Towards a reform of German ‘Transsexual Law’

The iQt supports

the BVT*’s six demands for improvements to trans laws in Germany


— though with some reservations:

I entirely support the demand that the law should make it simple for people to change the gender marker in their documents, based exclusively on self-identification.

As a matter of urgency, the opportunity should be taken to abolish the existing trans law (TSG) and make transition part of general rights of personality (GG § 2 in the German constitution), protected by laws on personal status.

A crucial, indispensable part of this is that people should not be forced to undergo any kind of counselling or diagnosis, or made to provide the associated documentation or certificates.

Instead, an egalitarian law is needed, which should be accessible to everyone and not include any group-specific special provisions. The principle of equal treatment should be absolute, and existing discrimination and privileges should be dismantled.

The BVT*’s current demands are infused with the logic of identity politics and special interest politics. They do not distance themselves clearly enough from the classifications which are also found in conservative circles, and which risk maintaining hierarchies or producing new ones. 

Demand 3 should not propose that the law on personal status be made consistent, but should clearly ask that all options be open to all people. 

Formulations which call for groups of people to be defined or distinguished from each other bring with them problems of discrimination. If trans*, inter* and non-binary are listed side by side, it must be clear that they overlap, that male* and female* are not located somewhere beyond trans/inter/non-binary*, and that there are no objective criteria that mean certain people should be described as cis* or endo*: inter* people can also be trans*, ‘female’ or ‘male’ do not tell us whether these terms are being claimed by inter*, trans* or cis* people; and there are countless reasons why someone might prefer not to declare their gender.

Implicitly, the existing formulation of demand 3 repeats the controversial interpretation that § 45 b is currently only open to inter* people.

For this reason, when it comes to adding a further possible gender marker, I would advocate a term which is open to interpretation (such as “divers”), which would allow (similarly to the terms “male” and “female”) as many people as possible to make use of it. If medical certification is no longer necessary, then the controversial reference to a “variant in sex development” could also be removed.

The aim of the reform, in my view, should not (primarily) be to protect a minority, but to support gender diversity; i.e. it should lead to an egalitarian law which includes “female” and “male” equally — without the “bonus of normality” — in a spectrum of gender concepts and ways of life.

Regarding demand 4, we must take account of the fact that gender development is a process full of inner and social conflicts. A simplifying call for autonomy overlooks the fact that all of us (not only children and young people) rely on each other in our gendered-ness, that is we need affirmation, support and respect from each other and correspondingly we are exposed to the risks of disappointment, dependency, exploitation and violence. But this cannot be tackled through the law of personal status, but only by fostering social, economic, political and cultural participation. Anti-discrimination should not be formulated as protection of minorities. The existing law offers possibilities for prohibiting discriminating practices without defining groups of those affected. 

So my question is: can we shift the perspective of a politics of LGBTI* interest groups, lobbies and minorities towards a politics of comprehensive, intersectional justice? Should we move away from interest-driven politics, which are necessarily competitive and limited in reach, towards a politics of justice which thinks in relational terms, with reference to multiple power imbalances? What can be made possible by which systemic changes? And not least: where do anti-essentialist queer politics come in, which aim to create egalitarian conditions by disrupting the dominance of normality?