It doesn’t take long before it gets loud. Of course, there is also plenty of insults in this debate. In the end, however, it will be the moderate voices that make their voices heard.
Wednesday evening in the plenary session of the Bundestag, the Self-Determination Act will be discussed for the first time. It is intended to make it easier to change the first name and gender entry in the civil status register. And because it involves questions of identity and biological gender, some people are very upset. The Union warns that the child’s well-being is now in danger. And the AfD states that there is madness in the house.
Irritatingly intimate questions during the assessment
But first, Family Minister Lisa Paus has her say in the Bundestag debate. The Green politician has worked with Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) to develop a law that is intended to make it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to have their gender entry changed in the civil register and passport. Anyone who does not identify with the gender that was registered after birth or was born with ambiguous physical gender characteristics should be able to change their gender entry by self-declaring to the registry office, with restrictions.
“For most of us it is self-evident who we are and how we want to live. We decide that ourselves,” says Family Minister Paus in the Bundestag. But transident people had to fight for this right for decades, often unsuccessfully, also because of the transsexual law, which was “pure humiliation” for many.
The Transsexuals Act of 1981 tied the change of gender entry to unreasonable conditions such as permanent reproductive inability. The Federal Constitutional Court found it to be contrary to fundamental rights six times. It is now being replaced by the Self-Determination Act, which puts the decision about their identity into the hands of those affected. This also means that the obligation to undergo psychiatric assessments before making a decision will be abolished. Her irritatingly intimate questions met with sharp criticism from those affected.
However, the new law was by no means met with approval in the Bundestag on Wednesday evening. There is great concern in the Union about encouraging young people to take gender reassignment measures. Children and young people are an “incredibly vulnerable group,” says the deputy Union parliamentary group leader Dorothee Bär (CSU). They “often feel not understood” and are dissatisfied with themselves. “And in this phase we ask young people the question: Do you feel like you’re in the right body?” Exuberant reports about gender reassignment operations online could encourage imitation.
Negative influences during puberty?
However, the amendment expressly has nothing to do with surgical gender reassignment and does not pave the way there legally. The draft stipulates that for minors under the age of 14, only their legal guardians can request a change in gender entry. Anyone older than 14 can do this themselves if their parents agree. If there are conflicts and the child’s well-being is at risk, a court will decide. The Union is critical of the latter: the parents’ opinion could be ignored on an important issue. It calls for an obligation to consult before changing one’s gender entry, even for adults.
Bär gets into trouble with FDP politician Jürgen Lenders for her speech. “Mrs Bear, what you are reporting is simply wrong,” he says. The planned law does not change any medical facts, it only changes “whether you will receive mail from the office as a woman or a man in the future.” Among trans and intersex people, “the suicide rate is disproportionately high.” A change in gender often comes at the end of a long journey “with a lot of pain and suffering”. That needs to be changed.
AfD MP Beatrix von Storch sees it completely differently. In her speech, she initially tried to humiliate the transgender Green Party MP Tessa Ganserer by assigning her to the wrong gender – which earns the speaker a call to order. The self-determination law is “not liberal, but totalitarian,” von Storch complains. It also doesn’t turn a biological man into a woman, and the government’s plan is “the symbiosis of North Korea and gender gaga.”
Green MP Tessa Ganserer, on the other hand, points out that even conservative Switzerland has a self-determination law. And there are also arguments outside the door of Parliament. An alliance of civil society organizations, including the German Women’s Council and Pro Familia, welcomed the amendment in principle in a petition. However, so many restrictions have been added that new discrimination is emerging. The three-month waiting period before changing one’s gender entry should be abolished, as should a passage according to which “household rights” apply if trans people want to enter protected women’s spaces such as a sauna. The debate, it seems, has only just begun.