We need a new gender recognition act

To be able to live your life as yourself should be an obvious right for everybody. Today, that is not the case.

March 11 2019

Recently, the government presented its list of bills for 2019. A new gender recognintion act was not on that list. In 2017, the same government promised that a new law would become reality before the election, and now trans people have to wait, at least, an additional year to gain their rights.

It’s high time for legislation that recognises your right to self-determination and puts the individual before the system. At the party leader debate during Stockholm Pride 2018, invited party leaders were waving flags and agreed that there was a need for a new gender recognition act. It’s not a controversial issue, and yet, the decision is lagging.

Sweden has the oldest gender recognition act in the world. In 1972, we were the first country in the world allowing trans people to attain the legal gender that corresponds with one’s gender identity. That is something to be proud of, but the law is now old and needs to be replaced. Mainly because the terms of the legislation are absurd; that you have to seek and undergo medical care in order to change your personal identity number. We need legislation that differentiates between care and law. Many other countries have run past us, our neighbours Denmark and Norway already have laws allowing trans people to change legal gender without having to seek care or prove their gender identity to the authorities.

The gender you have in the eyes of the authorities is a just a piece of paper, a tiny digit in your personal identity number. Yet still, you currently have to undergo a medical assessment and treatment in order to change that digit, to be recognised by the state as who you are. This process can take years, years of unnecessary suffering. To be able to live as yourself should be an absolute right for everybody, but that isn’t the case today. The current legislation causes the waiting times to trans care to be unnecessarily long – up to several years depending on where in the country you live. The process of getting a referral, having to wait for a over a year to start an assessment, going through the assessment to then, finally, gain access to gender affirming care should be reserved for people who suffer from gender dysphoria – a condition that leads to mental ill-health because your gender identity doesn’t correspond with your body. Those who only want to change their personal identity number should be able to do only that.

Legislation to replace the old law is ready and in the hands of the government. We know that a majority of the political parties and members of parliament are for a new gender recognition act. Voting on it is not complicated and it has to happen now. Today’s legislation with the long waiting times and lengthy assessments negatively affects young trans people’s mental health – something that could easily be prevented through new legislation. More than every third trans person has contemplated committing suicide, which is nothing short of a public health disaster. It’s shameful that a government who claims to be safeguarding LGBTQI people’s rights yet again stops trans people from living their lives as themselves.

Sandra Ehne, national president of RFSL
Frank Berglund, vice national president of RFSL