Historic gender identity legislation comes into effect in Denmark

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Denmark’s new gender identity legislation, said to be the most progressive in the world, came into effect on September 3.

The first of its kind in Europe, the historic new law allows individuals to change their gender marker on all legal identification based solely on self-determination. Requirements such as first obtaining a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or undergoing hormone therapy have been eliminated.

Consequently, the process of updating documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates has been greatly simplified, requiring only a statement requesting the change and the completion of a small number of forms. After a six-month “reflection period,” the paperwork is processed and the request granted.

Until June 2014, Danes wishing to update their identification to accurately reflect their gender identity were first required to be clinically diagnosed with gender identity disorder and then surgically sterilized. According to the Lawyer Herald, Denmark’s Minister for Economics and the Interior, Margrethe Vestager, said in a statement that the change “will make life easier and more dignified” for transgender people.

Although transgender activists welcomed the law, some criticisms remain; for example, there is no “third gender” option. In a statement, Transgender Europe (TGEU) said that they are “concerned about the waiting period of 6 months that is introduced with this law, as well as the minimum age requirement of 18 years.

TGEU’s statement continues, “According to Danish lawmakers, this measure was introduced to prevent persons from making hasty decisions they would later regret. However, this imposed delay in the procedure prevents trans people from changing their documents quickly when necessary, for example when applying for a job, travelling internationally or enrolling in education. Furthermore, TGEU is concerned that the waiting period may also perpetuate misconceptions of trans people as being ‘confused’ about their gender, instead of encouraging them to change their documents quickly so that they can participate fully and freely in all aspects of life.”

Additionally, as TGEU notes, transgender children must wait until they are of age to be legally recognized as their true gender, even though several leading human rights institutions “note that there are no medical or legal reasons to insist on limiting legal gender recognition to persons of 18 and older…As trans people come out at an increasingly young age, it is crucial for the social recognition and acceptance of their identities, as well as for their self-esteem and personal development, that they are not excluded from legal recognition and, as a consequence, from education and employment opportunities.”

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