Sweden is getting ready to take its commitment to achieving gender equality one step further by legalizing the third gender, together with other measures to improve trans people’s well-being.
Swedish Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke has received an almost 1,000-page government report on steps to improve the living conditions of trans people in the Nordic country. The report suggests introducing a third gender as a legal option, discard gender-based personal numbers and allow gender-neutral public restrooms.
As earlier reports suggested that trans people’s living conditions were worse than those for an average person, citing poor health and elevated suicide risk, the Swedish government ordered a report to investigate “how trans people are affected by society’s cis and hetero norms.”
The foremost suggestion to remedy the present “shortcomings” was an investigation into a third legal gender in Sweden, as well as an overhaul of the personal identity number system, a ten or twelve digit number that’s widely used in Sweden to identify individuals which currently reflects the biological sex of the person. According to the report, there should be a possibility of an alternative gender symbol “X” in Swedish passports to make it easier for trans people to travel.
“In Sweden and the Nordics we have “gendered” personal identity numbers, which is rather unique,” government investigator Ulrika Westerlund explained, as quoted by the local Smålands Dagblad daily.
The gender-specific personal number system must be amended accordingly, to avoid any clashes. The personal identity number is the Nordic equivalent of a US Social Security number and is essential for many things, from obtaining library membership or booking an appointment with a doctor to opening a bank account. Today, people changing their personal number for reasons of gender reassignment run the risk of being thrown of the system, which may cause issues, especially among the young and financially insecure, Ulrika Westerlund explained.
The report also called for state funding for projects aimed at developing trans-inclusive environments. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning was prompted to create guidelines on gender-neutral changing rooms and toilets.
Lastly, the report stressed the need for a cohesive government action plan for equal rights and opportunities for the sexual minorities, including the training of police officers and public servants in LGBT issues.
The National Board of Health previously indicated that the number of young people in Sweden suffering from gender dysphoria is increasing. This is a condition which implies uncertainty of or unhappiness with one’s gender, which may result in the person becoming a transgender.
Between 1988 and 2015, only 1 in 100,000 Swedes was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Today, the number is 8 in 100,000 and continues to rise.
The reasons for the increase remain unclear, yet one theory is that a changing debate climate.
“Today’s society provides an increased transparency and knowledge regarding gender identity, and this can affect the development. There is also increased access to examination and treatment,” investigator Peter Salmi told the Dagens Nyheter daily.