23. Canadian Passports for Trans* Persons

Wait, You've Never Heard of the Form I Need?

I'm about to do some travelling in the next 6 months. In October, I'm heading to Victoria for a conference; in February, I'm heading to New Orleans for another conference; at the end of March, I'm heading to San Francisco for another conference, and immediately following that, Thailand for, well, that's another post. The latter three require a passport, something which is still in my old name/gender. That's obviously a problem: my provincial ID documents have already been changed to 'Female' and absolutely everything is in my proper name. The passport is the one document that is largely in the gray area of identification in Canada.

metamorphosis_passport1.png It's in the gray area for a number of reasons. First, the more a trans person looks like their affirmed gender (horribly referred to as "passing"), the more privilege they have, particularly in cases like this. One must submit one's birth certificate in order to obtain a passport, and in Canada, everywhere requires that one have some form of genital surgery in order to change one's gender on the birth certificate. This should change with Ontario soon, due to a 2012 court ruling, but we're not counting our chickens before they hatch; and besides, I was born in British Columbia.

Now, if one "passes" well, one can return with the new passport in the wrong gender and claim that the passport office made a mistake! Look! I'm [male/female]! Here's my driver's licence and health card; sorry, I don't carry my birth certificate around. Could you fix it, please?" I know of a medical doctor who made this play, and received a full 5 year passport as a result. That's not really possible for trans people who don't "pass," so it's a form of privilege.

I've also heard so many conflicting anecdotes on being able to obtain a full passport in one's affirmed gender, a temporary 2 year passport, or being denied entirely from a passport in one's affirmed gender. It seems largely up to the whims of the passport office clerk. For a nice, long blog post on the topic, see Talia's blog. Not wanting the stress of rolling the dice (even though I won when it came to my provincial health card: see my post here), I emailed the passport people to find out what the procedure is.

Here's what they wrote in response:
Thank you for your message of September 13, 2012.

A limited validity passport may be issued in an assumed sex to an applicant who provides medical documentation indicating that he or she will be undergoing sex reassignment surgery in the next twelve months. Please be advised that the passport will be valid for two years and will not be extended.

You will also have to complete and sign a Request for a Canadian passport indicating a sex other than the sex shown on my documentary evidence of citizenship, Form PPTC 152, acknowledging awareness that you may encounter difficulties with a passport issued showing your assumed sex.

You may obtain Form PPTC 152 at any Passport Canada Office. For Passport Canada's hours of operation and service locations, please visit our website at:

We hope we were able to assist you.

First, the link doesn't work: the form is nowhere available online. A friend was nice enough to call the office and ask about the form: first the clerk didn't know what she was talking about, then s/he found it and said that it's only available in the service centres (i.e., not online).

Second, the whole purpose of form PPTC 152 is to acknowledge that us trans people may find some difficulties travelling in our "assumed" genders with gender congruent passports. Umm, really? For many of us, we'll face more difficulties — ranging from delays, snide comments, and harassment, to demeaning strip searches in order to expose our genitals — if we don't have a gender congruent passport!

Third, fuck you very much Passport Canada: we know what we're doing when we apply for a gender congruent passport: we don't need the patronism. It's typical to treat trans people as children, though: we see it in the medical field all the time. Instead of using informed consent models of decision making (like they're required to!) doctors and mental health professionals routinely use patronistic models: doctor knows best, and the patient should just go along with what the doctor says, even if it's harmful. I regularly have to remind my physician about this.

Anyway, I'll be applying for my passport soon, and I'll be sure to report back on my experiences. I'm really glad that I at least know the form name/number, because if I didn't know about this form, or its name/number, I don't think that I could rely on a Passport Canada clerk to know about it. It's likely that I would just submit my file, and be returned a passport with the wrong gender. At least this way, I'm much less stressed-out about the process: I expect to get an appropriately gendered passport.

Edit: Here's the Passport Canada form, PPTC 152 – Request for PPT indicating different sex – BIL (05-09).pdf.

Yours truly,