The blogosphere exploded this past week with news of an air travel regulation in Canada which states, “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” (Milloy). According to Wong of the Huffington Post, Transport Canada put the regulation into place in August 2010, effectively giving the department the right to bar anyone presenting along the trans* spectrum from flights in Canada.
Wong’s discussion with Transport Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette is particularly disturbing. She is quoted: “Transport Canada is not aware of any case of a transgendered or transsexual individual in possession of a medical document who has not been permitted to board an airplane.” This sentence, in one solid motion, indicates the necessity for any trans* person who is flying within Canada to have valid medical documentation simply to travel. For trans* people, traveling is nerve-wracking. There is always that constant pressure, the knowledge your identification does not match who you are. And now there is a definitive regulation which validates those fears. It is a constant battle to live within the identity your feel most comfortable, and this policy undermines even further that sometimes tenuous defeat of dysphoria with a reminder that much of the world disregards your identity.
The regulation becomes invalid with the knowledge that no matter what changes in gender have come over a person, the features within an ID picture are identifiable. Facial markers do not change simply because a person presents as a gender other than the one on their legal documents. Should people who have otherwise altered their appearance with plastic surgery also be discriminated against?
The regulation, beyond the obvious disrespect and discrimination it heaps on the trans* community, is open broadly for interpretation. Every individual has their own definition of gender. Without an overreaching definition of gender, there is no way for the administration even to attempt uniformly to carry out its own regulation, leaving anyone open to harm from the policy even just from wearing clothes meant for the gender not reflected on your identification.
The policy is unnecessary, discriminatory, and horribly broad. And it needs desperately to be changed. There are a couple of different petitions you can sign here and here. There is also a link to the email for the Minister of Transportation here.
Milloy, Christin. “Transgender People are Completely Banned from Boarding Airplanes in Canada.” Chrismilloy.ca. 30 Jan. 2012. Online. <http://chrismilloy.ca/2012/01/transgender-people-are-completely-banned-from-boarding-airplanes-in-canada/>.
Wong, Curtis. “Canadian Air Travel Regulations Over Gender and Appearance Spark Concern Among Transgender Rights Advocates.” Huffington Post. 31 Jan. 2012. Online. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/canadian-air-travel-regulations-transgender-passengers_n_1244222.html>.