National Geographic : 2017 Jan
Rethinking gendeR 65 The Legality of Gender Change Over a third of countries allow a gender change (to male, female, or another) on documents such as passports. Researchers have only begun to document this fast-changing legal topic. OCTOBER 2016 DATA. RILEY D. CHAMPINE, RYAN WILLIAMS, AND IRENE BERMAN-VAPORIS, NGM STAFF. JUSTUS EISFELD. SOURCES: CARLA LAGATA/CARSTEN BALZER, TVT PROJECT, TRANSGENDER EUROPE; TAMARA ADRIÁN, CENTRAL UNIV. OF VENEZUELA; ANDREW PARK, UCLA; KRISTOPHER WELLS, UNIV. OF ALBERTA; SOUTHERN AFRICAN LITIGATION CENTRE; FTM PHOENIX GROUP; MICHAEL VAN GELDEREN, UN OHCHR; OUTRIGHT ACTION INTL. FOR MORE DETAILS, GO TO NGM.COM/JAN2017. AMERICA NORTH SOUTH AMERICA AFRICA ASIA EUROPE AUSTRALIA Legally possible Legal with no restrictions (5 countries) Legal but with social or medical requirements (41) Legality and requirements vary regionally (4) Legal but inconsistently allowed (27) Not legally possible (67) No information available Legal regionally or with difficulty Impossible or to be determined In some countries, including the United States, local practices may take precedence, making legality and the requirements for chang- ing a matter of geography. No legal provisions allow a change in gender. Some countries are so strict that wearing clothing not associated with the sex assigned at birth is criminalized. In these countries, making a change is simply based on the request of the individual. Almost all countries that allow a legal change require a diagnosis of mental disorder. Many require a person to be childless or unmar- ried; some require hormone ther- apy, surgery, and/or sterilization. Advocates denounce such rules as violations of human rights. Even if a country’s rules allow a change to be made, unclear regulations, court decisions, and bureaucratic barriers can block changes in status. For much of the world, data addressing legal gender change has yet to be collected, and discussion of the issue is a new frontier. In some countries such discussion may be considered taboo.