucks with me personally and makes my life more difficult.

Here’s a petition you can sign to make your objection known:


You can also review the regulations pertaining to passenger identity in total.

Also please, talk about this. Let it be heard. Make sure people know about it. Don’t let it be swept under the rug, like so many abuses of trans rights have been in the past.

Thank you.


  1. says

    jesus, but this is fucked up bullshit. The more stories like this I read, the more I support the German Pirateparty’s demands that the F/M markers be removed from all forms of identification (oh, and their demand to remove the ban on unisex names, but that’s slightly OT)

  2. Dhorvath, OM says


    And I hate our political system, Harper has a majority controlling legislature and received only forty percent of the vote. This is not democracy as I see it.

    • jolo5309 says

      Can you name a PM with more than half the vote?

      Also, name a political system which is more democratic? Pop rep is no good, it will allow too many seats to fringe party lunatics (Christian Heritage Party and their ilk).

      Oh yeah, signed

      • Anna says

        What is wrong with fringe party lunatics? If people vote for them they deserve representation, thats democracy.

        The CCF/NDP in Canada started as one of those fringe parties. I find it disgusting that the green party got more then half a million votes in the last 4 elections and only now got their first elected seat.

        Democracy is about people having a say in there own lives, it may not be comfortable, but its better than the alternative I think. Half a million + green voters had there votes ignored by the system and that represets there democratic rights. I find this just as egregious as being a transperson and having my rights denied.

        (For the record I did not vote green)

        • says

          I grudgingly agree. Even if some citizens of a country have terrible views, their views need to be represented. The inverse is true, that many groups with socially positive agenda’s are left out because representation is disproportionate. In Australia, the Greens vote percentage has consistently grown each election (I think is was around 11-12% last time) and yet they have a single member in a federal parliament. Democracy, like anything has pros and cons, but what is practiced in most “democratic” countries is hardly democracy.

  3. says

    It’s also very much worth noting that the regulation, as presently phrased, makes absolutely no definition as to what constitutes “appearing to be” a given gender. This would allow Canadian airport and airline employees to boot you off a flight even if your gender marker was updated to match your presentation just because that employee doesn’t think you pass well enough.

    In addition, this also could discriminate against actually biologically female and male passengers who may be somewhat less than feminine or masculine. So a woman who looks more masculine or a man who looks more feminine might not be allowed to fly.

    • anne says

      I’m a cis woman, and I don’t think I’m all that masculine in appearance – but I have been mistaken for male several times. It seems short hair, no make-up, jeans and a “sensible” sweater trumps DD-cup tits…

  4. Nomen Nescio says

    technically, this could just as well be used to kick cispeople who weren’t acting stereotypically gendered enough off of flights — and with precisely as much justification, if “none at all” counts as justification. but of course, we all know that’ll never (or effectively never) happen, and that there’d be an outcry to shake the heavens if it did. now watch as no news media notices that that fact, in and of itself, is a good indicator of cis-privileged bias.

    (when and why do gender markers on ID documents ever really matter, and for what? why exactly does gender presentation relate to whether one should be allowed to board an airplane? in order: only as and when they make it easier to tell that the person holding the document is the rightful owner of the document, and not in the least. wonder if Bruce Schneier might be convinced to comment on this, since the “it’s for security!” angle would be up his alley.)

  5. The Lorax says

    Does a person’s gender really matter so much that they have to make laws about it? Government should stay out of our genitals!

    Also, I have shoulder blade length hair and a goatee… what now, Canadian airlines? I don’t fit your stereotype of gender, and so I’m not allowed to fly?

  6. Stephanie A. says

    So…let’s say I’m boarding a plane, while presenting as female, and someone in security notices that my documentation says “male”. Taking the law literally, all I would really have to do to “appear of the gender indicated on my identification” is take off my wig, right? And what purpose would that serve, exactly?

    I wonder how much this law will actually be enforced in practice. Hopefully it won’t be.

  7. Anders says

    Canadian Minister of Transportation: We in the government are most worried about the protests from transpeople regarding the new rules for gender on flights. We feel that these people don’t understand how the new rules will benefit.

    The problem is that transpeople are lazy and don’t appreciate the efforts the government is going through to keep them healthy. For instance, the distance between Vancouver and Montreal is some 2 300 miles. On a bicycle, that’s no more than a month’s healthy exercise! And think of all the carbon dioxide emissions you’ll save.

