Updated April 12th, 2024 at 20:06 IST

Germany Approves Law For Queer People to Legally Change Name and Gender

German lawmakers on Friday approved legislation that will make it easier for transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to change their name and gender in official records.

Germany Approves Law For Queer People to Legally Change Name and Gender | Image:AP | Representational Image
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German lawmakers on Friday approved legislation that will make it easier for transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to change their name and gender in official records. The “self-determination law,” one of several social reforms that Chancellor Olaf Scholz's liberal-leaning coalition government pledged when it took office in late 2021, will take effect on Nov. 1.

It will allow adults to change their first name and legal gender at registry offices without further formalities. They will have to notify the office three months before making the change.

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The existing “transsexual law,” which dates back four decades, requires individuals who want to change gender on official documents to first obtain assessments from two experts “sufficiently familiar with the particular problems of transsexualism” and then a court decision.

Since that law was drawn up, Germany’s top court has struck down other provisions that required transgender people to get divorced and sterilized, and to undergo gender-transition surgery.

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The new legislation focuses on individuals’ legal identities. It does not involve any revisions to Germany’s rules for gender-transition surgery.

The new rules allow minors 14 years and older to change their name and legal gender with approval from their parents or guardians; if they don’t agree, teenagers could ask a family court to overrule them.

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In the case of children younger than 14, parents or guardians would have to make registry office applications on their behalf.

After a formal change of name and gender takes effect, no further changes would be allowed for a year. The new legislation provides for operators of, for example, gyms and changing rooms for women to continue to decide who has access.

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Nyke Slawik, one of two transgender women who were elected as lawmakers in 2021, said ahead of the vote in parliament's lower house, or Bundestag, that the new rules would have saved her over a year of dealing with courts, seeking expert assessments and spending nearly 2,000 euros ($2,150).

Among others, Spain’s parliament in early 2023 passed a law that allows people over 16 years of age to change their legally registered gender without any medical supervision.

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In the U.K., the Scottish parliament in 2022 passed a bill that would allow people aged 16 or older to change the gender designation on identity documents by self-declaration. That was vetoed by the British government, a decision that Scotland’s highest civil court upheld in December.

In other socially liberal reforms, Scholz's government has legalized the possession of limited amounts of cannabis; eased the rules on gaining German citizenship and ended restrictions on holding dual citizenship; and ended a ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services. Same-sex marriage was already legalized in 2017.

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Published April 12th, 2024 at 20:06 IST