‘Why we still need gay-straight groups’

Maple Ridge-Mission B.C. Liberal MLA Marc Dalton votes against section allowing gender ID change

Narisa Windover

Narisa Windover

The kids at Thomas Haney secondary aren’t all right after hearing of MLA Marc Dalton’s vote against part of a bill that will allow people to change their gender on their birth certificates.

“Thank you, Mr. Dalton, for reminding me why we do need gay-straight alliance groups in the public school system,” said Kathryn Ferguson, teacher and staff liaison for the gay-straight alliance at Thomas Haney secondary.

“I wish we didn’t have a need for these groups, but when you have a MLA making these ignorant statements, it puts fire underneath us to keep going – because we’re still needed.”

Dalton on April 29, voted against a section of a bill that would allow people to change their gender on birth certificates without having to prove they’ve had sex-change surgery.

“I know that the intent was to help. There certainly are people who are struggling with their gender identity and want to make a change,” Dalton said Wednesday.

“My big issue is the area of self acceptance.”

The Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission said adolescence is a confusing time for many and allowing teens to change their gender on their IDs could “change the dynamic.”

He supports existing policy that supports sex-change surgery, but disagrees with changing the legal gender prior to surgery.

“I’m not opposing the legislation that we already have.”

Now, you can change your gender without surgery, which separates biology from gender.

“I think that can lead to a lot of people questioning themselves a lot more,” Dalton said. “It’s not related biologically, anymore. It’s becomes a matter of choice.”

That brings more self doubt, he added.

“Who am I? Am I male? Am I female? Just because that option is there, it just becomes mainstream. It just adds another dynamic.”

He said religion wasn’t part of the issue.

“I just felt in good conscience, I needed to make that stand.”

So far, he hasn’t had any response at his constituency office.

“There’s been virtually nothing.”

Dalton was criticized during the 2009 election after the NDP released a 1996 e-mail that he sent when he was a teacher opposing the B.C. Teacher’s Federation promotion of gay support clubs in schools.

The e-mail was part of discussion about a BCTF resolution when he was a teacher at Pitt Meadows secondary.

He said the resolution, which eventually passed, was about gay clubs in schools. Dalton said it wasn’t that he opposed such clubs, but the promotion of them by the BCTF.

However, allowing a legal change of gender would help transgender teens to define themselves to reflect what they know they are, say three members of the gay-straight alliance.

“I think the problem here is Marc Dalton lacks a fundamental understanding of what trans rights and what the whole issue is,” said student Megan Pearson.

“Someone who seems to misunderstand so much of these issues … I’d have to question the eligibility of his platform.”

For Nicole Holmgren, allowing a legal change before surgery “would allow them to accept themselves more.

“The birth certificate would help them to legally define themselves as to what they know who they are.”

It’s a lengthy surgical process before individuals can even call themselves one gender or another, she added.

Narisa Windover, with the alliance, said even though Dalton apologized for the 1996 e-mail, she still questions whether he supports lesbian-gay-bisexual-questioning-transgender rights.

“I just feel that he’s shutting us out and silencing the kids who don’t have any voice.”

Also voting against the section were Liberal MLAs Simon Gibson, (Abbotsford-Mission ) Marvin Hunt (Surrey Panorama) and Laurie Throness (Chilliwack-Hope.)

Section 115 – 27 of a miscellaneous legislation Bill 17 says people seeking to change their genders on their birth certificates must apply to the registrar general, saying they have “assumed, identifies with and intends to maintain the gender identity that corresponds with the desired sex designation.”

A statement from a doctor or psychologist saying that the gender designation on their birth certificate does not accord with their gender identity is also required. Minors will have to get the consent of their parents or guardians.

Dalton pointed out his vote against the section was a free vote, allowing Liberals to vote as they please, unlike the New Democrats, and that he still supported Premier Christy Clark.

But Vancouver NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said transgender people should have the right to have their gender accurately reflected on their IDs.

“If they’re a woman, they should be allowed to put woman on their ID. Voting to not allow them to do that, I think  is fundamentally wrong and against their human rights.”

Problems arise when people look like one gender that’s not reflected on their ID, he added.

Science says that sometimes doctors misdiagnose genders at birth because it’s not always clear, he pointed out.

“If somebody in their soul is a woman, they should be able to reflect that on their birth certificates, on their identification rather than going through a highly invasive surgery.”

Why would an MLA go against medical advice, he asked.