Science | Geography | Citizenship | PSHE | Relationships and health

Choose your own gender, says Switzerland

© Credit Suisse/Twitter

Should gender be a completely free choice? From this week, Switzerland became the fifth country in Europe to allow people to change gender legally by self-declaration alone. Alex was walking on the shores of Lake Geneva when they suddenly stopped still. In front of them stood the town hall. Inside was the registry office. Alex stepped inside. “I am a woman,” Alex declared. A few moments later, Alex is no longer legally a man. She is a woman. This week, Switzerland joined Norway, Belgium, Portugal and Ireland in allowing people to legally change their gender through self-identification alone. This means that transgenderSomeone whose gender identity (what they feel inside) does not match the gender identity they were assigned at birth (based on their biology). people can legally switch genders by simply saying they are male or female.  The rules are very different elsewhere. In some places, changing your gender is not possible at all. Meanwhile, many European nations still require people to prove they are transgender by talking to a doctor. Campaigners are calling for more nations to change their laws.  Transgender activists argue that it is wrong to force trans people to prove their gender identity is real.  Others disagree. Transgender physics teacher Debbie Hayton believes that the law on gender identity should not be based on feelings alone. She fears people could lose their respect for the law.  Some feminists say that self-identification could put women’s rights at risk. Hayton agrees. “Women have fought for schemes to promote women in business, politics and society. These are all under threat from the concept of self-identification.” But transgender rights activists say nobody changes their gender on a whim. Many transgender people face discrimination. Activists point out that few people would legally change their gender without serious thought.  Legal self-identification could transform the lives of transgender people. But new rules could also change how everyone in society interacts with the people around them. Should gender be a completely free choice? Gender agenda Yes: Gender is deeply personal. It is about feelings and thoughts, not outward appearances or actions. Everybody should be able to decide their own gender without interference.  No: Changing legal gender is one of the most fundamental changes a person can make in life. Removing every single barrier would undermine the credibility of the entire system.  Or…? There is another way. Governments can make the process easier without introducing self-declaration. One option is to require a note from a doctor but remove requirements for medical transition. KeywordsTransgender - Someone whose gender identity (what they feel inside) does not match the gender identity they were assigned at birth (based on their biology).

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