    Now, some of you would say that not everyone can afford or survive SRS. To the first group, I would simply remind them that if they sell their car and buy a bicycle instead their monetary situation will improve together with their physical condition. It’s a win-win!

    For the second group, the Canadian government would like to remind them that air travel can be very stressful and should not be undertaken by people in poor health. Simply put, these people are better off staying where they are.

    And if you do not agree, we’ll have to rename this the Department of Trans-deportation and start acting accordingly.
    *general laughter*


  8. says

    Like Natalie said, it seems doubtful the intent was specifically to target the trans community, but the effect of the regulation is to give any carrier the right to actively discriminate against gender variant people – not only trans people but intersex and some genderbending cis people too.

    Reading the full text of the identity screening regulations, it seems that a person denied transportation under section 5.2 of the regulations would be deemed to be in “contravention” of them, and thus liable under section 14 to a fine of up to $5,000, just to rub in the whole indignity of the matter.

    Good one, Canada.

    • Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

      “Like Natalie said, it seems doubtful the intent was specifically to target the trans community, but the effect of the regulation is to give any carrier the right to actively discriminate against gender variant people – not only trans people but intersex and some genderbending cis people too.”

      Even so, I can’t help but think when and which ever fuckwits who came up with this wording of this in a whiteboard session…that someone might of raised this issue, only to have the authors to turn around and say, “Oh…it’s only the trans community, they’ll be too small to register on anyones’ radar. So let’s not worry about it, shall we?”

      Unfortantely, it appears one of my transgendered friends is having a meltdown over this. Likely because it puts her in a horrible catch 22 position, particulary when she needs to fly to have her SRS opp. And of coarse it goes without saying, if the feds can get away with it here, they can likely get away with it everywhere else. This is not a slippery slope fallacy; this is a reasonable fear. Of all which they need to do is pull out the old 9/11 terrorist boogeyman to make it happen.

      It goes without saying, that the government has no place in the minds and bodies of our nation, along with our bedrooms. I sincerely hope this thing gets defeated in the largeness of public opinion as well as in our courts.

      /signed petition

  9. says

    No, no. This is a very important regulation. Without it, there’d be no way to keep terrorists in sitcoms from sneaking aboard airplanes.

    I eagerly await its health code equivalent, forbidding terrorists from dressing and redressing as different people so as to attend two dinner dates on the same night.

    • Ace of Sevens says

      LOL. It does nothing to make sure one terrorist doesn’t sit on another’s shoulders to disguise themselves as a very tall man, either.

      How are regulations like this passed in Canada? In the US there’s a public comment period before they become official and we have watchdog groups to call attention to this sort of thing before it becomes official. (Not that it necessarily does much good.)

  10. Anna says

    I am also worried about this because if allowed to stand would set bad precedents for the Harper government to use.

    It reminds me alot of the veil issue. First veils were a security issue at airports etc. This was allowed to stand and soon it became an issue for voting and citizenship hearings in Canada.

    The Harper government clearly does not support transpeople. I would not put it past them to use this in future extend gender marker ID requirements elsewhere.

    Voter fraud is as big an issue as airport security right?

    • Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death says

      This is precisely the precedent this will likely set that I was referring to when I replied to Xanthe @ 13.

  11. frankb says

    Why does gender relate to airport security? Everyone goes through the same screening, why do clothes have to match the gender? If they want to kick off people who are acting suspecious, well that is rather subjective. That is a ripe situation for discrimination.

  12. Delictuscoeli says

    One thing I find interesting here is that almost everyone is talking about this regulation as if the government just introduced it, when it is in fact two years old. I do wish that more news sources and activist sites would frame this in terms of “this is why it is important to present fewer barriers to trans people for changing legal gender on government ID” rather than “Stephen Harper is out to get us!”, since the latter is pretty unlikely to lead to substantive changes in policy.

    • Yannick says

      Yeah, I came in here ready to be outraged only to find that it’s a 2 year old piece of legislation that has yet to cause any issue. It didn’t seem to be causing any problems until that blogger wrote about it.

      I totally see the potential, but clearly Harper is not out to get us since a) the regulation dates from his minority and b) there has been no reports of transgendered people not being able to get on planes. If the coverage this piece has gotten is any indication, the media would have been all over it had discrimination actually occured in the past two years.

      • says

        What coverage?

        Up until this started bouncing around the blogosphere, there was almost no information about this. I was even trying to double-check when exactly this had been passed or was going to pass and could find almost no reporting at all.

