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Gender identity and gender expression

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, discrimination and harassment because of gender identity or gender expression is against the law. Everyone should  be able to have the same opportunities and benefits, and be treated with equal dignity and respect including transgender, transsexual and intersex persons, cross-dressers, and other people whose gender identity or expression is, or is seen to be, different from their birth sex.

In 2012 “gender identity” and “gender expression” were added as grounds of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code. To fully address the new Code grounds, as well as the significant legal decisions, policy changes and other developments since its first policy, the OHRC released a new Policy on preventing discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression in April 2014.

To learn more about the OHRC’s work on gender identity and expression, and the public consultation it undertook to develop the new policy, see Talking about gender identity and gender expression.

Relevant Policies:

  1. Discussion paper: Toward a commission policy on gender identity

    October 1999 - Research and consultation conducted by Commission staff in preparation for this paper shows that transgendered people experience negative stereotypes that have a pervasive and often traumatic impact on virtually every aspect of their lives. They are shunned by society and regarded with suspicion. Their jobs, housing and family lives are as threatened by the process of ‘coming out’ as by involuntary discovery. These are all issues that favour the development of a progressive policy to protect the human rights of transgendered persons within the legal framework of the Code.
  2. Submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario Regarding the draft policy, "Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code"

    February 2008 - The draft policy raises a number of new concerns. The following pages detail the Commission’s concerns and provide suggestions for how to address them. We hope that our comments assist the College in providing greater clarity and ensuring that physicians have correct and sufficient information about their obligations under the Code.
  3. Sexual harassment in housing (fact sheet)

    The Ontario Human Rights Code says everyone has the right to be free from sexual harassment by their landlord, someone working for their landlord, or someone who lives in the same building. Because landlords are in a position of authority, and have access to apartments and often hold personal information, tenants can feel very threatened when they are sexually harassed. This may be especially true for low-income, racialized, gay and lesbian people, people with disabilities and other people identified by the Code who are sometimes targeted for sexual harassment.

  4. Restrictions of facilities by sex

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    This section allows separate washrooms, examination areas, change rooms and other services that are men-only or women-only. Trans people should be provided access to facilities that are consistent with their lived gender identity.[34]


    [34] For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000).

  5. 3. Gender identity and gender expression

    From: Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression

    The Code does not define the grounds of gender identity, gender expression or sex. Instead, the understanding of these and other related terms, and the implications for the Code and OHRC policies, is evolving from tribunal and court decisions, social science research as well as self identity and common everyday use.

    Sex is the anatomical classification of people as male, female or intersex, usually assigned at birth.

  6. Backgrounder – Talking about gender identity and gender expression

    April 2014 ­­­­- Over the years, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has taken steps to address discrimination because of gender identity. In 1999, the OHRC released “Toward a Commission Policy on Gender Identity” for public comment. In 2000, the OHRC released its first Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity, taking the position that the ground of “sex” could be interpreted to include gender identity. Following the release of this policy, the OHRC continued to call for explicit recognition of gender identity as a protected ground in Ontario”s Human Rights Code.

  7. Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment

    May 2013 - Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, and includes provisions that focus on sexual harassment. The principles set out in this policy will, depending on the circumstances, apply to instances of sexual harassment in any of the social areas covered by the Code. However, to reflect the most important recent developments in the law and in social science research, this policy will focus on the areas of employment, housing and education.

  8. Policy on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression

    April 2014 - People who are transgender, or gender non-conforming, come from all walks of life. Yet they are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society. Trans people routinely experience discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) people are protected from discrimination and harassment because of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.

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