Throness ‘respectfully’ agrees to disagree over gender changes

Chilliwack-Hope MLA votes against his party's effort to allow changes to birth certificates without sex-change surgery first.

The idea was that anyone in B.C. wishing to change the gender designation as it appears on their birth certificate would no longer have to prove they had gender reassignment surgery first.

Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness publicly disagreed with his government on this one, saying he voted against it in committee, while supporting the other aspects of the larger bill.

He rose in the legislature Monday morning to make it clear he does not support removing the roadblock to gender designation flexibility his government sought this week by amending the Vital Statistics Act under Bill 16, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act.

Throness backed the Amendment Act in general, according to the draft Hansard transcripts, but not the clause on gender changes. It could lead to more bullying and self-rejection among teens, he argued.

Throness said his stance, his “respectful” disagreement with the BC Liberal government, was not related to morality or religion, but “a biological argument.”

“My first question for the minister is this: Why would the government seek to entrench in law a sex designation that does not accord with biological reality?” the local MLA asked, according to Hansard.

Health Minister Terry Lake replied that the proposed amendment was not in fact about biology.

“This is about a social construct. In fact, on a notice of birth the sex of the child is recorded, and that will never be amended. That is a permanent record.

“We’re talking about a birth certificate in which the gender can be amended to agree with the social construct or the way in which the person who owns that information would like to be identified. Essentially, we’re not talking about the sex of a person; we’re talking about the gender of a person, the way in which they see themselves and the way in which they present themselves to the world, based on an application with supporting documentation from a physician or a psychologist.”

But Throness argued against the idea, and cited three reasons:

“First, it will embed in law and in government policy a concept of gender change that is incorrect because it purports to offer what is biologically impossible.

“Second, it will entrench in law and thereby extend an existing societal trend of self-rejection — and this at the very deepest level of human identification. Third, the law fails the test of net benefit, because while it might make a few people feel better, it will make many — particularly, impressionable people and youth — feel worse.

Minister Lake acknowledged the MLA’s efforts to protect youth from a negative self-image and bullying. But he said the bill would do that, and reduce the stigma.

“In fact, I think this does have a net benefit, because under the provisions that we have had in the past or up until this point that have been in place since 1974, proof of surgery had to be provided in order to have gender reassignment,” said Lake.

“This change allows people to live the life they believe they should without pushing them to have surgery, so in fact, I think that there is definitely a net benefit.

“So yes, the answer is I have considered the possibility, the unintended consequences, but on the evidence before us and with a lot of discussion on this bill, I believe there is a net benefit and that, in fact, this will bring the legislation to the modern era, reduce stigma and reduce the type of concern in terms of bullying that the member has elucidated.”

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