Dutch parliament debates trans bill
Jakko Gunst, RD
A very in-depth discussion of the Transgender proposal has been lacking so far in the Netherlands. Will this week's parliamentary debate still bring a turnaround?
Those who want their gender registration changed will no longer need an expert statement to do so. And such a thing should also be possible for children as young as 12. These are the gist of the revised transgender (self-identification) bill, which the Lower House will consider on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Is this law a fundamental U-turn? Oh no, soothed the two government ministers Dekker (Liberal VVD) and Van Engelshoven (Social-Liberal D66). They brought the proposal to the House under the former cabinet of Dutch Prime Minister Rutte. Their reading: this law is for transgender people who have accepted themselves as such and have visibly and publicly been living as the opposite sex for some time. In other words, changing gender registration is just the legal finishing touch of that process for them. Should we get complicated about that?
Nevertheless, opponents say gender is now an essential organising principle in society. What certainly does not reassure them is the language with which lobbyists from the transgender movement advocate the law. According to them, the bill underlines that someone's gender statement at birth can soon be understood at most as "an assumption" by the doctor. The decisive factor is someone's sex experience, which, they say, can change once or several times during a person's lifetime. If that happens, they say, gender registration should be flexibly adjusted accordingly.
The schism over whether the legislative change is fundamental or marginal runs like a thread through the debate. A parliamentary majority tended towards the latter until now and saw no insurmountable ifs and buts. However, the Liberal VVD and Christian Democratic CDA refused this weekend to reveal their preliminary position.
Almost certain, though, is the line of defence of D66 government ministers Dijkgraaf (Education and Emancipation) and Weerwind (Legal Protection), who are now responsible for the proposed law. All indications are that they, too, like their predecessors in the debate, will argue that the consequences are manageable. Minister Kuipers (Public Health) shares that position. He recently waved away concerns that adolescent girls, for instance, will soon transition under pressure from their social environment following written parliamentary questions. After all, careful information is and remains a requirement for doctors, was the thrust of his answers.
Freedom of choice
On the other hand, the bill significantly broadens the freedom of choice for 12-year-olds. They can change their gender registration against their parents' will if necessary. The timing is also sharp. The proposal is being discussed precisely at a time when waiting lists at gender clinics are bulging. Over 4,000 people are waiting for treatment, including a remarkable number of girls. An investigation into the background of their requests for help is ongoing.
Therefore, part of the Chamber will undoubtedly insist on pausing the process until this study is completed.
However, it is definitely too premature to infer from the silence of VVD and CDA that they already intend to vote down the law in advance. A broad middle ground runs between being for or against something, especially in politics.
VVD and CDA's worst reluctance so far was dropping the minimum age of 16, according to the usual written round of parliamentary questions. A compromise could be that both parties still accept the law, provided a parliamentary majority ensures a few more safeguards. Such as a slightly higher age threshold. Whether that removes all concerns, however, is highly questionable.
This article was translated by CNE.news and published by the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on September 26
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