CONFIRMED: Spain’s gender self-determination law to come into force

Spanish lawmakers on Thursday voted through a transgender law letting anyone 16 and over change gender on their ID card even as similar measures elsewhere have sparked division over the complexities of the issue.

CONFIRMED: Spain's gender self-determination law to come into force
Spain's LGTBI+ President Uge Sangil (L), activist Carla Antonelli (L), activist Boti Garcia (C,R) and Spain's Minister for Equality Irene Montero (C,L) celebrate in front of the Spanish Congress, in Madrid on February 16, 2023 after the 'transgender ley' was voted. - Spain adopted a law simplifying the process for self-identifying as transgender, other early adopters are applying the brakes over the complexities involved in this highly sensitive issue. The transgender rights bill lets anyone 16 and over change gender on their ID card. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

The law, which passed by 191 votes in favour, 60 against with 91 abstentions, makes Spain one of the few nations to allow people to change their gender on their national identity card with a simple declaration.

In Europe, Denmark was the first country to grant such a right in 2014.

Thursday’s vote was the last hurdle for legislation that has caused a major rift within Spain’s fractious left-wing coalition, as the country gears up for a general election later this year.

The legislation is a flagship project of the equality ministry, which is held by Podemos, the radical left-wing junior partner in the Socialist-led coalition.

“This is one of the most important laws of this legislature… we have taken a giant step forward,” Equality Minister Irene Montero told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

“This law recognises the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity, it depathologises trans people. Trans people are not sick people, they are just people.”

Until now, adults in Spain could only request the change with a medical report attesting to gender dysphoria and proof of hormone treatment for two years. Minors needed judicial authorisation.

The new law drops all such requirements, with those aged 14 and 15 allowed to apply if their parents or legal guardians agree.

Those aged 12 and 13 will also require a judge’s permission to make the move.

‘We are not ill’

The vote was hailed by campaigners who said Spain was setting an example that would encourage others to follow suit.

“We’re celebrating the fact this law has passed after eight years of tireless work to obtain rights for the trans community,” Uge Sangil, head of FELGBTI+, Spain’s largest LGBTQ organisation, told AFP outside parliament.

“We’re winning human rights with the free determination of gender… From today, our lives will change because we are not ill.”

The need for laws to safeguard trans rights has taken on a new urgency with the sharp rise in people reporting gender dysphoria — the distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and the gender with which they identify.

But in recent years, several European nations which pioneered transgender legislation have had second thoughts.

Among those who have reimposed restrictions are Sweden and Finland, while in the United Kingdom, Westminster last month blocked a Scottish trans rights law similar to Spain’s.

The bitter dispute over transgender issues played a role in Wednesday’s shock resignation of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Although she had championed the law, Sturgeon became entangled in a major row over transgender women entering all-female prisons, following a rape case that sparked public outcry.

A year ago, Sweden decided to halt hormone therapy for minors except in very rare cases.

In December, it limited mastectomies for girls wanting to transition to a research setting, citing the need for “caution”.

The decision followed moves by Finland, which decided to restrict gender reassignment hormone treatment for similar reasons in 2020.

Last-minute warnings

In Spain, the bill generated deep political and ideological divisions within its left-wing coalition government, driving a wedge between activists in its powerful feminist lobby and LGBTQ equality campaigners.

And it was adamantly opposed by the right wing with Maria Jesus Moro of the opposition Popular Party (PP) making a last-minute appeal to lawmakers to vote against the law.

“We’ve all heard about countries backtracking because they now realise they were too hasty and it has caused a lot of suffering. Let’s not go through the same thing,” she said ahead of the vote.

Other voices have warned that gender self-determination could spell difficulties ahead that will need addressing, one of which was Reem Alsalem, the UN rapporteur on violence against women.

“Nations need to reflect on whether someone with a male biological sex, once they have acquired their female gender certificate, should be able to access all programmes and categories designed for biological women,” she told El Mundo daily earlier this month.

At Thursday’s session, Spanish lawmakers also passed another law granting paid medical leave to women suffering from severe period pain.

Member comments

  1. While I have every sympathy for transgender people because of the very real difficulties they face I do not condone the permitted use of access to exclusively female areas such as toilet facilities, sports areas, jails etc. my opposition stems from the ease with which such areas can now be accessed by people who are not, in fact, transgender at all.
    This is an ill thought out law which has not been given sufficient debate and there are many examples of the trouble it causes. It is wide open to abuse and if it were men’s areas that were being invaded willy nilly (no pun intended) in the same way there would, quite rightly, be a revolt against such a law.

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Madrid Open apologises to women’s doubles finalists for denying speeches

Madrid Open organisers apologised Thursday after not allowing the women's doubles finalists to make speeches after the match at the tournament last week, amid other allegations of sexism.

Madrid Open apologises to women's doubles finalists for denying speeches

The men’s’ doubles finalists were allowed to speak to the crowd after their matches.

Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia beat Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff in the women’s final on Sunday but were not given a microphone to let them address the crowd.

“We sincerely apologise to all the players and fans who expect more of the Mutua Madrid Open tournament,” said Madrid Open CEO Gerard Tsobanian in a statement on Twitter.

“Not giving our women’s doubles finalists the chance to address their fans at the end of the match was unacceptable and we have apologised directly to Victoria, Beatriz, Coco and Jessica.”

Tsobanian said the tournament was working with the WTA to improve their process in the future.

“We made a mistake and this will not ever happen again,” he added.

American player Pegula criticised the tournament at a news conference in Rome on Tuesday.

“Did I think we were not going to be able to speak? No. I’ve never heard of that, like, in my life,” she said.

“I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision.”

Women’s singles finalist Iga Swiatek had criticised the tournament in her speech on Saturday over their late finishes, saying it was “not fun” to play at 1am (2300GMT).

Winner Aryna Sabalenka joked about a birthday cake she was given the day before in her speech, which was smaller than the one the tournament gave men’s champion Carlos Alcaraz.

The Madrid Open also face complaints about the ball girl’s outfits, which some fans said were “sexualised”.