        Regardless of how old the law is, it’s still an obviously stupid one that needs to be removed.

        And just because no incidents have been widely reported does not mean they haven’t occurred. Do you REALLY think the media are all that eager to report on transgender issues?!

        • Anders says

          Maybe not the media, but wouldn’t it have appeared on the transforums (I’ll just assume there are such forums) and the transblogs earlier. I mean, if you got kicked off your flight for being transgender wouldn’t you find a friendly outlet to share your rage and humiliation? I would.

          (or is that my cis-privilege speaking? are many transpeople so used to humiliation that they would let it slide as one more proof that the world hates them? I’m not being facetious here, I’m genuinely curious)

          • Delictuscoeli says

            So far, since this was brought up in the blogosphere (and lgbt media outlets, which is what I intended with “media”) people have been looking for instances of the regulation being used in a discriminatory manner but have not yet found them. This doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there, just that it hasn’t happened yet as far as anyone can tell. My guess is that they’ll respond to pressure by rewriting this regulation but not addressing the underlying problem with IDs.

          • says

            It depends. Some trans people would have gotten angry and asked what the legal precedent was, but most, yeah, would have just accepted it as the usual bullshit we have to put up with.

          • says

            Does it matter?

            I’m seeing a lot of deflection in the vein of, “No one’s been kicked off an airplane yet.” Nevertheless, transgender people are technically banned from flying. Literally, you and the airline are in violation of the law when you fly, whether that law is widely enforced or not.

            Would the same deflection be employed if this were a regulation that, say, technically banned miscegenation? Would we see as many people speculating that the regulation was actually designed to keep terrorists from marrying their way into a Canadian visa? That our reaction is overblown? That it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over, because it’s not being enforced?

            I don’t think so. Because its effect is deeply offensive and discriminatory, regardless.

          • Delictuscoeli says

            It is worth pointing out that it was probably not the government’s intent to discriminate (as plainly would be the case if the letter of the law were enforced), but rather frame it in terms of the fact that legislators’ cis privilege can blind them to important exigencies when writing legislation they might not have connected to trans rights or the well-being of other minorities.

            This kind of passive discrimination is also a huge problem, obviously, and it’s good to make the point that it has the potential to be just as detrimental as legislation designed with the intent to take away rights, especially if someone later decides to interpret this regulation less favourably. Enforcement can be taken as a measure of the government’s intent, though, and acknowledging that isn’t deflection if an argument for change is made on different grounds.

            I just fear that the way this instance of policy is being reported causes the wider community to lose sight of the underlying condition, and this will allow the government to “respond” by altering the wording of this regulation rather than reforming the policy for gender on legal IDs. This would be a much more important step forward. Especially since the bill legally establishing trans equality and protections died during the illegal prorogue and has yet to be reintroduced.

            This very thing happened, in a way, with the uproar over non-resident gay marriage, where lgbt outlets reported a potential government action as already having occurred. Rather than actually changing the divorce statute to blame for the legal snarl, the gov’t just awarded special dispensation to the couple in question to quiet the controversy, and the fundamental problems remain unaddressed.

  13. geocatherder says

    I’m a baffled Yank here. How can it possibly matter if Jo Smith presents hirself as male or female? Who the cares?

      • geocatherder says

        That was meant to be “who the (expletive) cares”?
        It’s late. I’m tired. If this try isn’t right, y’all can figure it out.

        • Anders says

          If a male terrorist tries to hide his bombs under his burka it could matter. And female hostesses could check on that.

          However, due to the laws of probability and the rarity of terrorists, any ordnances like this probably catches vast amounts of innocents for every terrorist caught. Unfortunately, most people are very, very bad at statistics. It’s the same fallacy that is discussed here: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_donnelly_shows_how_stats_fool_juries.html

          Can anyone teach me how to embed links?

        • Delictuscoeli says

          Geocatherder, it was part of a larger regulatory measure meant to flag people who may be using fraudulent IDs, and clearly whoever wrote it didn’t think so far as to why someone might not resemble the gender on their gov’t ID besides OMG TERRARIZM.

    • Anna says

      That was an amazingly sensitive article for the main stream press for a trans subject. I have to admit im very impressed.

  14. kh says

    In April of 2012, a new law was passed, in that transgendered individuals no longer need to have reassignment in order to change their gender on any legal form. Sufficient doctor consent and approval along with some other notes are legal now.
    One other advancement in many that still need to be made. But baby steps are better then nothing.

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