When identification documents do not reflect the gender of the trans person – the identified gender of the person – these documents are often rejected as proof of identity. This prevents trans people from participating in essential aspects of daily life such as school enrollment, access to health care, getting a job, opening a bank account, travelling or voting.
At the same time, inaccurate identification can lead to “rejection” of trans people – resulting in discrimination and abuse or a state of profound harm because one’s gender is not accepted.
What Does “Trans” Mean?
Trans refers to the range of people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans people can undergo gender-affirming medical interventions such as hormone therapy or genital surgeries. Trans people use many labels to identify their experience with gender, embracing the diverse nature of identity. Trans people can, therefore, be male, female, nonbinary (gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine), gender nonconforming (expressing and/or behaving outside of existing gender norms), or they may choose to reject any of these labels.
What Is Legal Gender Recognition, And Why Does It Matter?
Throughout the world, all official forms of identification—like birth certificates, passports, national ID cards, and driver’s licenses—reflect the gender we are assigned at birth unless they are amended.
Legal gender recognition is government acknowledgement of the gender a person lives, as well as their chosen name, reflected in identifying documents. These state-issued documents are often necessary to update other formal documents, including bank records and educational certificates.
What Prevents People from Changing These Documents?
The vast majority of trans people around the world cannot obtain official documents that match their gender identity or chosen name because there is no clear legal procedure in their countries for this.
For the few that can, the process of officially changing gender and name often involves pointless and unnecessary requests. Such may be:
- psychiatric diagnosis or placement in a psychiatric institution;
- treatments such as hormone therapy, forced sterilization or sex reassignment surgery;
- divorce, if the person is married to a person of the opposite sex;
- requesting that the person be childless.
These processes are often too complicated, expensive, slow or subject to individual decisions by civil servants rather than clear and transparent rules.
What’s Wrong with Requiring Medical Diagnosis or Interventions?
Everyone should have the opportunity to have free access to health care that will help improve their health and well-being. Some trans people choose to seek medical treatments such as hormone therapy, counseling, sex reassignment surgery to help them transition from one gender to another, but some do not want to go through it.
The requirement for a person to be medically diagnosed as “transgender” or to have “gender-identity disorder” or to undergo medical treatment before changing their official documents, puts healthcare professionals in a position of guardian of fundamental rights. This situation creates an unbalanced relationship between the patient and the medical practitioner, making it more difficult for trans people to access adequate health care that meets their individual needs.
How do Open Society Foundations promote equal legal recognition for trans people?
Trans activists and allies around the world are advocating for their rights by introducing or changing national laws or regulations. The Open Society Foundations provide financial support to trans-led or LGBT organizations that promote progressive, rights-based processes for legal gender recognition. Our partners include:
- Transgender Europe, an umbrella network of European trans organizations, educates decision-makers and the public on the impact that legal gender recognition has on the daily lives of trans people.
- Transgender Education & Advocacy, a Kenyan organization that is pressing courts to allow name and gender change on passports, national ID cards, and academic certificates.
- Transgender Equality Network Ireland, calls on the Irish Government to Develop Progressive National Gender Recognition Laws.
- Insight, a Ukrainian organization that engages with ministerial bodies, the Office of the Ombudsman, and other civil society allies to reform the draconian process for changing name and gender, which includes 30–45 days of psychiatric confinement.
- Strategic legal representation before the European Court of Human Rights through several regional and national CSOs such as the Croatian LGBT organization – Kontra, and the Macedonian MARGINI Coalition – to help create an obligation for European countries to secure legal recognition of their gender under the European Convention for Human Rights.
How does the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia support trans people in Macedonia?
We at the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia believe that gender identity is a fundamental aspect of private life, its legal recognition makes transgender people visible, recognized and accepted in society. Therefore, we provide financial support to organizations promoting progressive gender recognition processes, such as the MARGINI Coalition, an organization that works on strategic legal representation for trans people as well as on improving the status of trans people in Macedonia as one of the most marginalized groups of citizens. The purpose of this support is to provide the space and the obligation for institutions to create processes that will legally recognize transgender gender in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
With the help of the MARGINI Coalition, in January 2019, the transgender Person X in the Strasbourg Court in the case “X against Macedonia” received a positive verdict under which Macedonia has an obligation to adopt a law that would enable transgender people to act in a fast, transparent and accessible manner on legal recognition of gender.
Source: Foundations Open Society