Trans and non-binary rights in Quebec would take a major step back if Bill 2 passes

This bill undoes landmark achievements trans* rights advocates have accomplished over the past decade

The only person who should have a legislative say on my gender is me. Graphic Maria Chabelnik @djmaria.mp3

When asked how my life as a cis-passing non-binary person would be affected if Bill 2 passes, truth is, I'm not sure. What I do know is that this proposed bill forces people like me to conform to one of the two binary genders, as it legally invalidates all non-binary identities.

Bill 2 states our legal gender must correspond to the genitals we have. Basically, if this bill passes, trans* people would only be able to have their sex identification changed after they receive gender-affirming surgery.

In 2016, Quebec’s process for legally changing one’s gender marker on official documents was deemed one of the most progressive among all Canadian provinces. This was because Quebec did not require trans men and women to have medically or surgically transitioned in order to have their legal gender match their gender identity. 

Nonetheless, despite having one of the most progressive sex designation policies in Canada, Quebec still did not legally recognize non-binary gender identities. This was part of the reason why Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy had launched a lawsuit against the provincial government in 2014.

In Jan. 2021, the Superior Court of Quebec finally ruled in favour of the CGA. Several news outlets deemed this ruling a historic win for trans and non-binary rights in Quebec because of the history we have of being oppressed by discriminatory policies—policies to the likes of Bill 2.

The Bill completely undoes everything the CGA has accomplished over the past several years and cancels out progressive policies dating back to 2016. It goes so far as to insist trans* individuals must have the genitals that correspond to the sex designation on their birth certificate. 

The 2021 historic win is the reason I joined the board of directors for the CGA. I hoped that by joining this organization, I could somehow help them continue to make history. After all, they had sued the government of Quebec on a matter that directly affected me and won, so they were basically gods in my eyes.

I was also planning on getting my gender marker changed to X in December, when, according to the CGA, the Quebec government was supposed to start legally recognizing non-binary people, but Bill 2 changes everything. This proposed bill puts in legislation the policing of trans* bodies.

What would implementing this bill look like for non-binary folks? Being non-binary means one does not exclusively identify as male or female. Non-binary is an umbrella term that encompasses those who identify as both, neither, a bit of one, a mix of two or more identities, etc. The Quebec government doesn’t seem to understand the reality and the diversity of trans* experiences. 

Trans* people are not a monolith you can regroup into a single category and conviniently label as “non-cis”. Although we are all “non-cis,” that is pretty much the only thing all trans* people have in common. While some feel the need to transition because they feel as though they were born in the wrong body, that view does not resonate with some of us.

The Quebec government doesn’t seem to understand the reality and the diversity of trans* experiences.

For me, personally, I feel like I was assigned the correct body, but not the correct label. I cringe every time someone categorizes me as a woman or tries to make my identity fit nicely in a box.

But in the eyes of Quebecois policy-makers, my legal gender is what my genitals say I am. 

The proposed bill quite literally reduces people to their genitals, which is transphobic and bioessentialist. Bioessentialism—the belief that our personality and identity are inherently linked to our genitals—is dangerous, especially when legislislated. Legislated bioessentialism encourages the world view that people who are assigned male at birth are fundamentally, biologically and intrinsically different from people who are assigned female at birth. 

Moreover, binary trans people who cannot, or do not wish to get surgery exist, but this proposed bill is essentially claiming they are not trans enough simply because they are not changing their bodies to fit the cisgender narrative of transgender experience. 

Not to mention the cost of bottom surgeries ranges from $10,000 to $60,000, or more. Luckily, these surgeries are covered by public health insurance in Quebec, but only Canadian citizens and permanent residents have access to this insurance. 

Bill 2, if passed, will thus institutionalize genitalia-based discrimination in the trans* community, as it will distinguish those who have had gender-affirming surgery from those who have not, creating a damaging dichotomy. It will also amplify transphobia, as Bill 2 is legislated transphobia. 

Misconceptions surrounding our demographic are already rampant in society and this bill will only make things worse for us. 

NB: the notation “trans*” is to include non-binary people; whereas the notation “trans” is to soley refer to binary trans folks.