Sweden lowers age requirement for legal gender change with landmark vote

The new legislation will allow those as young as 16 to pursue legal gender change services with parental permission.

Swedish flag flying on the streets of Stockholm.
Image: Shutterstock, Sweden voted to lower the age requirement for those seeking legal gender change services to 16 on Wednesday, April 20.

In 1972, Sweden made history as the first country in the world to legalise gender-affirming surgery. On Wednesday, April 17, the country made history once again as members of the Parliament in Sweden approved a motion to lower the age requirement for those seeking to legally change their gender to 16. Previously, legislation required trans and non-binary Swedes to be 18 years old before beginning the process to legally change their gender and/or undergo gender-affirming surgeries

Those under the age of 18 seeking Sweden’s new gender-change services will still require permission from a parent or guardian, a doctor, and the National Board of Health and Welfare. However, the newly approved legislation will no longer require applicants to have a formal gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Those over 18 will no longer require permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare to pursue legal gender change services or to undergo gender-affirming surgeries. Similar laws have recently been passed in countries like Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Spain. 

Yesterday’s vote passed through the Swedish Parliament in a landslide, with 234 MPs voting in favour of the legislation. 94 MPs voted against the motion, while an additional 21 lawmakers were absent during the vote and the nearly six-hour debate that preceded it. 

Johan Hultberg, a member of the Moderates of Sweden, referred to the legislation as “a cautious but important reform for a vulnerable group.” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson similarly called the outcome of Wednesday’s vote “gratifying”. 

Chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL), Peter Sidlund Ponkala, commented on the landmark vote, saying that it was “a step in the right direction” and “a recognition for everybody who has been waiting for decades for a new law.” 

RFSL youth branch chairman Elias Fjellander also commented on the landmark vote, saying that it will make life better for LGBTQ+ people in Sweden. “Going forward, we are pushing to strengthen gender-affirming care, to introduce a third legal gender and to ban conversation attempts,” Fjellander said.

Sweden’s decision comes less than a week after German lawmakers approved similar legislation making it simpler for trans, intersex, and non-binary people to legally change their gender on the country’s official register.

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