12 January 2014

The Netherlands Regains Its Edge

As of this writing, Argentina remains the nation with the most enlightened laws regarding gender identity.  Essentially, any Argentinian 18 years or older can live in whatever gender he or she chooses.  There are no prerequisites: no hormones, no surgery, not even a third-party recommendation or consent.

A year and eight months have passed since Argentina's ruling.  Since then, the United Kingdom, Austria and Portugal have done away with the requirements for hormones, surgeries or other medical or psychiatric interventions in order to change the gender marker on a person's identification documents.  A German court has ruled in favor of a similar policy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Netherlands is about to join them.  Like their European counterparts--and unlike Argentina--the Netherlands will require expert testimony attesting to the applicant's long-held conviction that he or she is of a gender different from the one to which he or she was assigned at birth.  The Dutch will, like the other nations mentined, not require any medical, pharmacological or psychiatric procedures or treatments.  One way in which the Dutch have parted company with those nations, though, is that a person has to be only 16 years old in order to make the changes.

I began my previous paragraph with "Perhaps not surprisingly" because, for one thing, the Netherlands was the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage.  Perhaps even more relevant is the fact that in 1985, it was one of the first nations to pass legislation enabling transgender people to change their registered gender.  In the ensuing quarter-century, the laws have lost some of their edge as understanding of what it means to be transgendered has advanced in the medical, legal and academic communities as well as among the general public.  So, apparently, the Dutch figured it was time to make the changes to reflect that knowledge as well as their changing understanding of human rights laws.

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