Since 2019, being a transgenderism isn’t a “mental disorder,” thanks to the revision of the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization removed the diagnose of “gender identity disorder” from its list and now it’s called “gender incongruence” in the chapter on sexual health. So, not a psychiatric issue anymore.
The medical term is “gender dysphoria,” which is the sense of unease that a person feels in its gender of birth. Still, the change by the WHO is a step towards equality. But is it enough for the rights of transgender in Italy?
How to change gender in Italy
The access to Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) can be complicated, especially because it can be slow. The law on gender change in the country dates back to 1982 and it hasn’t changed since. The first thing to know about transgender in Italy is that there is no surgery without the court’s approval. In fact, anyone who wants to go through the SRS process needs to ask for permission to the judge -minor or not. And, before any move to changing gender, the person needs to go through therapy.
Becoming transgender in Italy
So, first the person needs to go to a psychotherapist for six months. The specialist has to diagnose the gender dysphoria to start the hormonal therapy. This step in the process of becoming transgender in Italy is the only way to legally have access to the medications. Still, the diagnosis doesn’t equal easy access to the hormones, which are free but difficult to find.
Then, it’s time to go in front of the judge. To make sure the court authorizes the surgery, the person needs the diagnosis and a positive psychological evaluation. Still, the courts might ask for a new evaluation. And they can refuse the surgery, making the person repeat the whole process. If the judge authorizes the Sex Reassignment Surgery, the person is free to go ahead with it.
So, now the person has changed gender. What happens next? Another step in the process of becoming transgender in Italy is the change at the registry office. In fact, changing the birth gender and the name is just as important. Once again, the person goes in front of the judge to get authorization. The entire process can take up to a few years, depending on the court’s speed. Despite the difficulties, people still need the law and system to work. And it’s a system that has ignored transgender in Italy for too long.
The Italian transgender community
Recent data shows that the community is growing. Perhaps because people are coming out more and more. Still, transgenderism is uncharted territory for Italian authorities. So much so that the Istituto Superiore di Sanità is launching a study into the health of transgender people in Italy with the goals of identifying clinical issues, their wellbeing, and their medical risks.
“We feel the need to put in place legislative protections,” said Erika Limoncin, Psycho-sexologist in Rome,”beacuse a transgender person suffers from the discrepancies between biological and perceived gender.” Only with the help of both the law and the hormonal therapy, can the situation improve. Indeed, access is key. However, in Italy, only five centers provide Sex Reassignment Surgery. In the whole country. So, Italians have the right to change gender, not often the means.
Often, not even the financial ones. In fact, most of the medications that the transgender community has to take don’t have an expiration date. People have to take hormones and therapies for their whole life and they are considered “not necessary.” So, they are difficult to find in pharmacies and expensive. Plus, they have consequences, both on the mind and the body.
Being transgender doesn’t end after the surgery. Just like the whole LGBTQI+ community in Italy, the rights of transgender people have a long way to go. The first issues? Access to cures, therapies, medications, and even surgeries. Just like abortion, it’s an uphill battle.