Gender-diverse Manitobans face delays in getting changes to Manitoba Health cards

Transgender and non-binary Manitobans are dealing with long waits for new Manitoba Health cards after requesting changes to their name or gender.

Chelsea Howgate is a trans woman who first applied for changes to her health card over a year ago. She has yet to receive her health card, and said not having it has put her life on pause.

“It feels a little humiliating and frustrating that I have to put off so many things just because I don’t have information that correctly identifies me,” she told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show guest host Bryce Hoye in an interview Saturday.

Howgate said her main frustration is not with the delays, but that she has been given no idea when to expect her Manitoba Health card.

Howgate said when trans and non-binary people have to use old documentation that doesn’t reflect who they truly are, it pushes them into humiliating or dangerous situations, and often results in some having to use their dead name — the one used before their transition —  or out themselves to employers when they didn’t want to.

“It’s important so that we can continue to live our lives in a safer and more validating way,” she said.

J Fiedler, who is trans-non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, gave up trying to get new documents after two failed attempts last year. They said applying for a gender change on their driver’s licence was quick and easy, but the experience of applying for the change to their Manitoba Health card has been a huge letdown.

“It’s really frustrating. It’s kind of a reminder of who I’m not and, unfortunately, how other people see me,” Fiedler said.

They eventually received two new Manitoba health cards but the changes in gender had not been made to either, Fiedler said.

J Fiedler, who identifies as trans-non-binary, says they gave up after two failed attempts to get new Manitoba Health documents last year. (Submitted by J Fiedler)

Fiedler contacted Manitoba Health and was told they needed to change their birth certificate for the change to be made to their health card. However, Fiedler was not born in Canada.

Individuals born outside of Manitoba can only obtain a change of sex designation certificate from the Manitoba Vital Statistics Branch, a provincial spokesperson wrote in a statement to CBC News.

In Fiedler’s case, the province said the processing time to amend a birth certificate is directly connected to the time to process a change of sex designation application.

“We acknowledge that clients are experiencing delays related to processing these applications,” a provincial spokesperson wrote in a statement to CBC News.

The province said it has made gains in clearing a backlog of over 25,000 applications for birth, death and marriage certificates, but delays remain significant for more “complex” applications.

The Weekend Morning Show (Manitoba)7:42Transgender and non-binary people in the province continue to face delays for new Manitoba health cards.

It is taking a long time for trans and non-binary folks to get new Manitoba Health cards that accurately reflect who they are. Guest host Bryce Hoye hears from two guests about the toll that wait is taking on them.

Fiedler said they gave up on getting a new health card because they had a child and life got busy.

When it comes to medical care and documentation, Fiedler said gender-diverse people are often required to push through barriers, but many don’t have the energy or resources to do that.

“Trans and non-binary people constantly, constantly have to advocate for ourselves…. It’s a ‘choose your battle’ sort of situation.”