On June 27, Spain’s Council of Ministers — the government’s key decision-making body, comprised of the country’s prime minister, deputies, and ministers appointed by the king — approved a draft of a gender-identification bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender.
The bill now heads to the Spanish Parliament, or Cortes Generales for approval, where it may be further amended before being passed into law, although lawmakers could still choose to scuttle the bill, which is already being criticized by feminist, women-centric organizations — potentially creating complications for the Socialist-led government, which relies on several left-leaning groups as part of its governing coalition.
Under the bill, any person over the age of 16 would be allowed to legally change their name and gender, as listed on official identity documents, based on a “system of self-determination.” Heretofore, under the law, anyone seeking to transition had to provide evidence they had undergone hormone therapy for purposes of a gender transition for two years, or had to provide a “certificate” from a medical provider diagnosing them with gender dysphoria, according to EuroWeekly.
Youth aged 14-16 who wish to legally change their gender must submit evidence of parental approval, and those aged 12-14 must obtain permission from a judge before pursuing a change.
As concessions to those who oppose granting gender changes based on self-identification, ministers included a provision requiring trans people who request a gender change to have to reconfirm it three months after submitting an initial request. Ministers also were compelled to pack in other LGBTI rights and protections into the proposed law, rather than passing them in a separate bill, as the Spanish equalities minister, Irene Montero, had initially requested.
The proposed bill allows transgender migrants to change the sex on any documents issued in Spain if they can prove that they cannot make the same change in their country of origin. It recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other countries and permits consular offices to perform marriages when one of the partners has Spanish nationality.
The bill also bans conversion therapy, allows children in school to use their preferred name rather than their “deadname,” and contains provisions to curb discrimination against LGBTI people, and specifically transgender women, in the workplace.
“We want to send a very clear message that the lives of LGBTQ+ persons matter,” Montero said in a statement. “We are making history with a law that takes a giant leap for the rights of trans and LGBTQ+ people.”
When compared to the current state of transgender rights in American (with waves of anti-trans legislation in state governments sweeping across the nation), Spain is certainly marching down a progressive path. But anti-LGBTQ sentiment still prevails in some corners, and reports of anti-LGBTQ violence have grabbed headlines in recent years.
Earlier this year, in May, Spanish police arrested a man who was using Grindr to kill LGBTQ individuals. In 2021, an LGBTQ man named Samuel Luiz was beaten to death by a mob of “at least 12 people” outside of a night club in Spain — an incident that launched a series of protests against anti-LGBTQ violence in the country.
“It was a savage and merciless act,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a member of the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE), tweeted at the time. “We will not take a step backwards when it comes to rights and freedoms and Spain will not tolerate this.”
While the PSOE has generally been pro-LGBTQ in its policies, were the bill to pass it would send yet another signal that the current government is committed to expanding the rights of LGBTQ citizens. Overall, Spanish society has generally been either accepting of the LGBTQ community, or at least neutral, adopting a “live-and-let-live” attitude regarding visibility. For example, in 2018, Angela Ponce became the country’s first transgender winner of its Miss Universe competition, going on to represent the country on the world stage. More recently, in a move that didn’t inspire much controversy, former gay NFL player Michael Sam was hired as a coach for a professional Spanish football team. It seems then, that the passage of the bill is just another touchstone signifying the government’s commitment to equality.