Dear Mx. Smith

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Gender Identity and Expression

More than a year ago, the Government of Canada amended the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-16) to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. As Kathryn Bird of the law firm Hicks Morley wrote at that time, this amendment would bring “greater awareness of a person’s right to be accommodated, and of the importance of ensuring employers/service providers create an atmosphere conducive to the promotion and productivity of – and delivery of service to – all persons, regardless of gender identity and gender expression.”

There is little doubt that awareness and action have followed the passing of Bill C-16, but perhaps what’s been less clear is how insurance companies have or have not modified their processes to meet the needs of the transgender community.

M, F and X Gender Identities 

Group and individual insurance applications have historically included a gender identifier—gender is a factor in rate setting for products like Disability and Life Insurance. Given this tradition, how are insurers adapting?

“Our policy is to accept the gender that the individual identifies with. That is, if they were born a male but are transgendered and identify now as a female (regardless of where they are in any transformation process), we will accept their gender identification and rate based on that.”

As the above statement suggests, Insurer A currently requires the applicant to identify as either M or F. They aren’t expanding the selection to include X. Instead, if the applicant refuses to identify as either M or F, the insurer will select the gender that most closely matches the applicant’s name. And if that isn’t possible, they will use a default gender identifier of F.

“[We] have a project team…looking into either adding a gender-neutral code onto our system in addition to M/F or just not defining gender on our system at all.”

Currently, the default gender is M for Insurer B. Given that a project team is focused on how best to proceed, this is likely to be a short-term practice.

“At this time we can only accept M, F and blank.”

For Insurer C, they will permit applicants to leave the gender identifier blank. Chances are that this is more about the capability of their internal systems/processes than a decision regarding acceptable identifiers. Choosing to leave the gender identifier as blank will not default to M or F. For applicants who leave the gender identifier as blank, their insurance file will not include a gender identifier.

For Insurer D, they have adopted a gender identifier based on M or F sex-at-birth. While this would seem fair and reasonable from an underwriting point-of-view, it would not, in all cases, ensure adequate protection of privacy for the individual. Importantly, this practice is likely to be amended as the industry moves toward best practices.

Finally, from the perspective of a Canadian disability management firm, they have changed their practice to include the gender-neutral designation X. For individuals choosing this identifier, all written correspondence would use the title “Mx” or Mx. Smith.

Working Together

It is early days. There is a lot of uncertainty about how best to accommodate all persons. Each insurer will be contending with information technology and internal system requirements, corporate priorities, and underwriting philosophies as they move to implement new practices. If you are an employer or service provider and you’re looking for some useful tips, consider reading Kathyrn Bird’s Best Practices for Employers and Service ProvidersClick here