A number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates and media outlets are expressing concern over recent Canadian air travel regulations which they feel exclude transgender passengers from flights.
Among the first to draw attention to the regulation was blogger Christin Scarlett Milloy, who points to one specific passage which states that "an air carrier shall not transport a passenger if…the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents."
As Milloy mentioned, "It is important to note that these regulations are not actually a piece of legislation, which would have had to pass through readings and votes in the House and Senate (which is probably why it went unnoticed until now). Rather, the Identity Screening Regulations are a set of rules implemented unilaterally by the Ministry of Transportation, as part of Canada’s so-called Passenger Protect, which is essentially the Canadian Federal Government’s equivalent to the U.S.'s 'no-fly' list."
Though it is uncertain how many passengers have actually been affected by the regulations -- which Transport Canada says have been in place as interim since August 2010 -- a number of high-profile voices have nonetheless criticized the terminology. "While some will inevitably defend this move on grounds of 'security,' it is important to understand what is being required here," activist Jane Fae wrote in Pink News. "This makes the Canadian regulation looks all the more like a seriously retrograde –- and spiteful –- step."
Transport Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette spoke to The Huffington Post about the reports. "To comply with the Identity Screening Regulations, airlines in Canada must have procedures allowing them to identify all passengers by using their official identification issued by a recognized government authority," she said. "This approach applies to all passengers, regardless of their culture, religion or sexual orientation."
She went on to note: "Transport Canada is not aware of any case of a transgendered or transsexual individual in possession of a medical document who has not been permitted to board an airplane since the publication of the Regulations in 2010. If, for medical reasons, a passenger's facial features do not correspond to the photo on his or her identification, the air carrier may authorize the passenger to board a plane if he or she provides a medical certificate relating to this."
Still, the New Democrats' Randall Garrison, known as his party's critic for LGBT issues, told The Huffington Post he felt the regulations had obvious flaws. "It looks like a very serious violation of people’s rights," he said. "A lot of transgendered people are non-operative, which means that there wouldn’t be any medical letter that would be possible. So if people chose not to have operations as part of their transition, then they wouldn’t be able to have such a letter. ... I think the whole problem here is why is this necessary? Why did they do it? And what are they going to do to make sure it doesn’t apply in a discriminatory way to take people’s right away to travel."
Blogger Mercedes Allen also believes the wording could create problems even for non-transgender people. "By the letter of the law, a major change in hair length or color since having an ID photo taken could even be a basis for refusing a person from boarding, though that's likely stretching it," she wrote. "But by not clarifying how this value judgment on a person's gender is to be made, lookism has potentially entered the equation."
Blogger Jennifer McCreath, who describes herself as "a [transgender] marathon runner," says a friend inquired about the new regulations in an e-mail to Air Canada, and quotes from the airline's response. "Air Canada is bound by federal law and as such we must comply with the regulations that if a passenger's face or gender does not match the government-issued photo identification, we are prohibited from carrying that passenger," it simply stated. "Again, if you have a concern regarding this, we respectfully ask that you pursue this with Transport Canada."
While transgender passengers might be having problems with Canadian travel, a new Thai airline's transgender flight crew has been hailed as groundbreaking and has so far created an international sensation.