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In Greece, Transgender Community Hails Passage of Gender Identity Law

Greek lawmakers passed a law Tuesday allowing people to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents at will.
Protesters gather outside Parliament in support of a gender identity bill, currently being debated by lawmakers, in central Athens, on Monday.Petros Giannakouris / AP
/ Source: Associated Press

Greek lawmakers passed a law Tuesday allowing people to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents at will, a move that had raised political tension but was hailed by the transgender community as an important step forward.

Controversy surrounding the new law and the objections raised by several lawmakers within the coalition government had raised concern that the government, which holds a slim majority of three seats in the 300-member parliament, might not have been able to pass the bill.

One particular stumbling block was an article in the bill that extends the right to change the gender listed on official documents to adolescents from the age of 15.

The law passed in principle with 171 votes in favor and 114 against, while the article concerning the age limit also passed with a simple majority of those present.

Until now, those wanting to change how their gender is officially defined had to prove they had undergone sex-change surgery and psychiatric assessment. The new bill allows documents to be changed following a simple declaration in court.

Lawmakers from the governing coalition's junior partner, the small, right-wing Independent Greeks party, had voiced grave concerns over the bill, and particularly over the article extending the right to 15-year-olds.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted the bill was a question of extending basic human rightsto a segment of society that had been marginalized for too long.

"What kind of hypocrisy has led us to a debate that is being held with terms of the Middle Ages?" he questioned.

Transgender community members have said the bill will significantly improve their daily lives by allowing them to have identity papers that match the gender they identify with. The community points out it suffers discrimination and faces problems in simple everyday transactions wherever an ID card is needed, such as carrying out transactions at banks, buying monthly public transport tickets, picking up packages from post offices, renting a home or finding a job.

"Of course we are in favor of the passage of the bill, as this is about our lives," said Anna Apergi, head of a transgender support association who was participating in a rally outside parliament Monday night during the debate for the bill. "It is about recognizing our very existence."