Female, male, diverse – German law provides for three possible genders. So far, anyone who wants to have their entry changed has had to overcome relatively high hurdles. That should change now.

In the future, everyone in Germany should be able to determine their gender and first name themselves and change it in a simple procedure at the registry office. This is what a concept presented in Berlin by the Federal Ministries of Justice and Family for a new self-determination law envisages. It is intended to replace the transsexual law, which many people now perceive as outdated and discriminatory.

If the new regulation is implemented as planned, it will no longer matter whether the person is transgender, non-binary or intergender when it comes to entering gender and first names. Reports on sexual identity or a medical certificate should then no longer be required as a prerequisite for such a change.

No more reports or medical certificates

Interhumans are people whose physical gender does not fit the medical norm of male or female bodies, but falls somewhere in between. Non-binary refers to people who have neither a male nor a female gender identity. Trans people do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.

For minors up to the age of 14, the legal guardians should submit the declaration of change to the registry office. Young people from the age of 14 should be able to submit the declaration themselves, but with the consent of their parents. The key points paper formulated by the two ministries states the following with regard to possible disputed cases for the group of minors aged 14 and over: “In order to protect the personal rights of young people, the family court can provide guidance in cases in which the persons having custody do not agree in the best interests of the child – as in other constellations in family law – replace the decision of the parents at the request of the minor.»

One-year blocking period

The President of the German Children’s Fund, Thomas Krüger, welcomed the planned change. He said it “should be indisputable that unnecessary referrals and non-medical interventions can be dispensed with.”

In order to ensure that there is a serious decision behind the change in civil status law, a one-year blocking period is provided. This means that the new gender entry and first name are generally valid for at least one year.

Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) and Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) expressly pointed out that their planned law would not contain any provisions on the question of any physical gender reassignment measures. Such measures would continue to be decided on the basis of specialist medical regulations. The planned change in the law should also have no effect on the decision as to who competes as a woman or man in sporting competitions. The sports associations decided that, said Paus.

Transsexual law dates from 1980

“The transsexual law dates back to 1980 and is degrading for those affected,” she explained. When asked what happened to women who might feel unsafe in the sauna or in the locker room when doing sports when people who were previously men enter these rooms, the minister replied: “Trans women are women, and that’s why I see it there no need for further discussion now.” In women’s shelters, care will also be taken in the future to ensure that violent people – regardless of gender – have no access there.

Trans people and non-binary people can currently only change their gender entry and first name by court order. In the process, two expert opinions must be obtained. People with variants in gender development can already make changes with a declaration at the registry office. However, either a medical certificate or an affidavit is required.

Deadline until the end of the year

Buschmann said: “The applicable law treats the people concerned like sick people. There is no justification for that.” According to the wishes of Paus and Buschmann, the cabinet is to decide on a draft self-determination law by the end of the year.

Many people who change their gender record are open about it. Those who do not want to do this will be protected from a “forced outing”, said Buschmann. This means that a registrar, for example, is not allowed to tell around that a Lena used to be a Leo. According to Buschmann, if this very personal information is “pulled into the public domain” by an official, a fine should be imposed.

“The key points presented for a self-determination law are undoubtedly a social milestone,” praised the parliamentary director of the left-wing faction, Jan Korte. What is still missing is the expansion of offers of help and care for those affected and their environment, as well as a broad information campaign to reduce social fears.