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German Self-ID to Allow Changing Legal Sex Once a Year

Until the end of 2022, Germany plans to pass a bill so anyone aged 14 years old and up can change their legal sex by filling out a form.

German Self-ID to Allow Changing Legal Sex Once a Year
Left: "Tessa Ganserer, a trans-identified male German MP. Right: Queer Ambassador Sven Lehmann

Until the end of the year, the German coalition plans to pass a bill that would allow anyone aged 14 years old and up to change their legal sex and first name by simply filling out a form at the registry office. At a June 30 press conference, two German Ministers presented these first key points of a “Transsexual Act” reform.

In the case of minors aged 14 - 18, the new law allows them to change their sex markers in documents with the consent of their legal guardians. The parents of children under 14 would have the right to file the form on their child’s behalf.

If one of the legal guardians disagrees with the sex marker change, the family court could, at the request of the minor, “replace the decision of the parents based on the best interest of the child.”

So far, there is no limit on how many times a person could change his or her legal sex. However, there is a waiting period of one year – only then would it be possible to change the documents again. According to the Ministry’s key points paper "This serves to protect against haste and is intended to ensure that the change request is serious."

Under the new law, disclosure bans on the former names that were already established in the Transsexual Act would be “extended” and fines added. The key points of the new self-ID bill do not mention how high the fines should be. However, a 2020 draft of the same bill proposed fines up to €2500.

The proposed bill would repeal the 1981 Transsexual Act which grounds the legal sex change on the independent assessment of two court-appointed experts. Lisa Paus, one of the Ministers presenting the key points of the bill, has labeled these prerequisites “inhuman hurdles” and has called the process “deeply humiliating” for the applicants.

Germany’s Queer Ambassador Sven Lehmann stated that “these procedures are lengthy, expensive and, above all, degrading.” He also claimed that applicants are being asked inappropriate questions in the current assessment questionnaires, such as: “On average, how often a month do you masturbate? And if you have the appearance of a man, do you wear female underwear to stimulate yourself?”

As Stefanie Bode, former country contact at Women’s Declaration International: Germany told 4W, “the law doesn’t state how to assess whether the applicant is serious in his or her intent to transition to the ‘opposite sex.’” According to her, there doesn’t exist a standardized form and “experts” can ask the applicants any question they want.

“Some might focus on the sexual aspect, which, in the case of autogynephilic men would make sense, but, even in such cases, the experts almost never refuse to recommend a person for the sex marker change,” she added.

Effect on single-sex provisions

The German Ministry of Family Affairs states on their website that “the Self-Determination Act does not change the existing practice in women's shelters.” They add, “there is no obligation on the part of the facility to admit a specific person” as well as that “women can be expelled from the women's shelter if they cannot comply with the statutes or house rules.”

Asked by a journalist how she wanted to ensure women's sense of security in domestic violence shelters after the Self-ID passed, the German Minister of Family Affairs answered: "Trans women are women. That's why I see no need for discussion here.”

In terms of the effect on sports, the Family Affairs Ministry website states that “The sports associations decide on their own responsibility about admission to sports competitions. The Self-Determination Act does not change that.”

Speaking to 4W about the probability of the German self-ID bill passing, Stefanie Bode said: “It is very probable. The government has made it clear from the start that self-ID is one of the major issues they want to focus on - on par with the war in Ukraine and energy crisis in importance. At this point, it would be a miracle if the bill didn’t pass.”

Ms Bode elaborated that while some German feminists are speaking out against the bill, the radical feminist movement in Germany is still lagging behind some other countries.

“Feminists in Germany are not as strong as the ones in the UK,” said Ms Bode, “Although there are many women who do oppose self-ID here as well. Mostly, they are believers in the ‘true trans’ narrative and some even argue for the reform of the 1981 Transsexual Act, or for keeping it the way it is now, as do the women in Emma magazine.”

“Then there are radical feminists and other gender-critical people who have already held a couple of protests. WDI organized one against self-ID on July 2 in Cologne, and the alliance Lasst Frauen sprechen (Let Women Speak) has also held a demonstration to support Norway’s Christina Ellingsen in front of the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin. Anytime we hold such a protest, we include the issue of self-ID.”

“I would say objections to the self-ID are rising. Also, the issue is getting much more attention in the mainstream media, and more journalists dare to speak critically. But we miss voices who use clear language - such as Kellie-Jay Keen (Posie Parker) in the UK.” Stefanie Bode added.

The reform bill’s full text is expected to be made public after the northern summer break.

Correction: the author incorrectly quoted Stefanie Bode. In the updated version, the term "climate change" was changed to "energy crisis."

Update July 13: The previous version incorrectly claimed that the protest in front of the Norwegian embassy was organized by WDI Germany

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