Kathmandu (Pahichan) May 18 – Norway will allow people to change gender by simply ‘ticking a box’ with children as young as six able to swap without any medical procedure under proposed rules.
The new bill will mean an end to psychiatric exams, lengthy hormone treatments and invasive surgeries resulting in irreversible sterilisations that have been the practice for a legal gender change in the country since the 1970s.
It will also allow minors aged six to 16 to change their gender if both parents agree. If one parent opposes, authorities may decide ‘in the child’s best interest.’
In a proposal hailed by activists as one of the most liberal in the world, all people will have to do if they want a gender change is notify authorities and just a click on a website will be enough to make the change legal.
The legislation, which activists hope will be voted on by parliament before the summer break, has met little opposition.
John Jeanette Solstad Remo, a former Norwegian army captain and commander of a Cold War submarine tracking Soviets, said she was looking forward to being recognised for what she is – a woman born in a man’s body.
Remo, who picked a first name emphasising her trans identity, said: ‘All my life, I had to show that I was a boy, then a man. I played the role of macho. I had a nice thick beard, exactly as was expected.
‘But when I look like a man, even though I can function, life is grey. When I look like a woman, it’s the opposite, there are lots of colours in my head and around me,’ added the 67-year-old.
‘No one other than me can decide who I am and this law recognises this right.’
Remo said her memories range from the joy of wearing girls’ clothes at the age of four and being immediately stifled by her mother, to suicidal thoughts in her teens after being outed by other youths.
She also remembered trying to fit in while hiding her true self in the virile world of the naval academy and the submarine corps.
Remo, who has not undergone gender reassignment surgery, said: ‘When we called at port, we often stayed in hotels. I would buy a bottle of wine, I’d watch TV and I stayed in my room, dressed as a woman. It was the only way to survive.’
Her first marriage ended after her unwitting wife found a bag of women’s clothes hidden in the cellar.
Remo remarried, this time to a woman who accepted her as she was.
Norway’s bill also allows minors aged six to 16 to change their gender if both parents agree.
‘The law will make things easier for us. We won’t have to always prepare everything in advance before going anywhere. There are already so many things to explain,’ said Sofie Brune, a mother of two who lives in Oslo.
Her second child Miria was born six years ago in a girl’s body but has identified as a boy since a very young age. He now plays on the local boy’s football team, and he is treated as a boy in school.
‘He’s happy. That’s what’s most important. Children around him are very tolerant once we explain’ the situation,’ Sofie Brune said.
For transgender people, the most important thing is to be able to live their lives the way they want. In the words of transgender Frida Haslund: ‘I don’t want to be buried without ever having been myself.’
While times have changed in Norway, and public opinion too, daily life can still be problematic when it comes to borrowing a book at the library, getting a prescription filled, or crossing borders with identification papers that don’t match one’s physical appearance.
Still listed as a personality disorder by the World Health Organisation, transgenderism stirs up emotions internationally.
A North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates has sparked angry protests, from Bruce Springsteen to Deutsche Bank, and a heated debate between US Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Argentina is a pioneer in the field, having allowed people since 2012 to choose their own legal gender without previously having reassignment surgery.
But life expectancy for the Latin American country’s transgenders is no more than 35 years, according to a study by the Association of Transvestites, Transsexuals and Transgenders of Argentina.
It said they were often ostracised by society, facing discrimination and a lack of access to jobs and housing for example, that left them increasingly desperate.
‘The law is one thing but you also have to really change attitudes,’ said Patricia Kaatee of Amnesty International, which fights for the rights of transgender people.
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