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Spain's new 'transgender' law breaks new ground on LGBTIQ+ rights

Spain's new 'transgender' law breaks new ground on LGBTIQ+ rights
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Valérie GauriatDavide Rafaelle Lobina
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A new law in Spain allows people to freely change gender from age 16. Euronews reports on what this means for the children, adults and families concerned.

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A new national law for "real and effective equality for trans people" came into force in Spain on 2 March 2023, allowing a person to change their gender identity in the civil register without undergoing a two-year hormonal treatment or obtaining a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, as required by previous legislation.

Euronews reporters Valerie Gauriat and Davide Rafaelle Lobina travelled to Madrid to hear the testimonies of those who are affected by the law.

Ezekiel: Gender transition 'not a decision you take lightly'

Ezekiel is a 23-year-old sports coach whose dream is to become a firefighter. But behind his athletic figure lie years of inner struggle, as Ezekiel was born a woman. 

He started his physical transformation after years of feeling like he didn’t belong in his own skin. 

"I looked in the mirror and thought to myself that I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to talk to people about it, to be recognized for who I was, and that I had to start my transition to feel comfortable with myself".

Ezekiel started hormone therapy two and a half years ago, and underwent a mastectomy.

“It's a big change. It’s like jumping into the void, hoping there is some water below,” Ezekiel told Euronews. "It is a very difficult process. It is not a decision you take lightly."

Thanks to the new law, Ezekiel is glad that he will be officially recognised as a man. Spain is one of the few European countries that allow citizens to determine their official gender through a simple administrative declaration. 

We followed Ezekiel to the Madrid Civil Register Office, where he submitted his gender change request; he will have a new identity card in three months, aftger ratifying his demand.

"I'm happier than ever!", he exclaimed, coming out of the Register office."This will make a lot of things easier. I won’t have to give all sorts of explanations when applying for a job for instance. It will also help with my courses to become a fireman; my diploma will be consistent with my gender," he explains.

Euronews
Ezekiel Latorre Fernandez, 23, sports coach: "Happy as ever"Euronews

The new law for broke all the locks remaining the previous legislation.

Like the World Health Organization, it depathologizes transsexuality.

And allows self-determination of gender on simple request from the age of 16, and with parental consent from the age of 12.

A first in the European Union. And one of the most controversial points of the law.

"At 16 people can work, have sexual relations, abort; they should also be able to chose their gender"

Spain's Ministry of Equality claims it’s Europe’s most progressive law LGBTIQ+ rights

“In Spain, at 16 people can work, they can have sexual relations, women can have an abortion if they want”, said  Secretary of State for Equality, Ángela Rodríguez Martínez. “It is reasonable that people should also be able to declare their own gender. In addition, this law dissociates the change of sex in the civil register from the need to take hormones or undergo any type of surgical intervention. In the event of a change of mind, it would just be a matter of canceling the change at the register with all the legal guarantees needed."

Arguments which do not convince those who feel the new law is too lax.

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Vicenta Esteve Biot is  a member of the working group on transsexuality at the General Council of Psychology of Spain. For this psychologist, the abolition of medico-psychological diagnoses for sex change in the civil register could encourage too hasty transitions.

“The problem with this law is that it does not leave time to reflect.It's not the same thing to follow a process accompanied by a professional who can help you make your own decisions when you need to make them, and not before or in a rush. People need to make well-considered decisions.And not just trans people, but also families.There are parents who take the initiative to avoid the suffering of their children. And it's just as bad to be ahead of your kids as it is to be behind and holding them back. »

Encarni Bonilla Huete: 'The problem is society, not gender identity'

Encarni Bonilla Huete is the president of the Chrysallis Association, which brings together families with transgender children who are fighting against stigmatisation. 

“Our youths are increasingly diverse and demand diversity. Either we adapt to it or we move further apart from them,” she said.

She explains that her 12-year-old son Marc "was assigned the wrong sex at birth and that 18 months ago he was able to express that he was a boy."

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Encarni and her husband decided to support his transition, after he verbalised it and asked them for help.

 “I knew I was out of place somehow, but I didn't know how to express myself. When I started to develop, I felt very bad.I didn't want to see my body." explains Marc. And then when I realized I was a boy, I felt much better. My relationship with my parents, with my friends, with myself is now much better. » Asked whether he thinks about the future, Marc briefly ponders and smiles:

“Sometimes I think about what it will be like to take hormones, what people will think of me when I go to school, or what it will be like to work as a trans person. The world may be very different tomorrow. Anything can happen. I try to focus on the present. »

His mother is adamant that the family's life has changed for the better. 

"He had an inner rage that prevented him from being happy. All that has disappeared, and he's a very happy child now." says Encarni. "It's not gender identity that's the problem, it is society, which doesn’t accept diversity and doesn’t accept difference. And that’s why it must evolve," she added.

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Euronews
Encarni Bonilla Huete, supportive of Marc's transitionEuronews

“I’m asking those who are against my transition to let me live my life. They shouldn’t speak about it as they don't know what it’s like, and I’m asking them to let me be happy," concludes Marc.

Journalist • Valérie Gauriat

Additional sources • Video Editor: Guillaume Carrolle

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