Alarming questions about self-determination bill in Germany


Central Europe

Evert van Vlastuin, CNE.news

Rainbow rule in Germany, or dark clouds? There is protest against the coalition's plans about self-determination. Photo AFP, Tobias Schwarz

When the German Bundestag returns from its summer leave, one of the sensitive issues on the table is the new gender transition law. There is much criticism on the plan to facilitate a yearly gender change.

The so-called Traffic Light coalition in German wants to replace the previous transgender law with self-determination legislation. An official gender change in the register for an adult should therefore be possible without any court proceedings or expert opinions. A minor from 14 years can do so with parental consent. Medical assessments are then only provided when physical changes are involved.

Until now, the court decides to change the civil register status register. Also, the opinions of two experts are needed for this. In the meantime, doctors are observing an increase in gender reassignments, especially among young women. For that reason, the government wants to limit the process to an administrative formality.

These suggestions are not new. In the previous legislative period, the Greens and Liberals introduced bills in the Bundestag that provided for exactly that. But they did not find a majority until the elections in September last year.

German Bundestag. Photo EPA, Clemens Bilan

The Protestant press agency Idea sums up what criticism has been expressed after the presentation of the policy agreement of the government in November 2021. The Traffic Light coalition does not contain the Christian Democratic CDU/CSU, but only secular parties: the Social Democratic SPD, the Greens, and the Liberal FDP. For these parties, liberal policies towards sex and family are a matter of prestige.

Problems in schools and prisons

Idea refers to the well-known quality newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that wrote that the new plans would lead to problems wherever the law differentiates between men and women. According to the FAZ, this happens at schools, at police stations and in prisons.

For instance, in physical education, students have to do different things to get a certain grade, knowing that the bodies and the hormone balance of boys and girls are different. The Federal President of the Association of Philologists, Susanne Lin-Klitzing, said according to the FAZ that an easier change of legal gender poses great challenges for teachers in physical education: "The ministers of education must not leave the schools alone with this situation."

There are similar debates among police officers, according to the FAZ. The federal police's sporting aptitude test sets different requirements for men and women. And in prisons, officers want to segregate people by gender. Male and female prisoners have been housed separately in all German states.

So far, the legal sex has only deviated from the biological sex in rare cases. In these individual cases, solutions could be found. If these cases increase, individual solutions can no longer be managed. According to the FAZ, the chairman of the Association of Prison Servants in Germany, René Müller, warns of “legal grey areas”. He says: "If prisoners who are biologically male, register legally as women, they should not be placed in the women's section. Because then the risk of abuse increases, and it can even happen that prisoners become pregnant. The separation of men and women in prison should be based on biological sex, not on the basis of legal sex.”

The FAZ criticises that the key issues paper of the federal government on the self-determination law is silent on all these topics. The quality paper speculates that this will not be sustainable in the forthcoming legislative process.

"Big question marks"

In a commentary on the plan, the German media magazine Pro states that nothing "could be more far-reaching" than this policy of self-determination. "In the future, it should not be more than an administrative act to have the entry in the passport changed. A simple explanation is sufficient – without an expert opinion, with an offer of advice, but without obligation."

Anyone who thinks they are “of the wrong sex” should no longer have the feeling of being treated like a sick person.

Pro's commentator agrees that "no one" should be discriminated against because of their gender. "It is good that those who suffer from their gender have the opportunity to change it. Nevertheless, the plans for this law send out a fatal signal: gender becomes an arbitrary category. Biology, nature, and creation become something from which a person can emancipate himself at will. It seems that sex –biological sex– should no longer play a role in determining whether someone is male or female."

The new federal chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Photo AFP, Johan MacDougall

Theoretically, with such a law, it would then be possible to change one's gender several times at intervals of at least one year. For children under 14 years of age, their legal guardians can decide.

According to Pro, "big question marks" arise here. "What is the best interest of the child here? And how is that determined? Puberty is a phase in which identity and personality development, as does the relationship to one's own body, gender and sexuality. How stable and serious can gender change requests actually be at that age? Can young people in this development phase even assess the consequences of a gender change? Can the desire to be a different gender possibly stem from other identity crises? Or is it perhaps also "in" and the peak of rebellion to be different than nature is designed to be? Who knows that exactly as a teenager?"

"Gender change for fun"

Several voices from German society have warned against the government plan. Pro quotes Renate Försterling, who is a transsexual herself. She has said earlier, in response to a comparable proposal, that this plan shows “complete ignorance of human developmental psychology, psychosexual stages of development and ultimately the importance of puberty.”

Idea quotes the German criminal defence lawyer Udo Vetter. In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, he warned against the consequences. He was stunned at how ill-thought the planned law is. It opens the possibility for men to have their gender entry changed “for fun, as a political protest or to gain an advantage”.

Vetter also said that he had defended hundreds of sex offenders in his decades of work as a criminal defence lawyer and thus gained insight into the personalities of the perpetrators. The state opens up a huge potential for abuse to these instinct-driven people through this self-determination act. For example, they could take advantage of the fact that they could no longer commit exhibitionism by simply declaring it. According to Section 183 of the Criminal Code, exhibitionist acts are only punishable for men. The law also gives men with exhibitionist tendencies legal access to women's shelters. If they were legally considered women by self-determination, they should not be turned away at the entrance or thrown out of the shelters. The result: "At least 50 per cent of the population, namely women, must be afraid that their shelters will be taken away from them in the future," says Vetter.



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