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How do the UK’s gender recognition laws fare against those abroad?

Naith Payton July 28, 2015

With trans people and allies across the UK calling on the government to overhaul the gender recognition laws, PinkNews takes a look at how the laws work in other countries around the world.

The UK process is criticised for being unduly arduous and complicated. Trans people are required to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and a letter from two doctors, one of whom must be a gender specialist.

Hormones and surgery are not a requirement, although applicants are required to explain why they haven’t or do not intend have them.

In many other countries, however, medical transition is a key requirement. In Germany, for example, trans people must prove that they have been sterilised, and had genital reassignment surgery. Legal name and gender changes become void if the person has a biological child 300 days afterwards.

In the United States, of course, it varies from state to state. Most states allow people to change gender on their birth certificates, with Idaho, Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee being the only exceptions. Surgery is still a requirement in many states, but that is beginning to change. New York was the most recent state to relax the requirements and make gender recognition easier.

Canada similarly varies by province. Most do not require any more, with British Colombia being the most recent to remove the requirement. In almost all provinces, all that is required is a statutory declaration and a doctor’s letter. Saskatchewan also requires a fee of $20.

In Japan, one the first country in Asia to allow gender recognition in 2003, applicants must be unmarried and childless. South Korea has been granting gender recognition since the 1990s. It is as the discretion of a judge, but it is rarely denied.

Age restrictions vary very little. The UK, like most countries, will not allow anyone under 18 to change their legal gender.

Ireland recently passed some fairly progressive laws, where the minimum age is 16, and does not require surgery or any medical treatment. All it requires is a statutory declaration, similar to Colombia where trans people simply have to make a declaration before a notary.

Malta as well has been praised for its progressive recent gender recognition laws. As well at being the first country in the world to outlaw surgery for intersex babies, it has gained approval for legislation to protect trans people, and quick progress fixing loopholes and problems with the legislation when they have come to light.

Among the most progressive countries in the world is Argentina (the first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage) where trans people simply have to provide a statement of intent. There is no minimum age. An Argentinian six year old girl is the youngest in the world to have her gender legally recognised.

In so many countries around the world, a trans person can change their legal gender just by asking. What’s holding the UK back?

There are so many individual laws to name, and the UK is hardly the worst for its requirement. But it’s certainly not the best either, and is lagging behind so many other countries. We need to do better if we want to be a world leader in equality legislation

More: Canada, gender recognition, gender recognition act, Japan, Trans, Transgender, UK, United States, US

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