In the future, trans people should be able to change their gender entry and their first name much more easily than before. A self-declaration at the registry office that the gender identity does not match the gender entry should be sufficient for this purpose. This is what the cornerstones of a new “Self-Determination Act” provide, which Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) presented on Thursday in Berlin.
The new right to self-determination is intended to replace the transsexual law that has been in force for over 40 years and has already been rejected in several parts by the Federal Constitutional Court.
So far, trans people have had to submit two psychological reports to change their gender entry, and a court will also decide on the application. The procedure has repeatedly been criticized as humiliating – and can easily cost several thousand euros for those affected.
Sven Lehmann (Greens), the federal government’s queer commissioner, spoke of a “milestone” and a “historic day”. “We want to end more than 40 years of human rights violations,” Lehmann told the Tagesspiegel. The transsexual law violates human dignity every day, “because there people who simply want to be recognized by the state in terms of their gender, in their being, are pathologized for it”: “In a liberal, democratic constitutional state, every person has the right to this recognized to become who she is.”
The law should now be passed “as quickly as possible,” said Lehmann. But there should also be an intensive exchange with the associations and the community, which the governments had previously neglected. “This is about a group of people who have been heard far too little.” After the summer break, there should be a draft bill, followed by broad participation, and the cabinet should then decide in the last quarter of 2022. The aim is for the law to come into force in mid-2023.
Neither the reports nor a medical certificate will therefore be necessary in the future. In the same way, changing the gender entry for intersex and non-binary people should also be regulated. A simplified procedure already applies to them, but they still have to submit a medical certificate to the registry office.
According to reports, the coalition parties had been fighting until the very end as to the age at which the people concerned could submit the self-declaration. This should be possible from the age of 18. Young people from the age of 14 should be able to submit a declaration themselves, but they need the consent of their parents to do so. If this is not the case, a family court could replace the decision of the legal guardians “based on the best interests of the child”.
In the case of children under the age of 14, the legal guardians must submit the declaration of change. Free advice for minors and their parents is to be strengthened, which should be “actively pointed out” before the decision is made.
The law expressly does not apply to physical interventions for gender reassignment, such as hormone therapies or operations. Medical regulations and guidelines are “relevant” for this, it says in the key points. These are independent of the change in the gender entry.
Anyone who has changed the gender entry once will be blocked from making another change for one year. This should “ensure the seriousness of the change request,” it says.
The traffic light provides for compensation payments for trans and intersex people who, due to previous laws, suffered bodily harm – for example through forced OPS – or were forced to divorce.
The traffic light coalition had announced the end of the transsexual law in the coalition agreement. The Greens and FDP had already tabled appropriate legislative proposals during opposition times, but failed because of the then governing CDU/CSU-SPD coalition. Similar regulations already exist in several other countries, most recently Spain also announced such a law for trans people aged 16 and over this week.
A bitter and sometimes hateful public debate is now taking place in Germany about the right of trans people to self-determination. Activists* who speak out against it argue, among other things, that men could then – “disguised” as it were as trans women – enter women’s shelters in order to commit sexual offenses there. Studies from countries that already have simplified procedures show that these fears are unfounded.
However, the traffic light coalition seems to want to address this in its cornerstones. “Violent people, regardless of gender, have no access to women’s shelters, for example, as before,” it says explicitly. Access rights to women’s shelters would continue to be “based on the respective statutes of the privately organized associations”. Reference is also made to trans athletes: Their participation affects “autonomously organized sport in its own responsibility”.