Canada’s Transgender Children Face Bureaucratic Hurdles


Canada is far ahead of the U.S. in terms of LGBT rights on many metrics: our neighbors to the North enjoy nationwide marriage equality, same-sex adoption rights and discrimination protection based on sexual orientation, as well as protections for anti-trans discrimination in some provinces.  In addition, Canada's military allows military service for LGB and T people.  But as one young transgender girl's story shows, that doesn't mean LGBTs aren't still facing hardships in the country.  The Globe and Mail reports:

At the age of 10, Harriette Cunningham has already cleared the hurdles of telling her family and classmates that she is not the boy identified on her birth certificate. Getting the Canadian bureaucracy to acknowledge that, however, is an anxiety-filled challenge.

With the support of her family, Harriette is pressing for legislative change so that transgender children and youth can change their passport or birth certificate to reflect their gender identity. Whether crossing the border or signing up for gymnastics, she says her official identification is causing her stress.

By law, the Grade 5 pupil in the small community of Comox, on Vancouver Island, cannot change her birth certificate until she is old enough to have sex-reassignment surgery. Her birth certificate identifies her as Declan Forrest Cunningham, but her family has filed the paperwork to change her legal name to Harriette Camille Cunningham.

Harriette's father, Colin, sees the sex-reassignment surgery operation requirement as unnecessary and misguided.  "The problem arises when people think transgendered issues are to do with sexual orientation," he told the Globe and Mail. "She’s 10 years old – she’s not thinking about that."

In the United States, laws pertaining to the alteration of one's sex on a birth certificate vary on a state-by-state basis.  Some states do not require reassignment surgery to make such a change; some states require surgery.  Five states refuse to change birth certificates under any circumstances.

As the Transgender Law Center's website points out, California courts–for example–allow trans individuals to obtain court orders recognizing their gender change as long as they have a note from their physician affirming they have gone through "clinically appropriate treatment" for gender transition.  The decision as to what that phrase means is left to a patient and his or her doctor.

In California, an un-emancipated minor like Harriette would need a parent or legal guardian to file an application for a gender change on his or her behalf.

(photo courtesy of Karen McKinnon and the Cunningham family)


  1. MaryM says

    Why is this an issue?

    The child is 10.


    A child of 10 is required by law to travel with a parent or guardian.

    Why is this regarded as a story.

  2. Ben says

    So we can’t have groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force because they don’t “include” heterosexual transsexuals and crossdressers. Everything LGB must include T because gay people are not allowed to exist as gay people anymore. All gay organizations and institutions had to be relabeled, even though “transgenders” didn’t contribute a dime to building them.

    However, there’s absolutely no problem having a Transgender Law Center. A T-only group with no LGB is no problem. Why? Because LGBT is a scam designed to loot gay people of their political capital and money for the benefit of a group that is mostly heterosexuals. As in any scam, the resources only flow in one direction, from victim to perp. So of course the Transgender Law Center will not be changing its name any time soon.

  3. MaryM says

    ” Whether crossing the border or signing up for gymnastics, she says her official identification is causing her stress”

    What terrible parents this poor child has.

    Imagine having parents to negligent that they expose their child to stress instead of protecting the child from that stress.

  4. MaryM says

    The NLGTF did not shut down.

    But it is ‘transphobic’ because of its name.

    Clearly the Transgender Law Centre is a homophobic organisation for the exact same reason.