Transgender Rights – Canada vs. Germany

How are these handled by the Law?

Who knows?Transgender topics and trending terms are now dominating the news, thanks to Caitlyn (aka Bruce) Jenner. It is a new world out there, with change coming through the governments, the schools, the courts of law, the media and driven mostly by the GLBT community around the world. Since this blog deals with German related topics, I was curious to learn how these things are handled in Germany – the land of “rules, organization and structure”. (I know, this is a stereotype, but so far, I have seen this to be true.) Thanks to the easy Internet access, I cam across this “Legal Gender Recognition Toolkit” published by the TGEU “Transgender Europe (TGEU) is a human rights organisation working towards the full equality for all trans people in Europe.”

Germany was one of the first European Countries to make laws regarding transsexuals: In 1980, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) issued a “Law concerning the change of given names and gender recognition in special cases” (Gesetz über die Änderung der Vornamen und die Feststellung der Geschlechtszugehörigkeit in besonderen Fällen), which came into force in 1981 and has since been commonly referred to as the “Transsexual Law” (Transsexuellengesetz, TSG) (e.g. Hirschauer 1999: 298) (see section “Gender Recognition and Gender Identity Law” below). After reunification, both countries agreed to the same law.

Here are some basic rulings, according to this website:

*Legal change of name
The application for a legal name change has to be done at court, and requires two independent evaluations by mental health practitioners appointed by the court. These reports must confirm a diagnosis of transsexuality and testify to the presence of a strong, probably irreversible desire to live as the opposite gender for at least the last three years. The procedure takes between six months and two years, depending chiefly on the amount of time the mental health evaluations take. The procedure costs between 500 and 2000 Euros (TGEU 2010).
*Legal change of gender
The application for a legal change of gender has to be done at court, and requires two independent evaluations by mental health practitioners appointed by the court. These reports must confirm a diagnosis of transsexuality and testify to the presence of a strong, probably irreversible desire to live as the opposite gender for at least the last three years. Further requirements are the permanent infertility of the applicant, hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery. The procedure takes up to two years, depending on whether the applicant has changed his/her/hir name before or not.
*Privacy Protection
*“Offenbarungsverbot” (prohibition of disclosure) in the TSG provides privacy protection concerning the previous gender role.
Since June 2008, due to a ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht 2008), a divorce is no longer compulsory for a legal gender change.

How About Switzerland

Legal gender recognition

* In February, the Federal Civil Registry Office published a legal opinion on the requirements for the legal recognition of trans people’s gender. The Office considered that the existing requirement of gender reassignment or sterilisation surgeries is a violation of the human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Swiss Constitution and should therefore be abolished, and
quoted the Council of Europe’s recommendations in evidence. The Office also considered that the dissolution of pre-existing marriages or civil partnerships must not be a pre-condition.
* In July, the regional tribunal of Bern-Mittelland recognised the gender change of a trans applicant without requiring evidence of infertility. This is the first time that such a decision has been taken without infertility or hormonal treatment requirements. Some
other tribunals immediately followed this example. In Switzerland, legal gender change recognition is a competence of the courts while requests for change of legal name are decided by the administration of the Cantons.
* The same month, the University of Lucerne published new guidelines regarding the use of names and gender markers of trans people awaiting court or administration decisions in all the documents delivered by the institution, including diplomas. The guidelines include no specific
requirement from the applicant, apart from filling in and signing a form.
* In October, in his opening speech for Switzerland’s second cycle of the UN UPR, the Federal Councillor, Didier Burkhalter, mentioned legal gender recognition and the progress made by courts during 2012.

Then there are still at least 17 countries in Europe that have laws that:

• Require a medical diagnosis of gender identity disorder, gender dysphoria, or transsexualism
• Require transition-related medical treatment, such as hormonal therapy or gender affirming surgeries
• Require sterilization, either explicitly or by requiring medical procedures that result in sterilization
• Require living continuously or permanently in one’s gender identity
• Require divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership
• Prohibit parenting now or the intention to have children in the future
• Be governed by age restrictions. Options for children and youth should recognize their evolving capacities

Basics of British Columbia Transgender Law

*Gender Reassignment Services are publicly funded in British Columbia for patients with gender dysphoria through the Medical Services Plan and since 2008, over 500 procedures have been approved by the ministry. But transgender organizations say even after assessments, the average wait for surgery is two to four years, and can be as long as a decade.
*Sex reassignment surgery will no longer be required before the sex designation associated with a person’s B.C. Services Card can be changed, according to the ministry. – See more at: (apparently won this “right” in 2014)
*According to “Cost Helper the costs are:[1] offers a detailed financial worksheets and estimates on the all the costs of transition, and estimates that it is typical to spend a total of $40,000 to $50,000 for a mid-range transition, including surgery.
For patients not covered by health insurance, the typical cost of a sex reassignment surgery can range from about $15,000 for just reconstruction of the genitals to about $25,000 for operations on the genitals and chest to $50,000 or more for procedures that include operations to make facial features more masculine or feminine. Prices typically depend on the techniques used — different techniques often are recommended based on body type and patient preference.

So, to sum it all up, the laws in Germany and Canada are somewhat the same, with Germany being ahead of the game in terms of laying it all out. But Europe and Canada are both still in a state of flux, as rules and laws are being bent, broken, brought to life and blended. It is very challenging for the non-transgender person to “catch up” or even follow along, but it is still good to try and learn something about this issue, since it is causing change for everyone, such as:
*bathroom use policies
*birth certificate designations
*human rights
*religious freedom
*sports law, education policies, public swimming pools and recreation centres

I would be interested to hear from the German transgender people in Canada, if there are such people here, to see how different life is and to compare notes. Where do you enjoy living the most?

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