‘Gender identity law to break down walls of discrimination’ - Helena Dalli

Civil Liberties Minister says that gender identity law won't lead to people capriciously choosing to change their legally recognized gender

Equal Opportunities Minister Helena Dalli
Equal Opportunities Minister Helena Dalli

A law aimed at protecting the rights of trans, gender queer and intersex people to their self-determined identity will help “break down the walls of discrimination and inequality”, Civil Liberties Helena Dalli said.

“This law isn’t about the rights of trans-people, intersex people and gender queer people but about human rights,” Dalli said during a second reading of the Bill in Parliament. “We will not be giving these people special rights but equal rights. We want to ensure that everyone has the same rights and access to the same opportunities.”

If passed, the law will render gender reassignment surgery a valid reason for sick leave and will give people the choice of not declaring their sex or gender identity on identification documents through the introduction of an ‘X’ marker. People will be able to change their legal identity without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery beforehand. Transphobic hate crimes will be expanded to include hate crimes against gender-queer and intersex people, and trans-people will be allowed to change their identity while they are married.     

In her speech, Dalli referred to four particular cases.

“A 6-year-old girl was born male but her school refused to recognize and accept her as a girl,” Dalli said. “My Ministry met up with the child, her parents and education experts, and we unanimously agreed that her arguments were valid and that she was undoubtedly a girl who was capable of making up her own mind. Her school eventually allowed her to present herself as a girl, a decision that doesn’t seem to have created any problems.” 

“Once a mother called me up weeping because she didn’t have enough money for her daughter to undergo gender reassignment surgery which is currently required before trans-people can legally change their identity.

“One person had successfully undergone an operation to become a female, but her academic certificates that she had to present whenever applying for a job still had her listed as a male, a circumstance that prevented her from finding a job.

“One trans-girl was so embarrassed at having her male details read out at hospital that she had to take a man with her to an appointment so that he could stand up when her name was called out.   

“These instances may not affect the majority of people but they are realities and who are we to stop people presenting themselves as they really are?”

Dalli pointed out that the choice to change one’s gender is unlikely to be taken capriciously.

“Sex is a basis that determines so many things, such as which schools we go to, what clothes we wear, and what presents we receive,” she said. “We are under constant bombardment to slot into the roles of our assigned sexes, so we can rest assured that the people who decide to change their sex are the ones who truly identify themselves with that sex.”