Travelling can be a challenging experience, and the challenges are sometimes increased for LGBTQ families. If you’re travelling as a volunteer as part of a school trip, or even just with your family, below you’ll find some information to help reduce stress at the border.
1) Same-sex Couples
While a number of countries and states have legalized same-sex marriage, the vast majority have not. As such, it is entirely possible that you will be refused entry by local officials if you fill out your entry card together as a family, even if you carry a Canadian Marriage Certificate. Be sure to consult the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s country-specific travel reports and warnings prior to planning your trip: www.voyage.gc.ca. As well, consult the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s world survey and map of state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia: www.ilga.org.
2) Same-sex Couples with Children
It is generally necessary that a travelling child either be accompanied by both legal parents, or have a form signed by whichever legal parent is not with the child, granting permission for the child to travel. Where both legal parents are of the same sex, it is entirely possible that border and customs officials will ask for legal confirmation or will refuse entry if you fill out your entry card together as a family. As such, it is advisable that you carry with you as much documentation as possible.
In Ontario, it has become possible to register two parents of the same sex on a child’s birth certificate. However, as this is not the case worldwide, or even nationwide, such a birth certificate is not always considered to be sufficient documentation to prove legal parentage. It is quite likely that registration on a birth certificate will not be recognized as a de facto adoption. A same-sex couple that has both of their names listed on their child’s birth certificate may still be refused entry in the absence of permission from the other biological parent, even if the other parent was an unknown donor.
If possible, it is advisable to carry permission from each biological parent/donor, an official adoption order or declaration of parentage for the non-biological parent, and/or a letter from a doctor or clinic confirming that the father was an anonymous donor, and that no other parent need be recognized.
If you do not have official documentation confirming a legal adoption by the non-biological parent in addition to the birth certificate, that parent may not be recognized on a customs or entry form. In this case, it may be better to leave the second parent blank and provide documentation from a doctor, or permission from the other biological parent/donor if that person is known.
3) Trans Parents
For further information on safer travel for trans folks, take a look at Egale’s Trans Travel Tips document online.
If, after adopting a child or registering a child’s birth, you have legally changed your name and sex designation on your birth certificate and/or passport, it is ideal that you petition a court to have your child’s birth registration and certificate changed to reflect your lived identity. This process may cost approximately $4000. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to carry your Change of Name Certificate, updated birth certificate, and, if possible, a letter from your health care provider verifying that you have undergone physical transition.
4) Trans Youth
When travelling by air from Canada to another country, Canadian authorities require minors (those under the age of 18) to carry their own passport. In such cases, Egale’s Trans Travel Tips document should be consulted for safe travel tips.
For travel within Canada, minors can provide one of several non-photo identification options (see the Foreign Affairs website for further information: www.voyage.gc.ca)
When accompanying a trans minor, be sure to have reviewed the information provided in the previous sections of this document, and prepare accordingly.
If a minor has legally changed their name, it would be advisable to obtain an updated long-form birth certificate that includes the new name in order to verify their parentage. If there are unexplained differences between names on documentation it is entirely possible that entry will be refused, so prepare as much documentation as possible.