Belgium name change for transgender people

Disclaimer: This is legal talk, not legal advice. Laws vary by state, and some of the information discussed on this page may not be applicable in your case. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information and provide it without warranty. Laws change and this information may contain errors and omissions. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.

Conflicting views of Belgian legislation

In August 2011 a reader sent the following:

Name changing in Belgium is an absolute right provided you can demonstrate that you are transsexual (through a letter from the endocrinologist and the psychiatrist stating that you have (1) the irreversible desire to belong to the opposite sex (2) you have at least started HRT and (3) your name-change will benefit your societal acceptance.

The Minister of Justice will send you a letter granting you the right (for a limited time, you have 6 months) to go to the public registry of your birth place and change your name by making a note on the original birth certificate (after having paid taxes).

References: Law: http://www.2747.com/2747/law/civil/transsexual/2007/belgie10mei2007.html (in Dutch)

In August 2008 a reader sent the following:

I've come across your page on name change for transsexuals in Belgium.

The information given there is now outdated and - to be cautious - seems somewhat biased to me.

I'm not going to get into the discussion on the bill mentioned there, but it has now become law and I would like to sum up the essentials of what it says:

There are two distinct aspects: name change (given names, not surnames) and legal sex change.

A change of given names can be granted by the Minister for Justice on serious grounds. The Minister has a wide discretion to grant or refuse such a name change, but the new statute reduces that discretion for applications motivated by transsexuality.

In that case, the applicant who has already started to live as a person of the desired sex is required to submit a statement from their psychiatrist and their endocrinologist certifying that
- the applicant is intimately, constantly and irreversibly convinced to be of the sex opposite to the one mentioned on their birth registration entry,
- the applicant has started a hormonal treatment in view of gender reassignment,
- the name change is an essential aspect of the process.

If those conditions are met, the Minister can only reject the application if the new given name is inappropriate to the extent that it could also be refused by vital statistics services when registering a baby's birth.

The legal sex change is done by adding a mention to the original birth registration entry held by the relevant registrar (vital statistics officer of the local government office).

The applicant must submit to the registrar a medical statement signed by a psychiatrist and by a surgeon who have effectively treated them and certifying that
- the applicant is intimately, constantly and irreversibly convinced to be of the sex opposite to the one mentioned on their birth registration entry,
- the applicant has undergone gender reassignment treatment that has assimilated them to that sex to the extent that is medically possible and justified,
- the applicant is unable to conceive children as a person of their original sex.

If the registrar considers that the statutory conditions are met, they will annotate the original birth entry and any new birth certificate will be issued in the acquired sex. Any other official documentation - ID cards, passports etc. - will then be reissued accordingly.

In case of refusal, the applicant can take the case to court.

It should be noted that even the simple name change (without change of legal sex) can only be requested once the "real life test" has begun. That in turn means that even without the legal name change, the person in transition needs to already use a given name that is not their legal one. Such a given name then is legally an alias which may be used by almost everyone outside the "administrative" sphere, but no-one can be forced to comply with the person's wishes if they don't want to. In addition, as businesses, postal services etc. rely heavily on identification by government-issued ID cards, this is fraught with practical difficulties.

Finally, as Belgium has a same-sex marriage law, marital status cannot intervene in this process - an existing marriage simply continues without regard to the spouses' sex.

 

 

In February 2004 a reader sent the following:

The proposition of law presented on 9 February 2004 by members of the four parties of the majority in Belgium, wants to give the problem of transsexualism a legal recognition. In this proposition, changing ones surname will become a right instead of a favour and will be made possible from the moment one starts with hormone substitution therapy. Moreover, changing one's birth certificate to the new gender will be made possible by administrative procedure instead of one before court. This proposition, if ratified, should become law by summer of 2004. The text of this proposition including comment and discussion by article is now to be consulted on our website:  http://www.genderstichting.be/nl/index.html by clicking on ‘infoflash’ (only in Dutch and soon in French).

Our gratitude to Mrs. Hilde Vautmans (VLD), Mrs. Valérie Deom (PS), Mrs. Marie-Christine Marghem (MR) en Mr. Guy Swennen (Sp.a)

In October 2005, I received a letter from Collectif Trans-Action contradicting some of the comments above:

We would like to add some clarifications.

The intended purpose of this bill is to provide a legal recognition of transsexualism. Currently there is no law in Belgium and identity change is granted by the tribunals. They rely on case law but rulings are always very favourable nowadays.

Unfortunately the bill will not make life easier for trans people and our group has been very busy recently fighting this dangerous proposal.

We have done a tentative translation of the bill into English (the original bill is written in both Dutch and French) so that you can see for yourself what it's all about.

The main points:

The Belgian MPs are trying to define transsexualism as a pathology and make it law.

The bill is such that we are locked into psychiatry, even if transsexualism isremoved from the list of mental disorders in the future (which we hope).

The Parliament is interfering with medical matters. They want to decidewhat kind of doctors we should see and how treatment should beadministered. They are also telling doctors how they should run theirown business. Who's next ? HIV-sufferers?

They want to set up lengthy delays with no justification whatsoever (remember: they say minimal conditions).

If you do not comply with the terms of the law then you are against the law.Presumably your change of identity could be denied just because you didnot follow the rules. What will happen to those who don't follow thescript?

From the moment you start the process you no longer have a say in your own life. The medical teams will decide everything for you and you will have no recourse. They will even authorize the administrative change of identity.

Ironically there are a lot of grey areas and legal uncertainty arising from the poor wording of the bill. The bill was supposed to wipe out the current legal uncertainty surrounding identity change. But the bill does not even take the reality into account.

To sum up: should the bill ever come into force transsexual people in Belgium would have no rights left whatsoever! This would probably be one of the most backward TS laws in Europe.

We think the people who submitted the information to you are nuts, there is nothing to be grateful for! Obviously they didn't read the bill or they did not understand it.

Maybe you will want to spread the word and encourage your visitors to visit our website and sign our online petition.

This bill is the perfect proof that we shouldn't take our rights for granted and that the worst can happen.

We have a link to the petition at
http://petitiononline.com/betslaw/
but is presently in French only

The direct link to our English translation of the bill is
http://www.trans-action.org/pdf/transsexualism-bill-English-translation.pdf

Other resources

Belgium law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]