Portugal passes law to let trans people self-identify their legal gender

Portugal has passed a law that allows transgender people to change their legal gender under a “self determination” system.

The new law, which makes Portugal the sixth European country to adopt a “self-ID” gender recognition law, passed through the country’s parliament on Friday by a reported vote of 109-106.

It removes a medical diagnosis requirement for transgender people to have their gender legally recognised, and instead allows them to change their legal gender through a procedure based on self-determination.

The new gender recognition law removes hurdles to transition that have faced criticism, and instead respects that trans people themselves know best who they are and how they identify.

Legal gender recognition will also be extended to over-16s.

Portugal’s Parliament (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Malta, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Belgium have all adopted the self-ID system of gender recognition.

Katrin Hugendubel of ILGA-Europe said: “ILGA-Europe are very relieved that the law based on self-determination was adopted and that it will be accessible to everyone over 16.

“We are also encouraged that politicians (despite the fact that some parties’ commitment to equality seemed to be wavering in the past few weeks) ultimately voted in favour of respect and common sense.

“We congratulate Portugal – and look forward to celebrating with our members and friends at the 2018 IDAHOT Forum taking place in Lisbon next month!”

The country was also praised for outlawing controversial “corrective” surgeries performed on intersex babies who are born with a mixture of male and female sex characteristics.

Ms Hugendubel added: “Portugal is really making history today – this law will make Portugal only the second country worldwide to outlaw medically unnecessary treatments on intersex kids.”

Isabel Moreira of the country’s Socialist party told DN that the move was “a historic step towards the right to self-determination of gender and sexual equality”.


Sandra Cunha of the Left party added that it shows “the suffering that young people suffer in their day to day life is not tolerable in this parliament and in this country”.

The law was supported by members of parliament this afternoon, following two years of very hard work by LGBTI activists in Portugal.

Similar proposals were tabled by the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee in 2016.

But despite securing the apparent backing of Prime Minister Theresa May at the PinkNews Awards, the UK government appears to have abandoned plans for a consultation on the issue amid a media backlash.

Prominent columnists claimed the proposals will make rape shelters unsafe for women, and lead to people with beards flashing their penises in women’s toilets across the country.

However, evidence from other countries that have adopted self-ID laws shows that the impact has been non-existent other than granting rights to trans people.

The Republic of Ireland quietly adopted a liberal gender recognition law back in 2015, allowing transgender people to change their gender on a self-declaratory basis by filling out a simple form.

Irish government data released last year showed that 240 GRCs have been issued in the country – a modest takeup in a country of 5 million people.

All of the evidence to date suggests the only impact of the law has been affording vital legal recognition to the country’s trans community.

Speaking to PinkNews, Sara Phillips of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, explained that there has been “no evidence of the system being abused”.

She added: “Most recent figures suggest a slower uptake than expected. The applications have been steady, which would suggest the community are utilising the system as they need it.

“There is no doubt that the change in legislation has had a larger impact than the practical implications of accessing change of gender on our documentation.

“Onerous application systems only impact negatively on one’s mental health and do not serve to provide any benefit to the state.

“The right to self determine our gender speaks volumes to trans people being recognised, respected and included as citizens of our country. This [has been] a very positive step for the trans community.”

The Irish government has not flagged any issues with the self-declaration law in the two years it has been in operation.