HARRIETTE CUNNINGHAM

HARRIETTE CUNNINGHAM

Transgender girl in Comox Valley seeking legislative change

Harriette Cunningham has known she is a girl since she could "actually process things," but her identification says she is a boy.

Ten-year-old Harriette Cunningham has known she is a girl since she could “actually process things,” but her identification says she is a boy.

With her grandmother Cathie Dickens’ help, the Comox Valley transgender girl has launched a campaign to push for changes to B.C. laws so that her identification can reflect her gender, rather than her sex.

“I believe Harriette has a civil right and a human right to have her gender that she expresses herself in marked on her only identification,” says Dickens of Cunningham’s birth certificate.

Cunningham says she is questioned about how her appearance differs from what’s listed on her passport, which is based off what’s listed on her birth certificate, whenever she crosses the border to visit Dickens’ in her Palm Springs home.

“I feel really quite insecure when people are glaring at me and staring at me, and they’re questioning me,” says Cunningham. “And I want to explain myself, but then again I think I shouldn’t really have to because everybody else doesn’t have to.”

Border crossings are not the only situation that make Cunningham anxious because of her identification.

“Whenever my Mom signs me up for something, like an activity for school or gymnastics or sports, or dance, they just show the birth certificate and then they have to do a big explanation,” continues Cunningham.

According to B.C. law, people must have sexual reassignment surgery before they can change their sex designation on their birth certificate.

Dickens notes Ontario laws now allow a person’s sex designation to be changed without surgery, after a Human Rights Tribunal ruling last year, which found the need for surgery discriminatory.

“Australia has an ‘indeterminate’ on their passport, and now Germany has ‘indeterminate’ on their birth certificates,” continues Dickens, as she questions why a person must choose male or female on their identification at all, and points out hermaphrodites are born without a clear male or female sex.

Her and Cunningham sent letters to over 40 MPs and MLAs pushing for changes to the law, and they have a tentative date set to meet with Comox Valley MLA Don McRae later this month.

Dickens notes an argument some will make is that Cunningham may want to change her gender back at a later point, like when she hits puberty.

Harriette was born as Declan Cunningham, but has now officially changed her name to Harriette. The Grade 5 student says she first started telling people she was a girl in Grade 2, and she started school last fall as a girl, taking part on girls sports teams for example.

Cunningham stresses she knows who she is, and always has. She adds it took time for her parents to accept that she is transgender.

“Mom and Dad just thought, ‘Oh it’s just a phase,’ ” recalls Cunningham, noting she often used to have fits of anger and frustration. “I’m just like, ‘OK, I’m trying to get this clear,’ I would be having meltdowns every day like, ‘I’m trying to get this clear; it’s not a phase!’ “

She adds she feels “100 per cent” better now that she is living her life as a girl.

During a separate interview, Harriette’s father Colin notes the family has received “overwhelming support” from the Comox Valley community, but adds many people have trouble grasping what it means to be transgender.

“If you really embrace and understand what it means to be transgender, you realize being transgender is who you know yourself to be at your very core,” he says, pointing out being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. “And she knows who she is better than anyone I know, and we’re just looking for ways to support her in that.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bench designed and created by Comox woodworker Brian Mayenburg. Photo submitted
Building for a cause to better the community

Comox woodworker raising funds for Comox Valley Food Bank

Greg Baute (inset), senior director of breeding and genetics at Aurora Cannabis, will be the guest speaker at the next Comox Valley Horticultural Society (CVHS) meeting. Photo supplied
Cannabis breeding discussed at next Comox Valley Horticultural Society meeting

Greg Baute, senior director of breeding and genetics at Aurora Cannabis, will… Continue reading

The next speaker in NIC’s online 2021 Artist Talk series is Scott Amos, one half of the group Monkey C Interactive, which has drawn attention for transforming old technologies into interactive works of art, such as Registroid (supplied photo)
Next North Island College Artist Talk speaker breathes new life into old technology

Interactive installation artist Scott Amos will be the next speaker at North… Continue reading

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

Demonstrators gathered Friday, March 5 at the Courtenay Court House, demanding protection of old-growth forests. Scott Stanfield photo
Citizens march in Courtenay in name of old-growth rainforests

The Comox Valley is one of the B.C. communities engaged in mobilization… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Most Read