10/24/2014 11:39 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST

Sex change on birth certificates could be made easier in Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia government wants to allow people to change their sex designation on government documents.

The province announced Friday it plans to bring in legislation next spring. As it stands, people must prove they had sex reassignment surgery in order to change the sex on their birth certificates.

Service Nova Scotia Minister Mark Furey said amending the Vital Statistics Act will allow people to change the sex on their personal records to reflect the gender they identify with.

"The gender of their lifestyle, not necessarily their biological character," said Furey.

While making a ministerial statement in the legislature on Friday, Furey said, "Gender identity has nothing to do with biology and has everything to do with experience. Some people do not identify with any, or all, of the aspects of gender that are assigned to their biological sex."

Furey said he doesn't want to rush the legislation. The vital statistics office is still working on the particulars and studying similar legislation across the country.

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia already allow transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate without surgery. Manitoba and Alberta are reviewing their policies.

"The goal of the bill is to address the needs of the transgender community to ensure they feel comfortable in the community and able to carry on a normal life without fear of inappropriate treatment," he said.

The shift is welcomed by Jessica Durling. She gathered signatures for a petition to change the Vital Statistics Act.

"It shows that the government is taking an interest, that they are definitely on the right side in this, that they're standing by the community on this," she said.

Durling said the proposed legislation will help some transgender people feel safer in their community.

"Some trans people can't have the surgery that's required for medical reasons or just don't want the surgery required for many different reasons," she said.

"What does it matter what's in your pants in public? It's not like you're going to be flaunting your private parts around, right?"