After long debates, one thing is clear: trans*, inter and non-binary people will be able to change their name and gender more easily in the future.

Bundestag member Tessa Ganserer (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Sven Lehmann (Alliance 90/The Greens), Parliamentary State Secretary for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth, hug each other on the sidelines of the roll call vote on the Self-determination Act during the 164th session of the Bundestag.

Bundestag MP Tessa Ganserer and Parliamentary State Secretary Sven Lehman (both Alliance 90/Greens) are happy Photo: Britta Pedersen

SEDAN taz | No more tests, no reports, no medical certificates: On Friday afternoon, the majority of the Bundestag voted in favor of the Self-Determination Act, which makes it easier to change gender entries for trans, intersex and non-binary people. The law is scheduled to go into effect on November 1.

Kalle Hümpfner from the Federal Trans Association

The transsexual law has finally been abolished! This puts an end to 40 years of violations of fundamental rights.

Activists followed the vote outside the Bundestag. “The transsexual law has finally been abolished!” said Kalle Hümpfner of the Federal Trans* Association of Taz. “This puts an end to 40 years of violations of fundamental rights. The current law was declared unconstitutional six times. “The government is finally acting on its own instead of always reacting to decisions from Karlsruhe.”

The Transsexual Law has been in force since 1981. To change gender entry, it imposed harsh conditions on trans* people: they were not allowed to marry. They had to be permanently incapable of reproducing, that is, sterilized. And they had to undergo surgery to adapt to the chosen gender.

The Federal Constitutional Court declared the law largely unconstitutional in 2011 because it violated human dignity and contradicted the right to physical integrity. However, there was no alternative to the law, which has since been suspended.

Psychological reports and judicial proceedings are no longer necessary.

In April 2023, the Federal Minister of Family, Lisa Paus (Greens), and the Minister of Justice, Marco Buschmann (FDP), presented a draft of the Self-Determination Law, prepared in collaboration with associations of those affected. It stipulates that transgender, intersex and non-binary adults can change their name and gender with a simple declaration to the registry office.

The psychological reports and court procedures that were previously necessary are no longer necessary. From the age of 14, young people can make changes to the entrance themselves with the consent of their parents. For children under 14 years old, parents can make a declaration of change, but not against the will of the child.

The approval in the Bundestag was preceded by tough debates in politics and society. The responsible federal ministers, Buschmann and Paus, had been struggling for months to reach agreements. The opposition especially criticized the dissociation between legal gender and biological gender. The CDU and AfD also repeatedly focused on youth protection issues. The Union also warned of possible misuse, as changes in marital status are not initially transmitted to security authorities.

For many activists, the law does not go far enough

The pre-vote debate in the Bundestag was opened on Friday afternoon by Alliance 90/Greens' Nyke Slawik, one of the first known transgender members of the Bundestag. Slawik described her own experience as a trans* youth: “I was tired of being asked every time I had to show my ID, at the bar or at the ticket office: “Is that your brother's ID?” It is time, says Slawik, that the dignity of trans*, inter and non-binary people is finally respected.

Despite the new aid, the law is not enough for many activists and victims: according to Kalle Hümpfner, several groups of people, such as people without a permanent residence permit in Germany, would be excluded. “It also contains accusations against trans* people, for example in the regulations on house rules,” says Hümpfner. The Self-Determination Law does not affect the rights of private households. Some women's rights activists had expressed concern about having to open protective spaces, such as women's saunas, to trans* people in general.

Activists are also calling for a lower age limit and a compensation fund for victims of the Transgender Law. Although this is part of the coalition agreement, it is not part of the Self-Determination Law.