In what’s being hailed as a milestone for transgender rights, residents of Ontario, Canada, can now identify as “male,” “female” or “X” on their birth certificates or remove the gender designation altogether.
Ontario-born filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson was the province’s first known recipient of a non-binary birth certificate last week. Ferguson, who does not identify as a man or a woman and uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “their,” received their birth certificate ― which features an “X” instead of an “M” or “F” ― on May 4.
Ontario’s government said its revised birth certificate policy aims to “recognize and respect all transgender and non-binary people” and “give all Ontarians access to identification that matches their gender identity,” according to ServiceOntario’s website. The province issued its first gender-neutral driver’s licenses and health identification cards last year.
Ferguson hailed the news as “a victory for me and the community” in a Twitter post on Monday.
“I am so relieved, because I know this policy will save lives,” they said in an accompanying video, which can be viewed above. “I want trans kids and trans adults to know that you matter. You deserve respect, and you deserve to be officially recognized in Canada.”
Ferguson, 35, initially filed an application for a non-binary birth certificate in May of last year, CBC News reports. Toronto’s ServiceOntario office, however, delayed the request, prompting them to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, arguing that their rights had been violated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
They expressed their frustrations over the legal battle in a blog post for HuffPost Canada in October, writing, “These delays and denials of our right to correct identification are dangerous for non-binary people and for society as a whole.”
“As non-binary trans people, we will continue to fight and our conviction is strong,” they added, “but we need our governments to stand up, to join us in this fight and to protect us not in the future, but now.”
In the U.S., Washington and Oregon changed their policies in January to allow residents to choose a non-binary option on their birth certificate. California will follow suit in September, when Senate Bill 179 takes effect. That measure passed in October.