NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A human rights tribunal in a Canadian province has agreed to review a complaint filed by nine transgender and intersex people who want gender markers to be removed from their birth certificates, activists said.
In a petition filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, the Vancouver-based Trans Alliance Society and eight people argued that a doctor should not assign a person's gender at birth because they may later identify themselves as having a different gender.
"Clinical determination of gender at birth is subject to an error rate that is much higher than people think," Morgane Oger, chair of Trans Alliance Society, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
In Canada, people can change their sex designation on identity documents later in life and without showing proof of sex reassignment surgery.
Many countries require gender reassignment surgery, and sometimes sterilization, before a person can change their legal gender.
Activists say that assigning gender at birth is discriminatory and can cause serious harm to transgender people and those who do not conform to strict gender definitions - especially those born with ambiguous genitalia, who may be assigned the wrong gender at birth.
Oger said there are other ways to track a person's gender, just as characteristics such as eye colour can be recorded later in life on driver's licences.
Researchers surveying relevant medical articles from 1955 to 2000 concluded, in a 2000 article in the American Journal of Human Biology, that the frequency of "deviation from the platonic ideal male or female" body may be as high as 2 percent of live births.
Transgender people suffer from terrible discrimination and are often accused of lying about who they are, or are deemed "insane" because their gender identity is at odds with their identification documents, Oger said.
"This is about saying 'this information doesn't belong in that place' and (that) having the wrong information harms people," she said.
"We used to track race and class on birth certificates ... Would it be OK to track (those now)?" she asked.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Tim Pearce