An 11-year-old Vancouver Island girl was among the first 30 Britsh Columbians to take advantage of a new law that allows transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates without having surgery. According to her, she was the first person in line after the bill passed.
“I was probably the youngest,” Harriette Cunningham told CTV Vancouver. “I know I was the first.”
The Comox resident said she’s always known she was a girl, despite being labeled “male” on her original birth certificate. The new document is the latest success in a campaign to get legal recognition for her gender that began when she was 8 or 9, she said.
“It just made me so mad and made me almost frustrated to know that I’m a girl and then I look on my passport and it says that I’m a boy,” Cunningham said.
Some children who don’t conform to gender norms can be persuaded to stay quiet about it in official situations like border crossings, Cunningham’s father Colin told CTV News. That was never an option with Harriette, who’s expecting a new passport soon to match her new birth certificate.
“For her, it was a matter of principle, where she wasn’t being acknowledged for who she really was,” Colin Cunningham said.
The younger Cunningham has always been very sure of her gender identity, her father said. It was up to her parents to educate themselves and support her in her transition. It was a steep learning curve.
“We didn’t even know there were transgender youth,” Colin Cunningham said. “Once she started down that path, it was really obvious. It was really obvious that this is exactly who she is. It was us that had to catch up.”
Part of that education, for both Harriette and her parents, was the realization that not everyone fits into the sex and gender binary of male or female, boy or girl. Some people identify as both boy and girl, or as neither, so why should one or the other be picked for them from birth?
Harriette Cunningham knows her transition would have been much easier if she hadn’t been assigned the wrong sex at birth. So her next fight is going to be to get the province to stop including sex on birth certificates.
“I’m not done yet,” she told CTV News. “I want to get gender off the birth certificates so when a child is born they don’t put M or F on their birth certificate. That would have made it a lot easier for me.”
The Cunningham family is scheduled to appear before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in October to argue for this change.