Germany passes landmark law making legal gender change easier

The reform is going to make it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to change their name and gender on official documents.

This article is about Germany passing a new law making it easier for people to legally change their gender. The image shows a trans flag flying.
Image: Ink Drop via Shutterstock

Legislators in Germany have voted in favour of the Self-Determination Act, making it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to change their name and gender on official documents. After controversial debates, the law was passed with 374 delegates voting in favour, against 251 no-votes and 11 abstentions.

The new legislation will allow people to change their name and gender without going through a lengthy and expensive process, as the current so-called ‘Transsexual Law’ that dates back four decades mandates. 

The Self-Determination Act will allow people aged 14 years and older to change their name and gender with approval from their parents or guardians. In the case of younger children, parents or guardians will have to make registry office applications on their behalf.

The law focuses solely on individuals’ legal identities and does not involve revising Germany’s laws on gender-transition surgeries. The new legislation also maintains the right of operators of businesses like gyms and pools, for example, to continue to decide who has access to which changing rooms, saunas and the like.


Ahead of the vote, Germany’s first-ever ‘Queer Commissioner’ Sven Lehmann told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that simplifying legal gender change will “make the lives of transgender, intersex and non-binary people noticeably easier and better”.

Under the Transsexual Law which was in place in Germany until now, people who wished to change their gender were “still treated by the state as if they were ill,” Lehmann said. He added that this state-imposed paternalism and heteronomy must be ended.

Up to now, two psychiatric reports and a court order were required to legally change an individual’s gender. Those affected often had to put up with very intimate questions that have been widely criticised as invasive and discriminatory, with many trans people describing the procedure as humiliating, lengthy and costly. 

“We finally want to make it easier,” Slawik, one of two trans women elected as lawmakers in 2021, told ARD TV before the vote took place.

“Many other countries have gone this way, and Germany is simply following suit in significantly simplifying this registration.”

In the parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, Slawik said that if the new law had been in place when she transitioned, it would have saved her over a year of dealing with courts, seeking expert assessment and spending nearly €2,000. 


The Self-Determination Law is one of several social reforms that Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s liberal-leaning coalition government pledged when it took office in late 2021. It will come into full effect at the beginning of November this year, with Germany officially joining 15 other states around the world that allow for self-determination, including Ireland, Denmark and Uruguay.

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