When Kai Solomon printed out their consent form to get a COVID-19 vaccine, their eyes focused on the portion of the form that asked for their sex.
And their heart sank.
Solomon found Manitoba’s form had four boxes they could pick from when designating sex: male, female, intersex and unknown. Solomon, who is non-binary and uses they and them pronouns, didn’t see themself reflected in any of those options.
“I felt very invalid. It was very defeating. It just felt like we didn’t fit … like we didn’t deserve the vaccine because we’re not on the form,” Solomon said.
On Wednesday, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, apologized to Manitobans who identify as transgender for “wrong, inappropriate and disrespectful” wording in the question about sex on the vaccine consent form.
“We should have done better before and we need to do better going forward, so I want to apologize for our error,” she said.
WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer apologizes to transgender Manitobans:
There are now three boxes that can picked when designating sex: male, female and X.
The X isn’t much better, according to Solomon and some other LGBTQ Manitobans.
“X isn’t a gender and it’s disrespectful,” says Deith Aquino, a non-binary Filipinx Manitoban.
“A first mistake is an accident. But once the same mistake happens again, it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a decision … that can bring harm and danger.”
Charlie Eau, a community advocate with Trans Manitoba, says the group has been clear that it want to be a part of dialogue and engagement with the province and Shared Health to improve health outcomes for trans, non-binary and two-spirit people.
Part of the issue, Eau says, is that the province isn’t clear about what information it needs and for what purpose.
Sex, or one’s biological attributes, is different than gender — socially constructed sets of expectations about how people should look, act and think. Gender identity is how you feel inside and how you express your gender.
Government documents often use sex and gender interchangeably, not recognizing they’re different.
Another issue with the question on the form is that it doesn’t provide appropriate options for trans and non-binary people, because it asks for sex, which could leave people forced to select the sex they were assigned at birth, rather than what they identify as now.
Some trans people have experienced barriers in accessing specific medical services and procedures because their health card gender marker doesn’t match other documents.
People are worried the same thing will happen if their vaccine consent forms don’t match their ID, Eau says.
Both Eau and Solomon say that if the province really needs that data, a simpler approach would be to just ask for gender and leave a blank space for people to fill in what fits best.
More negative experiences
The consent form was only the start of a transphobic experience in getting a vaccine, some Manitobans say.
Eau says they were repeatedly misgendered — referred to using pronouns that don’t accurately portray their identity — and that were no single-stall bathrooms available at the vaccination supersite when they were there.
Corinne Mason, who identifies as queer, says when they arrived to their vaccine with the sex portion of their consent form blank, someone assumed they are female and filled it in for them.
“I saw it as a barrier,” Mason said, worrying that the traumatizing experiences of trans, non-binary and two-spirit people will contribute to vaccine hesitancy in the community.
“If you have trans people who are being misgendered or not knowing how to fill in the form, or … the form makes them feel, excluded or ignored or obscured … then you have those people sharing that experience with other trans and non-binary people,” Mason said.
Eau has the same fears, but also wants to protect people from negative, triggering experiences.
“I want people to get vaccinated, but I also don’t want people to be re-traumatized when they go. Having 12 people misgender you when you haven’t left the house in a year is really upsetting,” they said.
“It has to be better when I go back for my second … [vaccination dose], because what I experienced was transphobia.”