Inaccessibility of Gender Designation for Youth
A response to the new BC guidelines, written by Zeke Chambers

January 2022

“Trans people have a legal right to have their names and gender markers recognized.” Adrienne Smith (they/them), litigation director for the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre’s All-Genders Legal Clinic
 

There’s no denying that the improvements made to the gender designation process in BC have increased accessibility. However, these changes fail to provide accessibility to our most vulnerable community members - gender diverse youth who do not have parental or guardian support. Why is this the case? People under the age of 19 are required to provide proof of parental or guardian support when applying for a change of gender designation. Without that support, a trans youth’s legal right to have their name and gender recognized is stripped away, only on the basis that they have transphobic legal guardians.

 

“Adults wanting to change their gender designations will be required to complete an Application for Change of Gender Designation, which includes a self-declaration. People under 19 will also need to provide proof of parent and/or guardian support.” BC Gov News Release, Improving gender designation process for people in B.C. [X]

 

It is well known that LGBT+ youth who experience discrimination within their home and family are at much higher risk for suicide. It has been found that gender diverse people are twice as likely to struggle with suicidal ideation or attempt suicide, compared to people who are not gender diverse but still LGB+. Transition, whether social or medical, drastically reduces suicide risk. In 2014 it was found that 67% of transitioning people thought about suicide more prior to transitioning, and in 2015 it was determined that a shocking 1 in 3 trans youth attempted suicide within the past year. [X]

 

For many people, some of the most important aspects of transitioning are having their gender identity and pronouns recognized and respected, as well as changing their name to better suit their identity. These are some key aspects of a social transition, when the people and institutions around them are respectful, supportive, and non-discriminatory - this greatly alleviates the gender dysphoria experienced by a trans person. The amount of support gender diverse people have in relation to their gender identity directly correlates with the amount and severity of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, being trans is not the cause for the absurdly high suicide rates, discrimination is.

 

Knowing this, the additional barriers faced by trans youth with unsupportive guardians drastically increases the suicide and mental health risks. Our government processes for youth gender designation and name changes perpetuates and validates the discrimination that these youth have already been subjected to from their guardian(s), in turn, further amplifying the suicide and mental health risks. Many trans youth are forced to leave their homes long before they reach the age of majority, either to escape ongoing abuse caused by discrimination, or because their parent or guardian forcibly removes them from their residence due to discrimination against their gender identity. Homelessness risk for trans youth is high, and actually experiencing homelessness will of course, only magnify the other risks trans youth commonly struggle with.

 

Youth without support from guardians, whether or not it has anything to do with gender identity, also have a whole host of societal barriers to wade through until they turn 19 years old. Some examples in BC include: being unable to open their own bank account, being unable to access education savings, and being unable to purchase car insurance on a monthly payment plan; (per day, per week, or 3+ month insurance plans are available with payment upfront, monthly payments under the age of 19 require a cosigner).

 

Luckily, some youth who are needing to change their gender designation, but lack parental support, can apply for a “Request for Waiver of Parental and/or Guardian Consent”.[X] However, the requirements for the waiver of guardian consent are incredibly limited, and would not apply to most youth who are struggling with discrimination from their guardian(s). A Court’s decision reflecting severing of guardianship, or a youth agreement from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, are the most plausible options for eligibility for this waiver of consent, for trans youth who are struggling with discrimination from a parent or guardian. Even so, these options are not accessible or attainable for most. To qualify for a Youth Agreement the youth must be 16 to 18 years old, and be determined to be in need of assistance or protection. A certain threshold of abuse must be met before someone is determined to be in need of assistance, though the emotional abuse that trans youth experience is often not fully understood and thus many are determined to be undeserving of assistance. 

 

“It is unfortunate that legally the parent or guardian can block all access to care, support, and legal recognition.” Laurance Playford-Beaudet, Trans qathet

 

The hoops a youth must jump through to even be able to request a waiver of parental consent are unacceptable. The additional governmental barriers that a trans youth in need would be forced to overcome to have their legal rights respected is simply put, appalling. No youth should have our government processes contribute to their marginalization, especially in such a blatant manner that has the potential to escalate mental health and suicide risk.