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Germany makes it easier for people to legally change their name and gender

Germany will vote on Friday on a government plan that would make it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to change their name and gender on official documents, AP News reports.

The “Self-Determination Act” – one of several social reforms that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s liberal-leaning coalition government has promised to implement when it takes office at the end of 2021 – will take effect on 1 November.

The new social reform will allow adults to change their surname and gender at civil registries without additional formalities. At the same time, they will have to notify the civil registry office three months before the change.

According to the current “law on transsexuals”, persons wishing to change their sex in official documents must first obtain the opinion of two experts “sufficiently familiar with the specific problems of transsexualism” and then a court decision.

Since the law was passed in 2021, Germany’s highest court has struck down other provisions that required transgender people to be divorced and sterilised, as well as undergo sex reassignment surgery.

The new law focuses on people’s legal identity. It does not revise the rules for sex reassignment surgeries. The new rules allow minors aged 14 or older to change their name and gender with the consent of their parents or guardians; if they do not agree, adolescents can ask the family court to overturn their decision. In the case of children under 14, parents or guardians will have to apply to the civil registry office on their behalf.

Once the official change of name and gender comes into effect, no changes can be made for a year. The new legislation means that administrators of, for example, gyms and women’s changing rooms will still decide who has access to them.

Nyke Slawik, one of two transgender women elected by lawmakers in 2021, said before the vote in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, that the new rules would save her a year of litigation, finding experts and spending nearly 2,000 euros ($2,150). Slawik, a lawmaker with the Greens, one of the governing parties, told ARD television:

We finally want to make it easier. Many other countries have gone this way, and Germany is simply following suit in significantly simplifying this registration.

Scholz’s government previously legalised possession of limited quantities of cannabis, relaxed the rules for obtaining German citizenship and lifted restrictions on holding dual citizenship, and lifted a ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2017.

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