On Thursday, July 23 lower chamber of the Polish Parliament (Sejm), passed the Gender Accordance Act, the country's first gender recognition legislation in history. Being part of a long parliamentary procedure and under constant criticism and attacks coming from conservative media, after its initial submission by Anna Grodzka, Poland's first openly trans MP, in May 2012, the Act passed today with an overwhelming result of 252 votes for, 158 against and 11 abstaining.
“It is a huge victory for trans people in Poland” says Wiktor Dynarski, President and Executive Director of Trans-Fuzja Foundation, a human rights organization dedicated to work both for the rights and support of Polish trans communities. “For the past few days we have seen members of parliament advocating both against and for the law, but it was for the first time that we actually heard Polish policy makers openly protecting bodily autonomy of trans people and recognizing that trans citizens need to have their dignity assured”.
Although Poland already had a long history of legal gender recognition, dating back to the 1960s, the process was never codified and was a subject of confusing court proceedings. These proceedings have forced trans people seeking recognition to confront their parents and children in a court of law, have an expert witness assess their diagnosis of gender dysphoria and in the end wait for a ruling between 4 months to even years. The legal battle didn't always end there, as Poland did not issue new birth certificates for its citizens and did not have a mechanism to ensure that all employment and education history was properly adjusted to a person's new personal data.
The Gender Accordance Act ensures that no one, except for the applicant, is involved in the gender recognition process. To apply for recognition the applicant will need to fulfill three necessary prerequisites:
- be a Polish citizen,
- be unmarried,
- present two independent confirmations (not older than 12 months) of 'being a person of a different gender identity than the gender legally assigned’ prepared either by a clinical psychologist who is also a sexologist, a psychiatrist or a sexologist who is also a medical doctor.
The application will then be assessed by a regional court in Łódź (which will also be the only court assessing these applications) within 3 months of submission and legal recognition will be available without any medical interventions, including hormone therapy. Trans people will also receive a new birth certificate and new documentation proving their education and employment history.
“We are not done yet” explains Lalka Podobińska, Trans-Fuzja's Vice-President and Advocacy Office, “We made history with the lower chamber, but there is still the Senate and the President. And they also need to understand that it is time for trans people in Poland to have a decent piece of legislation regulating their various needs. We are optimistic though. We made the majority of policy makers understand how important legal gender recognition is”.
Trans-Fuzja admits, however, that the Gender Accordance Act is not shaped exactly the way they imagined. “There are still a number of issues to address – self-determination, securing parental rights of trans people, abolishing forced divorce and the citizenship requirement, bringing back state-funded transition healthcare as well as updating current standards of care, and many others that we want and will work on. This Act is our first step to a better reality for trans people in our country. An important first step that took us three years to take” – concludes Podobińska.
If the Gender Accordance Act is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it will become law in January 2016.
Trans-Fuzja Foundation can be reached for comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, +48 22 658 18 02 (office) and +48 609 585 095 (mobile). Feel free to share this statement in your networks. The Polish version of the Act can be found at http://orka.sejm.gov.pl/Druki7ka.nsf/0/861EE936F137960FC1257E81002BE76A/%24File/3648.pdf . A translation is in the works.