Lawyers, witnesses, defendents, and other individuals in court proceedings in British Columbia will now have to specify a gendered title – Mr., Ms., Mx., or “Counsel” – to ensure that the court addresses them correctly.
“I would do a better job for my client, if I’m not thinking about being misgendered,” said Vancouver lawyer Lisa Nevens, who is non-binary.
Currently, lawyers appearing in court in the province have to tell the court their first and last names and how to spell them, than they do the same for their clients. But at no point are they asked their pronouns, which can lead to a situation where someone is misgendered but they don’t feel like it’s their place to interrupt the court proceedings to correct the speaker.
“Your job as a lawyer is to represent your clients, not to make statements about your own identity,” Nevens told CTV News. “You have to debate with yourself, whether you should assert your correct pronouns and gender identity in court, so that you’re properly recognized or whether that’s a distraction from the client.”
A new directive issued by the Provincial Court of British Columbia earlier this month will require people in court proceedings to “advise the Court” of “their pronouns and form of address.”
“If a party or counsel do not provide this information in their introduction,they will be prompted by a court clerk to provide this information,” the directive states.
Nevens helped create the policy as co-chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community for the British Columbia chapter of the Canadian Bar Association, with the goal of making things simpler for people who work in the courts.
“We take all of the questions out of the equation, and people who are non-binary and participating in the system, can just focus on their participation, instead of being distracted by whether or not their identity will even be recognized, respected,” they said.
“I hope it signals that you can be you and be a lawyer.”