Civil rights activist, litigator, scholar, and security and privacy sceptic.
I'm pretty awesome.
I came out as female at age 19 in 2010 while living in Alberta, Canada, and I soon discovered that it would be difficult or impossible for me to obtain identification documents that accurately reflected my sex.
Undeterred, I taught myself the law, sued the government, dropped out of school to focus on the case, prepared convincing arguments, and — all while representing myself — persuaded the court to rule in my favour. The resulting judgment recognised a constitutional right for transgender people to obtain accurate identification. See C.F. v. Alberta (Vital Statistics), 2014 ABQB 237.
After winning the case in 2014, I was finally able to get a passport for the first time. I used it to move to the United States to work on protecting the security and privacy interests of internet users at Facebook, and then, later, at Google. As a security and privacy reviewer, I paid special attention to the interests of disadvantaged peoples.
In 2023, I earned a degree in law (the JD) from Berkeley Law School.
To win the case, I had to write rigorous, well-researched, and comprehensive briefs. To date, these are the most important papers I've written in my life. The briefs illustrate the complexity of the litigation and the magnitude of the stakes. I wrote my briefs entirely by myself.
You can read the briefs, including the government's oppositional brief, here:
Oral argument was heard on January 17, 2014.
You can read the judgment of the court here:
I am referred to by my initials, C.F., in the title of the case.
My case has been described as a "landmark decision" and a "vital judgment" because it was the first time (and, so far, the only time) that a published court decision recognised that transgender people are protected by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is the section of the Canadian Constitution that most closely resembles the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (although there are significant substantive differences between the two instruments).
As scholars have pointed out, it is very difficult to win a case based on section 15 of the Charter, and my lawsuit is a rare example of a successful invocation of this provision. See generally Karen Busy, Note, "Discussed, Reformulated and Enriched Many Times": The Supreme Court of Canada's Equality Jurisprudence, available on SSRN, at *3 n 12 (July 9, 2014) (noting the small number of reported cases in which section 15 claimants have prevailed, and mentioning my case as an example).
On May 14, 2014, the Alberta Legislature formally amended its laws to reflect the decision in my case. Statutes Amendment Act, SA 2014, c 8, § 9. During the legislative debates, it was observed that the result of my case made the amendments "inevitable", despite the government's best efforts to "drag their heels". Alberta, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 28th Leg, 2nd Sess (May 6, 2014) at 743 (Mr. Bilous).
Other jurisdictions have also changed their laws based on my case. See generally, e.g., Chédor v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 1205 at ¶ 14 (noting that my case helped "trigger a new conception of the law with regards to the specific situation of the LGBTQ community" and that "many provincial legislatures" have amended their laws a result, and citing examples).
As the Yukon Attorney General explained it, "[t]he courts have moved progressively ahead of legislation and we're now trying to catch up. As I have noted, C.F. in Alberta very clearly did. They made it very clear that legislation needs to catch up." Yukon, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 34th Leg, 2nd Sess (June 2, 2017) at 855-856 (Hon. Ms. McPhee).
My case is regularly cited in papers, briefs, articles, and other media.
From 2014–2020, I worked at Facebook and then at Google in California. As a security and privacy reviewer at Google, I was acutely aware that many marginalised people rely everyday on Google's products such as Gmail, Hangouts, and Docs. As part of my job, I worked to harden product privacy and security, while representing the needs of those who are disadvantaged.
When I came out as female back in 2010, it was my plan to go to law school and become licensed to practice law. I did start law school in September 2012. Unfortunately, I had to drop out of law school in order to focus on my lawsuit against the government. I judged that the interests of transgender people as a whole were more important than my personal desire to finish school.
In 2020, I returned to law school, this time at Berkeley Law School in California. I completed law school and received my JD degree in 2023.
Aside from my civil rights activities, in the past I have also dabbled in communities related to free and open source software, as well as video games.
Here are some articles I wrote:
Here are some software projects I contributed to:
My Twitter profile is @cathyjf1.
You may enjoy reading some of my Twitter threads: