Italy has become the fifth country in the world to acknowledge that trans people are allowed to identify as trans without medical, surgery or genital intervention.
Following a historic decision by the Italian Supreme Court this week, it overturns rulings by lower courts and makes it clear the official record of gender may be amended without surgery or sterilization.
Their decision was given in respect of a trans person, aged 45, who in 1999 was granted legal permission to undergo such surgery.
However, after 25 years of social recognition as a woman, they felt they no longer needed the surgery to identify and be seen as a woman.
But a tribunal in Piacenza and the Appeal court in Bologna both said no.
After a clear and absolute statement that ‘the right to self-determination is inviolable’ the Supreme Court ruled:
‘The desire to align body and spirit is, even in the absence of surgical intervention, the result of a very personal journey to gender identity, supported by a range of medical and psychological treatments that will vary according to individual personality and need.
‘The moment of truth is deeply influenced by individual characteristics.
‘Ultimately, it can only be the end result of a process of self-determination towards the goal of a change of sex.’
They added: ‘The complexity of the route, which encompasses a plurality of medical treatments (including hormonal and aesthetic) as well as psychological further illustrates how that right is central to the expression of individual and social personality and social, insofar as a proper balance is to be struck between the public interest… and the limits of our legal system. ‘
The case was supported throughout by Bilotta, Gracis and Genova, members of Rete Lenford (the Lenford network), a group of lawyers who work to promote LGBGTI rights in Italy.
Describing this week’s decision as ‘historic’, a spokesperson for Rete Lenford said:
‘We are proud to have worked and contributed to the ending of this unacceptable violation of the mental and physical integrity of transgender people’.
The court’s decision comes just one week after lawmakers enacted similar legislation in Ireland and adds to mounting pressure in countries such as France and the UK to follow suit. In France, and many other European countries, the application of the law means that in practice a change of gender will only be recognized following the sterilization of the individual concerned.
In the UK, gender records can be changed in some circumstances without medical intervention: however, the issue remains subject to state regulation.
The fact that Italy has now joined Argentina, Denmark, Malta and Ireland in acknowledging the right of trans people to self-determination will inevitably increase pressure for change.