Germany is introducing a law that will allow trans and non-binary people to change their legal name and gender identity through self-identification.
If the legislation passes later this year, trans and non-binary people in Germany will no longer require gender-affirming surgeries, hormone therapy, or psychological consultation to legally change their name and gender. In this newly presented Self-Determination Act, trans people over the age of 14 will be allowed to change their gender and name once per year. Trans and non-binary people can change their personal details at a registry office without needing a court order, medical records, or any parental permission. Children under 14 will need their parents or guardians to make a registry office application on their behalf.
The proposed law is expected to replace the previous 1981 Transsexuellengesetz (TSG), or ‘transsexual law’, which used to require assessments from two gender experts and a court order in order for trans people to change their name and gender on official documents.
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, from the FDP, told the Welt am Sonntag that the reforms a necessary to deliver “a central promise of the Basic Law: the promise of equal freedom and equal dignity for all people”.
The forthcoming changes to the law have divided opinions in a country that has fallen behind many others in Europe on trans rights. According to a survey performed by YouGov for the Welt am Sonntag, a German newspaper, only 46% of respondents were in favour, while 41% rejected it.
Another bill also states that people can receive a fine for disclosing a trans person’s name and sex assigned at birth without their consent. The most notable positive change is that Germany also plans to give compensation to trans and intersex people who were forced to endure physical harm under previous legislation. This is an important milestone that sets an example for other countries to do the same.
Family Affairs Minister Lisa Paus commented “We live in a free and diverse society that is already further along in many places than our laws are. It's about time that we adapt the legal framework to societal reality.”
While children under the age of 14 are not included in the proposed law, this is nevertheless a positive step towards bettering the legal system for trans people in Germany. The option to change one’s gender every year not only acknowledges that gender is fluid and can change over the course of one’s life, but it also ensures that trans and gender diverse people do not feel immense pressure to already know themselves without a shred of doubt.
This change from a previous system of one change, permanently, will enable many more trans and gender questioning people to better explore and understand who they are. When it comes to their gender identity, trans people are already often not believed and persistently undermined. Trans people do not owe anyone a fixed and never fluctuating gender identity.
Germany’s decision to make it possible for trans and non-binary people to change their name and gender once every year is a recognition of gender diversity and a dedication to improving trans people’s lives in the country.