HALIFAX – Nova Scotians can now choose “X” as a gender indicator – or choose not to display a gender – on provincial identity cards.
Patricia Arab, the minister for Service Nova Scotia and internal services, announced the changes to driver’s licences, birth certificates and photo ID cards on Tuesday.
The government also announced that people can remove the sex designation from the front of their health cards, and that change of sex indicator services are now available for Nova Scotia residents who were born outside of the province.
Arab said the government’s changes reflect Nova Scotia’s diverse population, in response to comments from people who don’t identify as exclusively male or female and have said the old documents did not reflect their identities.
“A priority for our government is making sure we are as inclusive and diverse as possible, and making sure all our residents feel safe and that they have a place here,” Arab said. “This isn’t the last step in the conversation but it’s certainly a significant move to make sure that we have a safe and inclusive community here in our province.”
Fees to change the gender indicator are now waived for replacement cards.
Tuesday’s announcement expands on earlier legislation unveiled last September, giving people who don’t identify as male or female the option of choosing ‘X’ on birth certificates.
At the time, the government announced amendments to the Vital Statistics Act making displaying the sex field optional on birth certificates, and waiving the $24.95 fee to change the sex indicator.
The province had also removed the requirement for anyone 16 or older to get a statement from a health professional to change the sex indicator on their birth certificate.
At the time, Nova Scotia joined Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories in offering ‘X’ as an option for gender identity. New Brunswick made the change in May.
Saskatchewan and Ontario have the option to not display the sex field on birth certificates, while the federal government uses ‘X’ on passports.
Arab said the province may ultimately remove gender markers from identification cards altogether, but the priority for now is to give people options that best reflect who they are.
Susan Leblanc, a spokesperson for the NDP, said the changes are a win for those who have fought long and hard for them.
“Making these changes is a simple thing that will help protect people of diverse gender identities from harassment and discrimination,” Leblanc said in a statement.
Halifax math teacher Shae Morse, who is non-binary, intends to apply for an “X” marker.
Morse said the changes will make a tangible difference in people’s lives, considering how often identification like driver’s licences are required in daily life.
“I’ve been put in specific boxes all my life that I don’t feel like I really fit in,” Morse said by phone Tuesday after speaking at the Halifax event. “In any of those cases where you might need an identification, now that person, whoever is looking at your identification, can see you for who you are, and that’s huge.”
Morse said having a government that stands up and supports people’s need for more accurate representation is another meaningful aspect of the change.
“I’m really excited to have my X,” Morse said. “I’m someone who’s very comfortable being in a visible position, as a teacher and someone who’s out in every part of my life, so I’m really excited to have that on display.”