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Switzerland just passed a major law to affirm trans people’s identities, but there’s a catch

Transgender flag being waved in a crowd
Photo: Shutterstock

Beginning on January 1, Swiss trans people who want to legally change their gender will be able to do so through self-declaration at a civil registry office.

They won’t need any court orders, medical letters, or other bureaucratic requirements.

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As of now, many regions in the country require trans people to present a letter from a doctor to change their gender.

Some regions even require a person to be undergoing hormone treatments and others go as far as requiring gender-affirming surgery, according to Reuters.

Right now, name change procedures can also cost thousands of Swiss francs (CHF). The new law will remove that burden and reduce the price to just 75 CHF (about $82 U.S.).

Switzerland will become the 8th country across Europe and Central Asia to legalize self-determined gender change, according to advocacy group Transgender Europe. Other countries in the region that have implemented similar policies are Portugal, Malta, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Iceland and Ireland.

There is, however, one limitation to the new Swiss law: It only applies to those over the age of 16 who are not under legal guardianship of an adult. Those who do have an adult guardian will need their permission to legally change their gender.

This part of the law is actually a step back for the country, where children have not previously needed a guardian’s permission to change their gender. They have needed a court order, but the courts decided based on the child and not on their parents, Transgender Europe explained.

Trans advocates have been fighting for the Swiss parliament to extend the same rights to trans children as it has to adults.

The law will take effect on the heels of a sweeping national referendum held this year in which the citizens of Switzerland overwhelmingly voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriages to be legalized and equal to opposite-sex marriages.

The Associated Press reported that Switzerland is a “traditionally conservative” nation with a population of 8.5 million, noting that they only extended the right to vote to all women in 1990.

Nevertheless, the majority in all 26 cantons (or member states) of the Swiss Federation voted in favor of marriage equality. Final figures show that 64.1 percent of voters, or nearly two of every three, supported the measure.

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