Transidentity raises numerous legal questions as it challenges the way the law fundamentally categorizes society in two different groups. The European legal landscape has evolved towards greater recognition of transgender people’s rights, notably in terms of legal gender recognition and non-discrimination, but many inequalities remain deeply rooted in the law.
Gender identity has increasingly been recognized as a ground of discrimination by national and regional instances in Europe, and in 2002 the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the existence of a right to legal gender recognition under Article 8 of the Convention, in the famous Goodwin v. UK case. Since then, the conditions deemed admissible or not in order to access legal gender recognition and name change have been under scrutiny, and the Court took an important step ahead in 2017, when it held that compulsory sterilization and mandatory medical interventions leading with a high probability to sterility were inadmissible conditions for accessing legal gender recognition (A.P., Garçon, and Nicot v. France). However, other criteria for legal gender recognition remain unclear. Additionally, even when European instance decisively set a principle, the difficulty lies in the implementation on the national level, as the rights of transgender people are far from respected in practice. Legal gender recognition and access to gender confirmation treatment entail particular obstacles for minors, since the debate of whether self-determination regarding legal gender change and access to gender confirmation treatment should prevail over other public and private interests is even more pressing when children are concerned.
Many further obstacles remain, notably in the domain of parenthood and employment, access to transition-related treatments, and their reimbursement by health insurance. Additionally, transphobic hate crimes are rarely identified as such by national criminal legislations, and very few states collect statistics on the matter.
It remains difficult to draw general conclusions on transgender policies in Europe, as domestic laws are diverse and do not always match with international law, and national practices do not always comply with domestic and international law—with transgender people often being caught in a labyrinth of incongruent rules and practices.