A new law allows citizens of Greece from the age of 15 to choose their gender without previous medical treatment. The law, passed with 171 votes in favour in the 300-member parliament last week, allows Greeks over the age of 15 to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents following a simplified procedure in court. Until now, they had to prove they had undergone sax-change surgery and psychiatric assessment
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party pushed through the law with the support of the neoliberal opposition party To Potami. Almost all the members of the right-wing populist coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) voted against it.
During a heated parliamentary debate on this controversial issue, the bishop of Piraeus declared, “Anyone who votes for the law need not set foot in the Greek Orthodox Church again.” Other Greek Orthodox Church clergymen openly spoke of excommunication. In a country like Greece, where many citizens are religious, trouble with the church could damage a politician’s career.
Human rights organizations have welcomed the law and see it as a historic step forward. “It is a clear signal that it will no longer be necessary to undergo medical surgery in order to be recognized as the person you are,” says Fotis Filippou, the assistant director of the European branch of Amnesty International. Nevertheless, he says that important aspects have been forgotten.
Prime Minister Tsipras wanted to follow the example of Sweden, Denmark and Malta, where transgender people are protected under the law. In Malta you can simply submit a written statement and then all your documents will be changed automatically without any costs arising..
Despite the new law in Greece, a transgender person would still have to hire a lawyer and go to court. Even after that, there is still a jungle of red tape to navigate before getting the actual ID.
Meanwhile, church bells have rung “in mourning” across a western Greek diocese to protest the passing of the law making it easier for people to officially change their gender.
Under the guidance of Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta, a fiery conservative Orthodox bishop, clerics in his diocese decided that starting Sunday church bells are to ring every day, through Saturday, at noon for three minutes. They also called for the repeal of the “anti-Christian and anti-Greek” law.
“It is an outrageous inspiration for someone to change his gender in a few minutes, with a simple declaration, so contrary to what God has gifted people with … whoever has ‘gender dysphoria’ is mentally ill,” says a statement adopted by the Kalavryta diocese’s clerics Saturday.
The statement, which also condemns homosaxuality as a “deadly sin” and rails in general against “every kind of bestial deviation,” also expressed worries that legislation allowing adoption by same-sax couples will be next.
“We do not hate the sinner, but the sin,” the statement adds.
The clerics also said that they will raise protest banners in the city of Aigion, the largest in the diocese.