Spain advances landmark trans self-ID bill – but activists say it doesn’t go far enough

Protestors LGBT+ Spain trans

Spain has advanced a landmark bill that would allow trans adults to self-determine their gender – but activists say it doesn’t go far enough.

The Spanish government approved the draft bill on Tuesday (29 June). It would allow trans people over the age of 16 to update their gender marker and name on official documents without being forced to get a medical diagnosis.

Currently, trans people in Spain must have a gender dysphoria diagnosis or have been prescribed hormone therapy before they can legally change their name and gender on official documents.

Under the draft bill’s provisions, individuals aged between 14 and 16 would need parental approval to correct their gender marker or name. Those aged between 12 and 14 would need judicial authorisation.

Minors aged under 12 would only be allowed to register a new name, and would need to wait until they are older to update their gender marker.

Spain trans activists

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Madrid, Spain to support the trans community. Activists held signs with the slogan ‘Nor Designated Sex Nor Gender Proven. Trans Fury against All Authority’. (Photo by Guillermo Gutierrez Carrascal/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Equality minister Irene Montero told reporters at a news conference that Spain was “making history” by passing the draft bill. She said the legislation represented a “giant step forward for LGBTI rights and particularly those of trans people” in the country.

She said: “I think we’re not just launching a clear message when it comes to the protection and defence of everyone … but also to Europe as a whole, which is that human rights and guaranteeing the freedom, dignity and happiness of everyone – whoever they are and whoever they love – are the foundations of the European project.”

The Associated Press reported that the bill would also ban gay and trans conversion therapy, bring forward fines and punishment for anti-LGBT+ attacks and overturn a ban that prevented lesbian couples from registering their children under both parents’ names.

Spain’s self-ID bill ‘is a brutal trim’

Mar Cambrollé, from the non-profit organisation Plataforma Trans, told the Associated Press that the bill falls flat in terms of protecting the rights of trans minors under 14 and guaranteeing the rights of non-binary and trans migrants.

“It’s a brutal trim from of what we had demanded for decades,” Cambrollé said.

“It does not develop specific policies to deal with unemployment of trans people, it does not delve into protocols for preventing harassment in educational centres, it does not speak of a health care model for us and it does not touch on sports.”

Saida Garcia from the non-government organisation Euforia, told Reuters the bill is not truly protecting “self-determination if there are age limits”.

Spain rejected a more expansive LGBT+ rights bill on 18 May, with the country’s Congress of Deputies voting 143-78.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that this version of the bill would have “upheld children’s self-determination by allowing children and adolescents access to legal gender recognition”. HRW said the bill would have also allowed for non-binary and blank gender markers on official identity documents.

LGBT+ activists have put pressure on the government for months to pass expensive self-ID laws.

Earlier this year, dozens of trans rights campaigners launched a hunger strike to push for better trans rights legislation. Hundreds of people gathered with trans flags at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, Spain in March, and 70 activists announced their intention to go on hunger strike.

The campaigners changed “trans law now” outside the political building and tweeted pictures from the frontlines. The group promised to continue until the Socialist and Podemos coalition introduced an inclusive LGBT+ rights bill.