4. Changing the Sex/Gender Designation on my Driver’s License

Only Those “Undergoing” Surgery May Apply

One big step in obtaining gender congruent ID is having the sex/gender designation changed on my Driver’s License (DL). The requirements for having this done change from province to province in Canada, and from state to state in the United States. Fortunately, Ontario has one of the better policies for changing one’s DL. Unfortunately, the province is equally backwards as many other jurisdictions on having other important ID changed, such as one’s Health Card and Birth Certificate. 

rearview.pngOn May 10th 2012, I successfully changed the gender designation on my driver’s license. It was a curious experience, on a couple levels. In Ontario, here’s what the Ministry of Transportation lists as the requirements for obtaining a gender designation change.

If you are undergoing or have completed sex reassignment surgery, and want to change the gender designation on your driver’s licence, the following documents are required:

1. A letter from the applicant specifying the change requested. This letter needs to include the applicant’s full name, current address, driver’s licence number and the name and address of the physician who has signed an opinion letter in support of the change.

2. A letter, on the letterhead of a physician licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and signed by the physician, in which the physician states that:

  1. i. the physician has examined or treated the driver who is requesting the change in sex designation on the driver’s licence; and
  2. ii. it is the opinion of the physician that the change in the sex designation on the driver’s licence is appropriate.

The Ministry will review the application to ensure that the documents meet MTO’s requirements and are in order.

  • Full surgery is not required as a condition for sex designation changes.


One can either do this in person, or through the mail. I chose to do it in person. I obtained the necessary letter from my physician, which was very short. Essentially, it read: “I have examined [Philosochick] and it’s my opinion that a change in sex designation on her driver’s license (from Male to Female) is appropriate.” (Side note: it cost me $30 to have a letter written that probably took all of 2 minutes.) I wrote my letter, which was also about one sentence in substance: “I am writing to request a gender designation change on my Ontario Driver’s License from Male (“M”) to Female (“F”). I have undergone a gender transition and am undergoing sex reassignment surgery.” The latter part was merely a throwaway comment to connect to the absurd language of the requirements. I mean, really, what can they mean by “undergoing” sex reassignment surgery? I’m going to get on this in a different post, #14.

I approached the counter and handed over the two letters, with mine on top. I signed it Dr. [Old name, which appears on my driver’s license] (my official name change certificate had yet to arrive in the mail, so changing my name on the driver’s license will have to wait for that), but didn’t physically sign it yet. She looked at it and said, “Oh, but this isn’t signed.” In response, I pulled out a pen and said I’d sign it. She looked at me like I was a little crazy, and said, “No, the doctor didn’t sign it.” To which I responded, “I’M a doctor.” Then she put two and two together: the name on the bottom of the letter was my name. I followed with, “The physician’s letter is underneath.” Not familiar with the protocol, she called someone to inquire about the procedure.

I was asked to take a seat, barely in earshot, but not close enough that I could make out everything she said. This created some very nervous moments for me. After a few tense minutes, she called me over and said that everything was in order: my letter hit all of the necessary points, and used the right language (shocker, I basically copied their language for that very reason). She printed out a new temporary license, took down a new signature (same as my old one, for now, at least until I have my name change form), and a new photo: good thing that I did my makeup and hair! (Yeah, yeah, I did it on purpose expecting a new photo to be taken.) I now have a driver’s license with the appropriate sex/gender designation, and a corresponding photo to boot. The next step will be changing the name on the driver’s license the moment the change-of-name certificate arrives in the mail (which should be any day now).

This is a big step forward for me. I’ll be writing a separate post on the importance of matching ID for trans persons, particularly in the transitioning stages. But I finally have something that can be used as “evidence” that I’m to be treated as a female. Whether people care is another question: there are many cases of security guards, for example, not caring about a transperson being able to produce ID that s/he’s in fact in the right bathroom.

Yours truly,
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