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Transgender man calls Yukon law discriminatory

Until recently, Shaun LaDue's driver's licence identified him as male. This made sense to him: LaDue is transgender, meaning he was born with a female body but identifies as male.

Until recently, Shaun LaDue’s driver’s licence identified him as male. This made sense to him: LaDue is transgender, meaning he was born with a female body but identifies as male.

But in August, he moved back from Vancouver to the Yukon, where he was born. Now, thanks to a Yukon law that prevents people from changing their gender on legal documents until they undergo sex reassignment surgery, LaDue’s brand-new Yukon driver’s licence lists him as female.

LaDue believes the current legislation is discriminatory. “I am a man. I’m male,” he said. “And therefore I should have a piece of identification that reflects that.”

LaDue began taking testosterone injections in 2012, but has not yet had sex reassignment surgery.

According to the Yukon’s Vital Statistics Act, LaDue can only change the gender listed on his birth certificate after undergoing surgery and providing separate affidavits from two medical practitioners saying that his anatomical sex has changed.

And until his birth certificate or passport has been altered, the Yukon government will not issue LaDue a driver’s license that lists him as male.

Passports, which are federal documents, are subject to similar rules. To get his passport updated, LaDue would either need an updated birth certificate or proof of sex reassignment surgery.

But none of this was a problem for LaDue when he lived in B.C. That’s because B.C. is one of the majority of Canadian provinces that have changed or have agreed to change their Vital Statistics Acts to remove the requirement for surgery. Those provinces also include Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

To get his B.C. driver’s licence, LaDue simply had to provide a letter from his doctor saying he’d been diagnosed with gender dysphoria - meaning he didn’t identify with the gender he was assigned at birth - and that he was medically transitioning.

LaDue said the Yukon needs to catch up with the rest of the country.

“The Yukon’s always done things differently, which is great, but you still have to keep up with the way society is at large,” he said. “And at large, it’s making accommodations for transgender people.”

LaDue said he’s filed a complaint with the Yukon Human Rights Commission that has been communicated to the government. “This isn’t just about me,” he said. “This is about every other trans person who is a Yukon-born trans person. This is a fight that I’m willing to do for them.”

LaDue isn’t the first Yukoner who’s complained publicly about transgender rights and the Vital Statistics Act.

In May, Kelly Skookum complained that her 10-year-old daughter was being discriminated against because her birth certificate listed her as male.

Julie Jai, acting director of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, said she agrees that the Yukon’s legislation is discriminatory. “It doesn’t really recognize the different between sex, which is your anatomy, and gender,” she said.

Jai said there are many reasons transgender people choose not to have surgery, and there is no reason they should be required to have surgery to have their gender changed on official documents.

LaDue said he is considering sex reassignment surgery, but the process is expensive and Montreal is currently the only place in Canada that offers it. He also worries about possible complications.

For now, that means his only option is to carry a female driver’s licence.

In May, NDP MLA Lois Moorcroft raised the issue of the Vital Statistics Act and gender identity before the Yukon’s legislative assembly, and mentioned that many other Canadian jurisdictions have already changed their legislation.

Justice Minister Brad Cathers told the assembly that the government would consider whether changes should be made to the Vital Statistics Act. He urged people who find pieces of Yukon legislation that discriminate against transgender, transsexual and gender-variant people to bring them to the government’s attention.

“If we’re not aware of the experience you’ve had and the problems you’ve had, then we simply aren’t aware of it so that we can solve it,” he said.

LaDue has recently sent a letter to Minister Cathers explaining his situation.

But cabinet communications official Dan Macdonald said the Vital Statistics Act is not on the legislative agenda. He said that government departments are currently “doing a review of what’s in place in other jurisdictions” before deciding whether to make a change in the Yukon.

Still, LaDue and Jai are both optimistic about the chances of the legislation being changed in the near future.

“That discussion in the legislature was very positive in terms of having all-party support for the concept,” Jai said. “It doesn’t actually sound like they’re opposed to it. It just hasn’t been a priority.”

Contact Maura Forrest at