He wanted a brand new car — a Chevrolet Cruze with all the trimmings.
As a man in his early 20s, he knew his insurance costs would be high.
So he became a woman, though only on paper.
“I have taken advantage of a loophole,” said the man — we’re calling him David — who spoke on the condition that his identity be kept confidential because of the potential repercussions.
David, who lives in Alberta, says he identifies as a male. But his government-issued identification tells a different story.
It started when an insurance company gave David a quote — roughly $4,500 a year, if he bought the Chevy. He had a collision and a ticket or two on his record, which helped boost the premium.
Then, he had an idea. He asked the insurer what his costs would be if he were a woman. He was told his annual bill would sink to roughly $3,400 — a $1,100 difference.
“I was pretty angry about that. And I didn’t feel like getting screwed over any more,” he said.
“So I asked them to change my gender on my auto policy, and she’s like, we can’t do that.”
Young men generally pay more
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, men under 25 are generally at higher risk of collision than women of the same age, which means their premiums are often higher.
David, who was 23 at the time, says he learned he first had to change his gender on his birth certificate and driver’s licence before he could have it reflected on his insurance policy, to get the cheaper rate.
After doing some research, he realized he needed a doctor’s note to show the government he identifies as a woman, even though he doesn’t.
“It was pretty simple,” he said. “I just basically asked for it and told them that I identify as a woman, or I’d like to identify as a woman, and he wrote me the letter I wanted.”
Under the rules in place at the time, Albertans needed to produce a doctor’s note to switch the gender marker on their personal documents. In June, the government scrapped the doctor’s note requirement for adults, allowing them to declare their marker as M, F or X, for those who don’t fit into a strictly male or female binary.
‘I felt like I won’
David shipped the note and other paperwork off to the provincial government. And, a few weeks later, he received a new birth certificate in the mail indicating he was a woman.
“I was quite shocked, but I was also relieved,” he said. “I felt like I beat the system. I felt like I won.”
With the new birth certificate in hand, he changed his driver’s licence and insurance policy.
All to save about $91 a month.
“I’m a man, 100 per cent. Legally, I’m a woman,” he said.
“I did it for cheaper car insurance.”
David says he’s aware the methods he used to become a woman on paper are designed for Albertans who need to correct the gender marker on their identification to reflect who they really are. But he says his target was the insurance industry, not the gender diverse community.
“I didn’t do it to point out how easy it is to change genders,” he said. “I didn’t do it to criticize or ridicule transgender or LGBT rights.”
Banned in EU
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, gender is just one factor that insurers consider, along with the driver’s age, vehicle, driving record and location.
In 2011, the European Union’s highest court ruled the insurance industry’s long-standing practice of charging different rates for men and women “constitutes discrimination.” The European Court of Justice ordered the industry to remove gender consideration from auto, life and medical insurance plans, among others.
Steve Kee, spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says he’s heard anecdotal reports of people changing their gender for cheaper insurance, though he doesn’t know how often it happens.
“If you’re going to declare on any document, you need to be truthful,” he said. “If not, you’re making a fraudulent claim. This could impact you for any future insurance application that you make, or any other aspect of your life.”