In Germany, passage of the trans-friendly Self-Determination Act is fraught with dangers
In Germany, the ruling coalition proposes to make changing one's gender on legal documents, such as passports, a matter of simple self-declaration.
It's being hailed in the press, but there are dangers lurking with it. In other countries such as Canada, the U.S., and also the U.K., you can see the problems that came with it.
A policy must not simply decide what can be to the detriment of the majority. The Self-Determination Act means that everyone over the age of 14 is free to choose what is written in their passport about their gender.
"Dead-naming," or, using a newly minted man or woman's birth name, will also be a punishable offense with fines of up to €2,500 under this law. Why should saying the filed name be punished? Of course, you shouldn't insult anyone, but we already have a law for that. Is this supposed to be a denial of biological reality? It's a biological fact that you have the other gender, otherwise, you wouldn't be trans. To say otherwise is to ban natural sciences in general. If you can feel insulted when you say there are only two genders, you have a problem. But there is still a problem with the so-called dead-naming. It's on a completely different meta level than regular insults because you can't deny that the person is a different gender. That's not an insult, it's the truth.
How could you prove that? If someone who dislikes you accuses you of doing it, how could you prove that you didn't do it? If the state passes such a law, then it is no longer neutral, it is preemptively taking sides. At that point, the presumption of innocence no longer applies in Germany, which would be a serious encroachment on the judiciary. In the case of all other crimes, the state is neutral. However, a state may not enact a law that can be exploited in such a way that anyone can actually report anyone for misgendering.
Another controversy in this law is that 14 year-olds could now go to the government registry office (Germany has these) and take advantage of it, changing their sex even if their parents are against it. Then a judge can take a child away from his or her parents, or, as they say in Germany, commission the child without the parents. This has potential to break up and undermine families. Parents should only be deprived of custody in an emergency. Emergencies can be found in cases of child abuse, not when parents doubt something. Here the state mimics the able parent of the people. This is presumptuous. The state should always be something neutral as far as parental rights go. And what happens when the law is passed? Will men take over women's sports, and invade same-sex spaces such as locker rooms and bathrooms?
Our societies thrive on gender equality. You can already see in other countries such as the U.S. or Canada the kind of problems this causes. Our politicians don't want to hear about that and in this crowd, our queer commissioner and state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Sven Lehmann stands out. He openly shows his ignorance and arrogance. On the one hand, he says quite openly that he believes that hormone blockers used on children are safe, even though studies show that it is not true. Should he be asking himself, if a 10-year-old boy takes eight years of puberty blockers and then stops, is he a healthy 18-year-old boy?
But he doesn't do that, he rules in an arrogant manner and scolds everyone as a transphobe. His arguments are deeply emotional and not rational. Yes, it may be that today's transexual law (which the new proposal will replace) feels hurtful. But I won't explain why that is an argument because it is not. The transsexual law from the 1980s allows people to be legally recognized as "gender different" from their born gender.
It provides for either the adaptation of the first name to the perceived gender ("small solution", §§ 1 ff. TSG) or the change of the gender entry in the birth register (change of the gender assignment under civil status law - "big solution", §§ 8 ff. TSG) . The determination of gender can be requested together with the change of first name or in an additional procedure.
Since the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of Jan. 11, 2011, the requirements for determining gender affiliation have been requested as for the change of first name. It is possible to change from "male" to "female," "male" to "diverse," "female" to "diverse," and vice versa. It is also possible to delete the gender entry. It is good that there is a ban on sterilization. That exists in the European Union since 2011. But still, the law is a compromise between groups in society. However, one should not forget what a transition means and therefore that the law is good, especially for young people and physical care is best.
And that's exactly where Sven Lehmann and the traffic-light government are wrong. Because it may be the case that some trans people see it as hurtful, but the law and objective knowledge shouldn't go by "feel." It's not about feeling, even if it's understandable. For feelings should not be laws, but only objects of truth. If society always only cares about hurtful feelings, then there is no reasonable state to say 'no' to, e.g., a blind boy who wants to be a pilot should be a pilot, right? That's the logic of this new law. Should he be a pilot? If he is told 'no,' what if he feels hurt? What does it mean for society as a whole if everyone can produce their feelings as the basis for laws?
Especially since the state of trans is a diagnosis and it's unfair to deny them a psychologist. And it doesn't matter whether Sven Lehmann calls any opposition to his ideas the mark of the transphobe. If he really cared about people, he wouldn't erase objective reality from the law. The fact that one should simply be able to freely choose one's gender each year in one's passport goes against our society because it goes against the idea of dual genders. What happens, as required by the new law, when no gender is included on a passport? The worst thing is that this law doesn't do the trans people any favors.
Eva Kneifel is a German national who lives in Germany. I
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