Spain’s lower house of Parliament on Thursday passed a law that allows people over 16 years of age to change their legally registered gender without any medical supervision.
Under the law, drawn up by the centre-left coalition government, minors aged 12 or 13 will need a judge’s authorisation to make the change, while those between 14 and 16 will have to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.
The law also bans so-called conversion therapies to suppress sexual orientation or gender identity, establishes fines and punishments for attacks on LGBT people, and overturns a ban that prevented lesbian couples from registering their children under both parents’ names.
Up to now, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors with gender dysphoria, which is the psychological condition of not feeling a match between one’s biological sex and gender identity.
In some cases, they also needed proof they had been living for two years as the gender they identified with — or even records showing they had taken hormones.
Transgender rights groups say the law represents a “before and after” in LGBT rights. But some feminist activists regard gender self-determination as a threat that blurs the concept of biological sex.
While the voting session was due to take place in Parliament, dozens of transgender rights activists gathered in front of the building listening to the debate on their mobile phones.
Saida García, vice president of the Euforia Trans Family Alliance group, told The Associated Press that the bill will bring a change to many of its members’ everyday lives.
“It’s always been a problem when your ID doesn’t match your identity in a job interview, or at the doctor’s office, or when boarding public transport,” she said. “We are so happy to get to this point. It seemed it was never going to come.” The bill will become law once it is passed by the Senate, a step expected by the end of the year.
The bill, sponsored by the far-left Unidas Podemos (United We Can), the junior party in the government coalition, follows an intense 18-month-long parliamentary debate.
It was fiercely opposed by right-wing opposition parties and also created some divisions with the Socialist party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, which tried to introduce an amendment requesting court supervision for people up to 16 wanting to change their registered gender.
In the end, this requirement will only apply to people under 13 years of age.
Irene Montero, Equality Minister and member of United we Can said she felt proud of Congress for declaring that “trans rights are human rights”.
The Spanish Congress voting comes at the same time that the Scottish parliament is debating a similar bill granting gender self-determination. More than a dozen other countries have already adopted similar legislation.