Spain’s legislators approve gender self-identification reforms

If passed into law, the reforms would allow those over 16 years of age to change their legally registered gender with greater ease.

People react outside the parliament after the new Transgender Law was announced in Madrid, Spain
Transgender rights groups say the proposed law represents a welcome shift, but some feminist activists are opposed to the reforms [Paul White/AP]

Spain’s lower house of parliament has passed a law allowing people over the age of 16 to change their legally registered gender without any medical supervision, putting the country on track to become one of the first few to allow transgender people to change their status with a simple declaration.

The bill was approved on Thursday by 188 legislators, with 150 voting against it, and will now move to the Senate. If it is left unchanged, as expected, it will become law within weeks.

Under the law, drawn up by the centre-left coalition government, minors aged 12 or 13 will need a judge’s authorisation to make the change, while those between 14 and 16 will have to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.

“At last this law ‘de-pathologises’ trans lives and guarantees trans people’s rights,” Irene Montero, Spain’s equality minister told parliament, during a debate on the bill on Wednesday.

“Trans women are women,” Montero said. She has previously denounced opposition to the bill as “transphobia”.

‘Before and after’ moment

Until now, transgender adults needed a diagnosis from several doctors of gender dysphoria – which is the psychological condition of not feeling a match between one’s biological sex and gender identity – to change their status.

In some cases, they also needed proof they had been living for two years as the gender they identified with – or even records showing they had taken hormones.

Minors, meanwhile, needed judicial authorisation.

The bill also proposes a ban on so-called conversion therapies to suppress sexual orientation or gender identity and would, if passed into law, establish fines and punishments for attacks on LGBTQ people.

It would also overturn a ban that prevented lesbian couples from registering their children under both parents’ names.

Transgender rights groups say the law represents a “before and after” in LGBTQ rights. But some feminist activists regard gender self-determination as a threat that blurs the concept of biological sex.

In Europe, Denmark was the first country to approve a self-identification system for people who want to change their legal gender in 2014.

In total, more than a dozen other countries have already adopted similar legislation.

On Thursday, Scotland became the first part of the United Kingdom to approve a self-identification system for those seeking to transition.

Intense parliamentary debate

Saida Garcia, the vice president of the Euforia Trans Family Alliance group, told the Associated Press news agency that the anticipated reforms in Spain will bring a change to many of its members’ everyday lives.

“It’s always been a problem when your ID doesn’t match your identity in a job interview, or at the doctor’s office, or when boarding public transport,” Garcia said.

“We are so happy to get to this point. It seemed it was never going to come,” she added.

The bill, sponsored by the far-left Unidas Podemos (United We Can), the junior party in the coalition government, has been the subject of an intense 18-month-long parliamentary debate.

It was fiercely opposed by right-wing opposition parties and also created some divisions with the Socialist party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, which tried unsuccessfully to introduce an amendment requesting court supervision for people up to 16 wanting to change their registered gender.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies