No other country has gone so far to embrace gender self-determination. In the United States and Europe, transgender people must submit to physical and mental health exams and get past a series of other hurdles before getting sex-change treatments. Argentina’s law also is the first to give citizens the right to change their legal gender without first changing their bodies.
Bravo Argentina! I think the best part of the law is that it doesn’t require approval from judges or doctors for gender identity changes. Maya, at the wonderful Feministing blog writes,
Not having a valid ID that matches your gender identity is a huge barrier to access to education, employment, health care, you name it. As Kalym Sori, an Argentinian trans man said, “This is why the law of identity is so important. It opens the door to the rest of our rights.” But in most places in the world–and in the U.S.–trans people must show proof of a medical diagnosis and often major interventions, like surgery or hormone therapy, before they can get that legal recognition.
From a libertarian perspective, this law makes right what is so wrong with trans policy everywhere else. All states should have laws like Argentina’s, which is just to say, all citizens should be free from oppressive legal restrictions on gender identity. First, states shouldn’t be empowered to require that people declare a gender on their ID’s in the first place. (As an aside, I don’t think we should have state ID’s either, but that’s another post I guess.)
Second, we should reject the language of ‘disorder’ for people who choose gender identities because gender dysphoria isn’t necessarily (if ever) a medical problem that needs to be treated. It’s not wrong to change genders, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else, so there’s no reason to empower public and medical officials to decide who can and cannot adopt a particular gender. Just watch Deirdre McCloskey discuss her experience with judges, psychiatrists, and the police during her transition- anyone who is concerned about the state coercively regulating people’s behavior should object to this kind of treatment.
Third, and this is really the worst, some places still require sterilization and divorce before a person can officially change gender. The US just changed its requirements in 2010, but many states still require sterilization for drivers licenses.
Sometimes libertarians argue that we should be silent about ‘cultural issues,’ (aka, everything but property). Yet LBGT rights are one topic where it’s clear what it means to embrace a culture of liberty. My co-bloggers have pretty much made the case for gay rights, and for similar reasons, justice also requires rights of gender self-determination. Public policy should not disadvantage people just because their gender doesn’t ‘match’ their biological sex. Instead, the state should get out of the gender business and let everyone choose their own gender identity.
PS: For more on this topic, Javier Hidalgo just sent me this new article, which looks like a good read!