Denmark Passes Groundbreaking Gender 'Self-Determination' Law

This week, Denmark became the first country to allow a legal gender change without a medical statement — but advocates say the law isn't perfect.

BY Mitch Kellaway

September 03 2014 12:56 PM ET

The abolishment of restrictive Danish laws around updating gender on identification records for transgender citizens — which were originally repealed by Denmark's Parliament in June — went into effect this week, reports the Guardian.

Before the requirements were scrapped, Danish trans people had to become sterilized before the government would allow them to update identifying documents to accurately reflect their gender.

Under the new changes, trans people over the age of 18 can update their passports, birth certificates, social security cards, and other documents after undergoing a six-month "reflection period."

Trans rights advocates have pointed out that the updated policies free trans people from relying on medical institutions to determine their gender. Many countries — including the U.S.'s social security card policy — still maintain requirements calling for a doctor's written confirmation that a patient is undergoing a clinical transition (often through hormone therapy or non-sterilizing gender-affirming surgeries) before documents can be changed, despite no longer explicitly requiring specific surgeries on the person's reproductive organs.

However, some have pointed out potential issues in the new law's requirements, notes Slate. Advocacy group Transgender Europe has spoken out against the six-month waiting period and minimum age requirements.

"The imposed delay in the procedure prevents trans people from changing their documents quickly when necessary — for example, when applying for a job, traveling internationally, or enrolling in education," the group said in a statement.  "Furthermore ... the waiting period may also perpetuate misconceptions of trans people as being 'confused' about their gender[.]"

Despite these ongoing concerns, activists are hailing Denmark's approval of "gender self-determination" as a precedent-setting step forward in human rights for trans people.

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