Political leaders in Spain and Germany are moving forward with plans to ease restrictions on legal gender changes.
Spain’s cabinet, known as the Council of Ministers, approved a new bill on June 27 that would allow trans people to change their legal gender without receiving outside permission. Trans people wishing to change the name and gender marker listed on official government documents would no longer be required to undergo two years of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or acquire a medical certificate to do so, according to the English-language newspaper EuroWeekly.
The bill also lowers the age limit for minors wishing to change their legal gender. Under the proposed legislation, teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 could apply using the same process as adults, while those between 14 and 16 would need parental permission. Trans youth aged 12 to 14 would require permission from a judge.
Non-Spaniards living in the country will also be allowed to change the name and gender on government documents if their home countries don’t guarantee those rights.
In addition to these changes, the legislation includes a number of other measures intended to further LGBTQ+ equality. The bill also would ban conversion therapy from being performed on LGBTQ+ youth and adults, guarantee the right to access assisted reproductive technologies for same-sex couples and promote non-discrimination protections in the workplace, particularly for trans women.
Should Spain move to outlaw conversion therapy, it would join a rapidly growing number of European countries in restricting the discredited, harmful practice. Greece became the most recent country to do so in May, although its ban was criticized for still allowing the practice to continue on minors if practitioners obtain “explicit consent.” LGBTQ+ advocates argued that youth could potentially be coerced into treatment by family members or faith leaders.
Spain’s bill will now head to the Cortes Generales for parliamentary approval. Its minister of equality, Irene Montero, who has been a principal proponent of the legislation, said the country hopes to send a clear message in advancing the legislation that “all LGTBI and trans lives matter.”
“The lives of LGTBI and transgender people do not need any cure,” Montero said in a statement.
Last week, Germany also moved to ease restrictions on name and gender changes. On June 30, the country’s minister for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth, Lisa Paus, announced plans to allow trans adults to correct their first name and gender marker at a local government registry office, without obtaining any documents or permissions. Minors over the age of 14 would also be able to change their name and legal gender with parental approval.
Currently, a 1981 law, referred to as the “transsexual law,” states that individuals wishing to change their legal gender have to be assessed by two professionals who are “sufficiently familiar with the particular problems of transsexualism.” Applications are also forced to obtain approval from a court.
In a press conference held last week, Paus told reporters that the current requirements are “lengthy and expensive,” in addition to being both “deeply humiliating” and “completely superfluous.”
The German bill also includes fines in cases where an individual’s gender or name change is disclosed without their permission. Additionally, the proposal calls for monetary compensation for trans and intersex Germans who were “affected by bodily harm or forced divorces under previous legislation.”
Germany’s highest court has struck down other provisions, which required trans people to get divorced, sterilized or have gender-confirming surgery before their gender was legally recognized. The divorce requirement was struck down in 2008, while the sterilization and surgery requirements were not lifted until 2011. At least 10,000 people were sterilized under the since-repealed law, according to the German trans advocacy group Bundesverband Trans*.
German leaders anticipate that the legislation will be brought to its cabinet later this year for approval, according to the Associated Press. From there, it will need to be ratified by the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.
As of publication time, nearly 20 countries have gender self-determination policies—including at least 10 countries in Europe, according to the LGBTQ+ advocacy group ILGA-Europe. These countries include Ireland, Norway and Portugal. Leading international and civil rights authorities like the United Nations and Human Rights Watch also support the right of trans people to identify their own gender without burdensome regulations.