1. What happens when Poland enacts a gender recognition law?

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    TL;DR – a lot of lives will get better.

    And here’s the longer answer to this question.

    As I write these words, the long awaited moment is almost upon us. 3 years ago Anna Grodzka, Poland’s first openly trans MP submitted the Gender Accordance Act to the Polish Parliament. It was for the first time that a piece of draft law actually proposed to change the situation of trans people in this country for the better. In a few hours (between 9 and 10 am CET on Thursday, July 23) the Polish Parliament will have its third reading of the proposal and a final vote.

    Poland already had gender recognition, in fact, it had it since the early 1960s. It was, however, framed within a court procedure – full of holes, interpretations and quite frankly human rights violations.

    How else would you call suing your own parents in a civil court case to receive gender recognition? Sounds absurd, doesn’t? Well, for every Polish trans citizen who decided to change their gender marker here, it has been and still is – a reality. I am quite sure that many questions arise, when reading these words. Suing? Parents? It may actually surprise you even more to learn that we are talking about parents involved in a case with their adult children. People over 18. People who should be able to decide about their own choices. If you’re interested in the current state of gender recognition in Poland, be sure to check out Trans-Fuzja Foundation’s report on the matter.

    Let’s talk about the proposal itself. As mentioned, it’s not simply ‘a new law’ it’s actually 'the law’ or 'a law’ if you will, as matters related to gender recognition have never been put into a single legal act before. This proposal changes a lot for trans people, but let’s briefly talk about most important things for now.

    First, there will no longer be a need to involve anyone else in gender recognition. It will be a simple procedure before a judge, where an applicant needs to fulfill a few prerequisites. And, to be fair, I am not that happy about any of them and as I spoke with a my colleagues at Trans-Fuzja, they treat them as a necessary evil to be able to push trans human rights a step ahead and work in small steps. An applicant needs to:

    • be a Polish citizen (a very, very problematic concept, especially that there are trans asylum seekers and immigrants who do not have the possibility to change their gender marker in their country of origin),
    • be single (forced divorce is a major issue, but since there is no civil partnership or marriage equality in Poland and Constitutional matters are involved, working on that topic may take a while),
    • present two independent confirmations of 'being a person of a different gender identity than the gender legally assigned’. These 'statements of identity’ will need to be prepared either by a clinical psychologist who is also a sexologist, a psychiatrist or a sexologist who is also a medical doctor.

    There will be a number of other benefits for trans people, including the possibility to receive a new birth certificate (currently unavailable). Schools, Universites, workplaces and other institutions where one can be employed, receives education or any other form of knowledge will have to issue new documentation with the applicant’s new name, surname and gender marker.

    One point that I am extremely excited about is the absolute lack of medical interventions needed to complete the process. In other words – no hormone therapy nor surgery involved. Bodily autonomy respected.

    Unfortunately, there are also downsides (not counting the prerequisites which I already know we will be addressing in our further work) of the proposal, one of which is the waiting period of 3 months. To be fair, the Polish reality was that some cases took 3 months, some 6 and I personally know of a few that took more than two years. Still, 3 months is a bit of a stretch.

    To be honest, throughout the last 3 years we have seen amazing changes in the way Polish politicians perceive gender recognition. From the former Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment who suggested that forced sterilization “may not be a bad idea” for trans people, through ministers claiming that a special committee needs to be set up to 'check the diagnosis and see whether an applicant is truly transsexual’ we have arrived to yesterday, when during the second reading of the draft proposal for the first time we could here a firm and affirmative statement against forced medical interventions.

    “No single law should force a human being to undergo any kind of medical interventions or harm to the body.”

    Jerzy Kozdroń

    Vice-Minister of Justice

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    Jerzy Kozdroń, Polish Vice-Minister of Justice during the second reading of the Gender Accordance Act, 21 July 2015

    If that is not progress, I don’t really know what is.

    The work will not stop there though. Before it becomes law, the GAA needs to be passed by the Senate and then signed by the President. And with both we are sure to experience obstacles. It is really hard to say whether this proposal becomes law. There are many risks involved on its rocky and quite slow way through the legislation procedure. For now we did enough. And I hope tomorrow we will get our chance to push further and change trans realities in Poland.

    Coming back to the first question – what will change? A lot. But for trans people and their families only. You cis citizens can stop worrying. And regardless of what some politicians may say, no one is coming to get you.

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