Malta has just become the world’s leader in intersex rights, and perhaps in trans rights as well. From Feminist Newswire:
Malta’s parliament just passed new legislation that allows self-determination of gender (with a simple process to legally change gender), and outlaws unnecessary surgery on intersex babies. This bill makes Malta the first country to ban unnecessary surgery on intersex infants. […]
“To say that this Act is a groundbreaking human rights milestone is almost an understatement,” said Paulo Corte-Real, co-chair of the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “It provides an inspirational benchmark for other European countries that need to improve their own LGBTI equality standards.”[…]
Maltese officials and medical professionals are now working to come up with guidelines to make sure all surgeries done on infants are medically necessary and not “driven by social factors without the consent of the minor.”
The law also legally mandates a vastly simplified process for legally changing one’s gender:
The new law also allows people to change their gender identity on documents by simply filing an affidavit with a notary, which ends the requirement for surgery in order to legally identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth. The process of changing one’s gender in the system, under the new bill, won’t take more than 30 days.
The devil is in the details – for instance, would non-government entities, like banks, be legally required to acknowledge this change? – but this sounds like a big step forward.
Hida Viloria, chairperson of Intersex International, is obviously pleased about this legislation, but still has some criticism:
I’ve read the policy several times, and honestly the only shortcoming with the legislation itself that the OII-USA has is that the terminology still puts the impetus on the intersex child to refuse these surgeries. It’s worded that they must be postponed until the child is old enough to consent.
I tell people: Imagine if we wrote about reparative therapies for homosexuals in that way. The similar phrase would be: Reparative electroshock therapies for homosexual youth must be postponed until those individuals are old enough to give consent. It’s easier to notice, when you think about it with a different population group that’s less stigmatized today, that the statement implies that these procedures will happen. In that way, it doesn’t entirely refute prejudiced perspectives against intersex traits and intersex people needing to be fixed in some way.
That is the one general limit of the Malta legislation. […] It says, until the child is old enough to give consent. You could have cases where the parents are pressuring the child. I would prefer something that says, unless the child requests such procedures. However, even that, how easy would it be to lie in court that, yes, the child requested this, but changed their mind later, for example.
So legislation can only do so much. But [Malta] is a fantastic victory for the community.
The entire interview is interesting, and includes Viloria discussing how Intersex politics can advance in the USA (she says the US Intersex community needs to form a closer alliance with LGBT communities).
UPDATE: Grace just pointed out this (sadly very relevant) news from Colorado this week: Transgender birth certificate bill crashes against anti-gay lobby | The Colorado Independent.
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Congratulations to Malta. This looks like a big step forward for intersex and trans folks there.
Regarding the Colorado law, this illustrates why I get so furious whenever someone tries to explain how LGBT rights have pretty much won, cuz marriage. Yes, gay marriage is really great. I was gay-married for a while (and in a non-gay-marriage state, since I tricked them into thinking I was a man). But still, yes LG…b rights are doing well, but trans rights lag behind. Furthermore, the broader pro-gay coalition seems rather unwilling to dedicate any real ground game to the fight. The HRC and GLAAD will go to the mat for gay marriage, but issue tepid press releases for trans rights.
Which, fuck that shit.