Fear of Flying

Flight-Ban Discriminates Against Trans Fliers

A regulatory change quietly made to the Aeronautics Act by Transport Canada last July could disallow transsexual and transgender people from boarding flights leaving Canada.

The change caused a stir last month after transgender activist Christin Milloy blogged about the discovery.

Section 5.2(1)(c) of the ID screening regulations now says, “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.”

The names on all pieces of identification must also be matching—a problem for people who are in the midst of transitioning. If there are major discrepancies with your identification cards, you will not be getting on that flight.

“The only impact it will have is to put into regulation discriminatory practice.

“It will make trans people miserable, it will make gender non-conforming people miserable, it will make boarding agents miserable and it will make cisgender [non-trans] people—mostly women—who could be perceived as the ‘other gender’ miserable,” said Gabrielle Bouchard, a Trans Health Network and peer support coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy.

She added that she is working closely with the New Democratic Party and other groups to fight this ban.

The Canadian queer newspaper Xtra reported that NDP Minister of Parliament Olivia Chow noticed Conservatives snickering when pressed for answers by members of the NDP and by Liberal MP Justin Trudeau about the new regulations during the question period on Feb. 1.

At the time, she argued the section of the rule was “unnecessary, it’s backwards and it’s discriminatory,” before putting a motion before the Chair to repeal the identity screening regulation.

“The Conservatives just voted against my motion to stop discrimination against the travelling transgendered community,” Chow tweeted on Feb. 9. “Shame.”

According to Xtra, Transport Canada has stated, “Any passenger whose physical appearance does not correspond to their identification can continue to board an airplane by supplying a letter from a healthcare professional explaining the discrepancy.

“We have no records of any individual being denied boarding in Canada because they are transgender or transsexual.”

It is possible to fly if you have proof that you have had sex reassignment surgery or a letter explaining that you will have the surgery within a year.

This is problematic for trans people who do not want to undergo, or are unable to afford, the expense of surgery. Some provinces will also only pay for SRS if you go to specific clinics in Ontario or Quebec, which would be difficult for trans people to get to, given the current flying regulations.

A Facebook group, À bas l’interdiction aérienne transphobe—Against Canada’s trans flight ban, has formed to provide updates on the situation.

Currently, transgender and transexual people do not have federal protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-389, a bill that would have amended the Act to add gender identity and gender expression was passed in Parliament and the House of Commons, however it died in the Senate when the federal election was called in 2011.

Details on how to apply for a “Sex-Unspecified” passport in protest can be found at chrismilloy.ca.