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Changing name or gender status with the "Transsexual Law" (TSG)

The German “Transsexuellengesetz” (Transsexual Law) regulates the change of name or gender status on official documents if a person does not identify with the name or gender assigned at birth. The following needs to be considered.

The German Transsexuellengesetz (TSG) makes it possible to adopt new names and to change the gender status from male to female or vice versa. It is also possible to change only the name(s). In both cases, the applicant must show that due to a “transsexual tendency”, he/she has not identified with the gender on their birth certificate for more than three years and probably won’t do so ever.

In order to change the name or gender, the applicant is not required to undergo any medical procedures for gender affirmation nor does he/she need to be infertile. While this is still a requirement in the legislative text, however, since the Federal Constitutional Court declared it unconstitutional,these requirements are no longer valid.

What is the procedure?

First, a formless application must be filed with the competent local court. The court commissions two independent experts to evaluate, in discussions with the applicant, whether the above mentioned requirements are satisfied. Less than one percent of the expert reports oppose the desired change.

On the basis of the two expert opinions and a personal meeting with the judge, the court takes a decision. Less than five percent of the TSG applications are declined. In case of rejection, the applicant may appeal or lodge a new application after some time.

A TSG process can take anywhere between five and twenty months—nine months on average—and average costs of 1,868 Euro. Applicants with low income may apply for legal aid.

Can I use the TSG process even if…

I am neither a man nor a woman?

Many independent experts know that the identification with the “opposite gender”, which is required by TSG, does not correspond with the self-perception of many trans* people who desire to change their name and/or gender. The experts therefore also issue positive reports for people who self-identify as non-binary.

The chosen new name(s) can also be gender-neutral. However, the applicant can change the gender only to female or male as per the TSG.

I am under 18 or legal guardianship?

Children and youth require representation by their legal guardians to make use of TSG. There is no minimum age.

Those under legal guardianship or restricted and/or legally incompetent might need assistance with the application process. Guardians are legally required to assist the person in their care in exercising their individual rights. This also includes enjoying a life in harmony with the gender identity expressed by the person under care.

I am not a German citizen?

In order for non-German citizens to be able to use the TSG process, one of two requirements must be fulfilled. Either the applicants are living in Germany as recognized asylum seekers and/or refugees, or as stateless or displaced people. Or they live permanently in Germany and have an unlimited or renewable legal status. If so, it must be verified that their country of origin does not have similar regulations in place or it is unreasonable to make use of such regulation. 

How will this process make my life easier?

Many perceive these expert reports as incapacitating and an invasion of their privacy and find the process as a whole very burdensome. During this time, support groups, counselling and people who have experience with the TSG can be very important.

An applicant can recommend independent experts to the court already at the time of petitioning. This helps increase the chance of having a competent assessment. Local counselling centres or trans* organisations can put forward their recommendations.

Since the costs of the process vary significantly based on the number of working hours by the independent expert, it is worthwhile asking for and comparing rates in advance.

Is the information about my old name and my old gender protected?

After successfully completing the TSG process, the previous gender and/or name may not be made public or found out without the applicant’s consent (§5 TSG disclosure ban). Employers, authorities, banks and schools must use the new name from then on. School reports and other official documents must also be amended retrospectively. If the issuing organisation refuses to do so, it is useful to point to the disclosure ban or seek support from an anti-discrimination centre.

According to TSG, a person has the right to be referred to by their new gender title - namely “Mr” instead of “Ms/Mrs” or vice-versa. Same also, if he/she changes only the name and not the gender.

Is the TSG process consistent with human-rights?

The Transsexuellengesetz dates back to 1981. The Federal Constitutional Court has declared several parts of the law unconstitutional or void. The currently prevailing regulations have been criticized nationally and internationally by medical practitioners and human rights organisations for many years. The German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs endorsed the abolishment of the TSG already in 2017. The German Institute for Human Rights and Humboldt University Berlin have submitted, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, recommendations for the revision of laws governing gender and gender identity.