Germany 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.

In August 2008 a reader sent the following:

And as I'm at it, let me also sum up the situation in Germany:

The German Transsexuals Act provides for two forms of legal recognition of transsexuality: change of given name and change of legal sex.

In both cases, a petition must be lodged with the District Court (Amtsgericht).

A change of given name motivated by transsexuality can be obtained where the applicant
- for at least three years feels compelled to live as a person of the sex opposite to the one mentioned on their birth certificate,
- it is highly probable that this feeling will not change anymore.

Medical expert opinions are compulsory.

German courts have held that in addition to the name change as such, the court's decree has the effect of
- entitling the applicant to be addressed according to the sex associated with the new name (Mr for an FtoM, Ms for an MtoF),
- changing also the surname in the rare cases where it indicates the person's sex (only names containing former titles of nobility).

Finally, the law has recently been adapted in order to allow a passport applicant who has obtained a name change under this procedure to be issued with a passport mentioning the sex associated with the new name (a German passport may therefore mention a sex which is not the legal one under German law).

In order to obtain a change of legal sex, the applicant must in addition have undergone extensive gender reassignment surgery and notably have lost all their reproductive abilities.

However, under a recent judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court, a married applicant has now the right to obtain a change of legal sex under the same conditions as an unmarried applicant. Unless future legislation works out a different solution, that means that the marriage is maintained even though both spouses are legally of the same sex (same-sex marriage is not generally allowed in Germany, but there is a civil union scheme called "life partnership" for same-sex couples). Of course, this does not mean that the other spouse can't sue for divorce based on irretrievable breakdown just as anyone else.

It should be noted that in practice even before the simple name change (without change of legal sex), the "real life test" will often already have begun. In that case, 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 (even some government agencies like e.g. social security services), 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. There are severe legal restrictions for the opening of bank accounts on an alias, but sympathetic banks have workarounds for that (secondary debit card with only the alias, use of the alias on bank statement address etc.).

 

Other resources

Germany law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]