LGBTI Intergroup addressed a letter to the members of the Dutch Parliament on maintaining the bill on legal gender recognition as it stands

Subject: Maintaining the bill on legal gender recognition as it stands

Esteemed members of the Dutch Parliament,

As bureau of the LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament, we write to you concerning the current revision of the bill on changing the gender in birth certificates, submitted by the Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker.[1] We understand that this bill has been generating debate and would like to submit, for your consideration, our views on the matter.

We are supportive of the general aims of this bill, which go in the direction of allowing trans youth to live their true self by ensuring self-determination and lowering the age for legal gender recognition (LGR). The bill would also remove the obligation of prior psychological assessment for LGR and would make it possible to request it in the place of residence instead of place of birth. We believe these to be human rights-compliant aims, which exercise due diligence and ensure the best interests of the child. Allow us to narrow down on these arguments.

Firstly, on the compliance with human rights, due diligence, best interests of the child:

The aim to lower the age limit for trans youth seeking to access LGR based on self-determination is human rights compliant. Below you can find a compilation of human rights standards calling for it.

  1. In 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation to Members States urging them, among others, to “take appropriate measures to guarantee the full legal recognition of a person’s gender reassignment in all areas of life, in particular by making possible the change of name and gender in official documents in a quick, transparent and accessible way; member states should also ensure, where appropriate, the corresponding recognition and changes by non-state actors with respect to key documents, such as educational or work certificates.”[2]
  2. In 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted standards on the rights of trans persons, calling for quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination and irrespective of age to be the standard;[3]
  3. In 2020, the European Commission published a study on LGR in the EU, as well as a mapping of studies on the difficulties for cross-border situations in the Union.[4] Later that year, the Commission published its LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, where it committed to fostering “best practice exchanges between Member States on how to put in place accessible legal gender recognition legislation and procedures based on the principle of self-determination and without age restrictions”.[5]
  4. In 2022, the Council of Europe published a thematic report on Legal Gender Recognition in Europe where the LGR-specific recommendations called on the following: “Member States should ensure that LGR procedures for children centre on the best-interest-of-the-child principle and should review explicit or implicit age restrictions that may obstruct that principle in order to ensure children’s access to legal recognition, health and security.”[6}
  5. In 2024, The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a paper on the Human rights of trans people, including 15 key recommendations. One of which was to ‘’adopt legislation which guarantees that trans people who want it have access to quick, transparent and accessible administrative procedures for legal gender recognition based on self-determination. These procedures should be accessible to minors with due regard to the child’s views, maturity and best interests, and ideally without arbitrary age limits’’.[7]
  6. by now, our own European Parliament has adopted texts that reflect this, most prominently the Matic report on SRHR, which calls on Members States to abolish the sterilisation requirement but also “to protect transgender persons’ right to self-determination”.[8]

Secondly, on the matter of due diligence:

We must add that the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) was already altered to remove “gender identity disorder” from the list of mental illnesses and the WHO clarified how transgender health should be interpreted in light of ICD-11.[9] This momentum paved the way for further depathologisation of trans and non-binary persons’ identities, yet this progress must be led at national level since the EU lacks competence on it. Removing any and every requirement for psychological assessment is therefore the bare minimum for compliance with ICD-11, as well as ensuring that the process is not medical, but administrative. 

The proposal this bill seeks to make law is therefore a natural follow up to the human rights standards that were adopted in Europe in the last decade. While the requirement for a court procedure for children below 16 sets a legal-administrative requirement, the current example of Norway stipulates that “From the age of 16 children may apply for an amendment to their legal gender by themselves. Children aged between 6 and 16 must apply for an amendment to their legal gender in concert with the person or persons who have custody of the child. If the parents have joint custody, but the application is submitted with the support of only one of them, the legal gender may still be changed if this is what is best for the child.”[10] If such a requirement goes in the same direction, it will be setting the Netherlands as an example to follow for other countries.

Finally, concerning the best interests of the child:

We can only add that it is crucial to allow trans youth to live up to their full potential while being recognised legally in full respect of their gender identity. This is a step that will surely make a difference for trans youth in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe by setting a good example. 

We urge you in addition to be vigilant for the upcoming public discussion on the bill and its media coverage – we are only too familiar with how discussions on trans issues can quickly deteriorate to questioning the very validity of measures such as the one on the table. We politely ask you to promptly discourage such remarks, to denounce them and to focus on the issue at hand: the lives of kids who only seek to have a happy, dignified childhood, free of violence and discrimination.

One last note on that topic concerning sports, as it is usually a topic where misunderstandings drive the narrative. Being able to exercise and participate in sports communities is important for trans kids as for everyone else. You might hear that gender self-determination is a threat to safety in sports and other situations involving commonly used changing facilities. Be assured: safety and privacy in restrooms is important for all of us. That is why laws already exist that make harassment in changing rooms illegal. These laws are used to prevent assault, keep people safe, and hold offenders accountable. Gender self-determination will not change that. Countries with self-determination models, such as Norway, Malta, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, and more recently Germany, Spain and Finland have not reported an increase in incidents in restrooms or changing facilities.

We hope that these arguments can support our fellow legislators in advocating for the importance of this bill, as we are convinced we all share the same aim of ensuring that trans youth has the legal tools to live in dignity and in full respect of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

We thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

MEP Marc Angel

MEP Kim van Sparrentak

MEP Maria Walsh

MEP Malin Björk

MEP Pierre Karleskind

Members of the Bureau of the LGBTI Intergroup