Germany approves self-ID to make transitioning easier for trans people after year in legal limbo

Justice minister, Marco Buschmann, smiling. Germany's Federal Cabinet has approved plans to make it easier for trans and non-binary people to change their name and gender.

Germany’s Federal Cabinet has green lit plans to make it easier for trans and non-binary people to change their name and gender after a year of legal pushback.

The legislation, dubbed the Self-Determination Act, aims to make it easier for trans and non-binary people to change their names on legal documents such as birth or death certificates.

Justice minister for the Free Democratic Party, Marco Buschmann, told German outlet ZDF television on Wednesday (23 August) that he believed the current system to be “very degrading”.

“Imagine that you … simply want to live your life and you don’t wish anyone anything bad, and then you’re questioned about what your sexual fantasies are, what underwear you wear and similar things,” he said.

“Now we simply want to make life a bit easier for a small group for which it has great significance.”

The existing 40-year-old ‘transsexual law’ in Germany currently requires those who want their gender legally recognised to obtain assessments from medical experts “sufficiently familiar with the particular problems of transsexualism”.

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They are then required to go through a court process, which may or may not result in the acceptance of their request.

‘Concerning points’

However, activist groups have voiced concerns over the legislation for its stipulations regarding three month waiting periods and revoking declarations for refugees.

European and Central Asia advocacy group TGEU said the law is “both progress and holds concerning points for trans people.

“Parliament can still change the bill before it is adopted,” the statement continued. “We call on German Parliament to carefully listen to trans people [and] lawmakers to look to other countries with self-determination for evidence..”

While it still needs to be approved by parliament, the new legislation, which has been in the works for over a year, would allow trans citizens to change gender at a registry office with no further paperwork. The applicants would have to submit their request three months before the change is approved.

However, the law has stipulations for minors aged 14 and above, requiring them to have the approval of their parents or guardians. If their parents don’t approve, under-18s can ask a family court to overrule them.

Under-14s would require explicit permission from parents or guardians, who would have to make the applications on their behalf.

Buschmann said he was “firmly convinced” that parents would take the decision “very seriously” and do what’s best for their child.

LGBTQ+ activists in Germany celebrate during a Pride protest.
LGBTQ+ activists in Germany celebrate during a Pride protest. (Getty)

The bill was first presented on 30 June 2022 along with a package of laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights.

At the time, family minister Lisa Paus said: “The Self-Determination Act will improve the lives of transgender people and recognise gender diversity.

“In many areas, society is further ahead of legislation. As a government, we have decided to create a legal framework for an open, diverse and modern society.”

After over a year of legal back-and-forth, a vote on the legislation by the Cabinet in July was delayed following fears clauses of the legislation.

“Important information like criminal records, outstanding arrest warrants and weapons licenses need to be recognisable to prosecutors in databases after changing name and gender,” Dirk Peglow, chair of the Alliance of German Legal Civil Servants, told Der Spiegel at the time.

Subsequent modifications to the law will mean that registry offices have to inform national crime units in Germany when applicants submit their requests.

Other proposed changes come after right-wing groups claimed that the legislation could be abused by migrants – a conspiracy theory that has gained immense criticism from LGBTQ+ and human rights campaigners.

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