This is an update to a previous piece, anticipating the new legislation. The government in Finland has been seeking to amend their current law that requires sterilisation for trans people to legally change their gender.

In February 2023, they finally passed the new legislation.

Changing the Outdated Trans Law in Finland

Finland is finally making progress in their legislation. In 2022, the Finnish government made plans to amend Finland’s trans law. The previous law was last updated in 2002, over two decades ago. It required trans people who wish to legally change their gender identity to be sterile or infertile, unable to reproduce. This requirement has been condemned by many. The Council of Europe and other human rights organisations found it to be a violation of human rights and bodily autonomy. Under this law, trans people also need a medical diagnosis to change their gender.

Trans people should not have to undergo sterilisation in order for the state to recognise their gender. They should be able to change it based on self-identification – a practice other countries, like Germany have introduced. Needing sterilisation is simply inhumane.

The current Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, began reforming the law in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed for a while. During Helsinki Pride 2022, Marin stated that the new law for trans people would go to the Parliament in September. In February 2023, the Finnish Government finally abolished the harmful requirements and passed its new legislation.

New year, New Law

The new law states that self-identification should be enough to change one’s gender identity. This passing of the legislation also means abolishing the need for sterilisation and a psychiatric diagnosis. It separates the medical from the legal aspect of transitioning. The majority – 113 to 69 – voted in favour of it. Under the new law, trans people have to wait a mandatory 30-day ‘period of reflection’ before they can legally change their gender.

The Finnish Government’s decision is a significant step forward. It fully removes any third party involved in the process and further protects the community. Trans people in Finland will be able to legally change their gender identity as individuals without others interfering. Nevertheless, trans people are only able to change their gender in a binary way. The new law does not recognise non-binary trans people’s gender identities.

The Exclusion of Trans Minors

Unfortunately, similarly to other countries, the new law does not include trans people under the age of 18. Activists have criticised this lack of inclusion of young trans people. Trans children and adolescents would once again be left at further disadvantage. Trans youth already suffer from mental health issues and lack of access to adequate therapists and counsellors. Therefore, it is cruel and discriminatory for Finland not to include them in the new law.

This is likely due to conservative’s fears of trans kids being too young to know they are trans. To believe that you are protecting children from being who they are only perpetuates another form of harm. You are not helping trans children if you prohibit them from being themselves.

Activists in Finland have been campaigning to decrease the age to 15 years in order for trans adolescents to have the same right to change their gender. In 2021, Finnish citizens created a petition called ‘Oikeus olla’, translated ‘The Right to Be’. It hit the minimum of 50,000 signatures and was sent to the parliament. The initiative demands the new trans law also include trans minors over the age of 15.

The barriers when trying to change one’s gender identity impede trans people to have official documents with the correct gender marker. As many trans people know, it is extremely difficult to navigate your daily life without correct documents. Trans people are also more likely to experience discrimination as the incorrect gender marker discloses their trans identity to authorities, such as potential or current employers, and estate agents.

Access to Gender-Affirming Healthcare in Finland

According to research done by Amnesty International, Finland continues to operate surgeries and other medical procedures on intersex children without their consent. Their research also noted that waiting times to access gender-affirming healthcare continued to increase. The LGBTI Survey Data Explorer found that over the course of a year, almost half (46%) of trans people in Finland experienced discrimination in their daily life due to their gender identity.

In October 2022, Transgender Europe (TGEU) released its 2022 Trans Health Map: European Union. It outlined the current state of trans healthcare in Europe, including Finland. The map positioned Finland in the middle, ranking not too high yet not too low either. While the Finnish Government is willing to pass more progressive legislations, compared to countries like Ireland, they still has a long way to go in terms of providing more access to gender-affirming healthcare. Waiting times are still excruciatingly long.

We spoke to Deekshitha Ganesan, the health policy officer at TGEU. She hopes that the Trans Health Map can ‘help mobilise action’ in each respective country. This is especially important for Finland who continued to operated under a harmful law until now.

GenderGP Patients in Finland

In 2022, GenderGP patients in Finland had difficulties receiving their medication and prescriptions. We were no longer able to send medication through our EU pharmacy to Finland. GenderGP could only send paper prescriptions. We created a FAQ for all our patients in both Sweden and Finland, outlining other potential options for continuing their gender-affirming journey.

The government in Finland finally passed the new legislation for trans people. Changing the law to reflect the current research is a vital step in trans equality. Outdated practices, like sterilisation and medical requirements for gender recognition only strip trans people of their bodily autonomy. It also violates their right to privacy and the right to build a family, just like everyone else.

The trans community has fought long to have their identity recognised by the state. The government in Finland needs to take notice and put in the same effort to provide trans people with all the services – whether medical or legal – they require. This is the bare minimum given the constant discrimination trans people continue to face to this day. GenderGP welcomes the new legislation and we hope to see more progress.

The Scottish Parliament also passed a similar legislation in December of last year. Sadly, the UK Government blocked this law and it will not come into effect. We urge the government in Westminster to reconsider their harmful, transphobic decision and allow for trans people in Scotland to self-identify as trans without encountering further barriers.