Spain passes draft ‘trans law’ recognizing gender self-identification

Medical requirements to be lifted for people over 16 seeking gender change

Pro-transgender rights protest on the Rambla boulevard in Barcelona, June 26 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar)
Pro-transgender rights protest on the Rambla boulevard in Barcelona, June 26 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 29, 2021 04:10 PM

The Spanish government passed on Tuesday a draft bill recognizing the right of trans people aged 16 and older to determine their own gender.

The proposed law, which needs to be voted by lawmakers in the Spanish congress, would effectively lift medical requirements imposed up until now on people seeking to change their official gender status, including sex reassignment procedures like hormone therapy.

The Spanish Minister of Equality, and member of Unidas Podemos, Irene Montero, proclaimed on Monday: “At last, trans people will cease to be considered ill people in Spain” - “Your lives matter”, she added. 

The premise of the new law is to enable people over the age of 16 to change the name and gender that appears on their DNI national identification card, without the need of any other third party intervention.

For trans people aged 14 to 16, the bill states that parents must oversee the gender transition, and a judge will decide in case of disagreement. Those aged 12-14 will need judicial approval, and children under 12 can only change their name.

Conflict among politicians 

Although, not everyone in government was initially in favor of the new law, with gender self-determination causing discrepancies between Unidas Podemos and their major coalition partners in the government, the Socialist party. 

The government’s vice president, Carmen Calvo from the Socialist Party, has in the past protested transgender people’s right to determine their gender. In summer 2020 she signed a Socialist Party document “against theories which deny women’s realities” which stated that “if sex is denied, the inequality which is measured and built off of this biological fact is also denied”.

However, despite this tension, Calvo, Montero and Juan Carlos Campo (the Minister of Justice), agreed on a draft which does include the right to determine gender without the need for any third party intervention. Although, there will be a 3-month wait to change the name on a DNI and an age limit of 16 years and over, inspired by a similar law in force in Denmark, where one has to wait a “reflection period” of 6 months before changing national identity documents.

In fact, the whole process in Spain will actually take 4 months, since the change is only made official after a month. The change can also be reversed within a maximum period of 6 months, after that time requiring intervention from a judge. 

The situation in other countries 

Spain has become the 16th country in the world to legally enable gender self-identification, after Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Malta, Argentina among others. A law of this kind was first passed in Denmark in 2014, after policies which required transgender citizens to become sterilized before the government would allow them to update identifying documents were eventually scrapped. 

However, in most countries in Europe these kinds of laws do not yet exist for transgender people. In the UK, for example, in September 2020 the government dropped plans for a gender self-identification law, without the need for medical diagnosis. Moreover, in Germany, a similar draft for a bill has been repeatedly rejected and delayed.

Increased rights for LGBTQ+

The law also aims to give more rights to the whole LGBTQ+ community. For instance, the draft bill prohibits all conversion therapy, any process which aims to change people’s sexual orientation, even if that person consents to it.

Homosexual women will also have the right to access assisted reproduction through the National Health System. As well as this, unmarried lesbian or bisexual couples will be considered biological mothers, regardless of their marital status. Up until now, same-sex female couples were limited to having children through the adoption system. 

Intersex people, those born with organs belonging to both sexes, now have the right to not be mutilated at birth, and are also now protected from their parents choosing their sex against their will.

In response to concerns coming from the feminist movement surrounding the possibility of abusors self-identifying as women in order to avoid being prosecuted for gender violence, the bill makes clear they will not be protected, unless their gender has been changed in the National Register. 

Recent homophobic attacks in Barcelona

Despite this arrival of progressive legislation for the LGBTQ+ community in Spain, there have been a series of homophobic attacks taking place in Barcelona over recent weeks.

On the weekend, a man was beaten and robbed by a dozen people in the city’s Parc Güell after they shouted homophobic insults at him.

On top of this, last week, on the eve of Sant Joan, nother homophobic attack was reported in the Gràcia district, with a young gay couple being hospitalized as a result of the incident.