We've talked at length, here, about the fact that for some minority of folks, sex and gender don't line up. Some girls have a boyish swagger and a killer pitching arm. Some boys adore nail polish and glittery princesses. Sometimes—not always—those butch girls and pink boys grow up to be lesbians or gay men. Sometimes—less often, although no one knows the real rate—they insist that the only way they can be comfortable and happy is to change their sex entirely. No one knows why, any more than we know why some people are math whizzes and others can't do arithmetic, but the phenomenon has long been noted in a wide variety of cultures, from the Hawaiian mahu to South Asia's hijra. (Check out PBS's map of transgender identities. I don't know their sources, but I do recognize a number of references I've found previously in the anthropological literature.)
So I was shocked when Joseph Huff-Hannon of AllOut told me that 29 European countries—including some Scandinavian countries we generally think of as friendly to sexual diversity—require surgical sterilization before legally recognizing gender change. (Here's the Council of Europe report that includes that data.) Those countries include Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland,Turkey and Ukraine.
This past year, Swedish trans activists launched a campaign to repeal that country's requirement in Sweden. It now appears that the government will go ahead and repeal the requirement. (See Mother Jones' report here and the AllOut press release here.) But what the heck is going on in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the Netherlands? What is the reasoning for the law? Yes, I know that some people find it disturbing to see a pregnant man. (Thomas Beattie, by the way, was hardly the first female-to-male transgendered person to get pregnant; he was just the first to become a publicity hound about it.)
Why deny anyone the right to reproduce just because she started her genetic life as a boy, or he started as a chromosomal girl? Good parenting doesn't depend on gender identity or presentation. It depends on love, responsibility, and consistency.