Denmark's New Gender Law is Both Progressive and Problematic

One country in Europe is making waves with a progressive new regulation. Denmark's new gender law aims to advance trans rights by allowing people to change their legal gender without going through any sort of surgery, psychiatric evaluation, or medical treatment. This law, which went into effect earlier this month, is an important step forward for trans rights because it takes away the onus of "proving" gender and works towards shattering the myth and stereotype that all trans people want a sex change or major operation.

The law is a drastic shift from Denmark's previous law which required people undergoing a gender transition to be completely sterilized in order to be recognized as a different gender from their legally assigned one, as is the case in most of Europe. Though there are still some legal requirements, for example the person must be at least 18 years of age and must wait six months after declaring a new gender to have the change go into effect, the law is miles ahead of countries like France, Finland, Norway, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, which recently increased the requirements needed to change gender. Danish Minister for Economics and the Interior Margrethe Vestager released a statement about the new law saying, "it will make life easier and more dignified for the individual."

Nonetheless, it's important to note that the two legal requirements still associated with the law are problematic, even if the law is a move in the right direction. The first problem lies within the six-month waiting time which the Danish government calls a "reflection period." Officials hope that during this period the people who wish to undergo this change will be able to parse out their request and make sure they're not making any sort of hasty decision, which completely undermines the idea that trans people, too, can feel confident in their gender identity and expression, just as cisgender people do. The second problem relates to the age restriction that requires people to be 18+ before changing their legal gender. While a lot of laws in the western world, especially the United States, go into effect at age 18 (voting, enlisting, in armed services, purchasing tobacco products, etc.), it's difficult to defend an 18+ law when it comes to gender and identity, especially since the onset of self-realization happens, well, pretty much when we're born. In this case, Denmark could take a page from Argentina's book where children as young as six have changed their legal gender.

There is no doubt that the new law has alleviated what was once a lengthy, painful, and often unnecessary process for people seeking to change their legal gender and live in as themselves in Denmark. However, it's also dangerous to be completely content and treat the law as if it's the be-all and end-all of trans rights and activism. Denmark is moving in the right direction, just a little bit slowly.