Interactions between the regulation of homosexuality and transsexuality since the enactment of the Transsexual Act

Adrian de Silva is a trans and queer studies researcher at the University of Luxembourg with a background in sociology and political science. He received a PhD in gender studies from Humboldt University Berlin based on his interdisciplinary study “Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime: Developments and Debates on Trans(sexuality) in the Federal Republic of Germany”. Working across political sociology, sociology of law, sexology and political theory, Adrian’s research engages with processes of minoritizing less common genders and sexualities in liberal democracies, and struggles for social change in these areas. 

On 01 Jan. 1981, the Act to change first names and establish gender status in special cases (Transsexual Act – TSG) came into force in the Federal Republic of Germany.[i] Sections 1-7 TSG lay down the rules for a change of first names and sections 8-12 TSG regulate a revision of gender status in cases of transsexuality. The Transsexual Act was, among other things,[ii] devised against the background of historically-specific manifestations of heteronormativity, which at the time included the delegitimization of homosexual relationships and, according to s. 175 StGB (Strafgesetzbuch; Criminal Code), demanded higher ages of consent for sexual activities between male individuals than between males and females, or between female persons. While gender and sexuality do not necessarily have to be linked to each other, they are, as Butler suggests, interrelated[iii] in contemporary Western societies. However, gender and sexuality are not static. The same applies to the relationship between these fields. The temporary outcome of struggles in one arena may directly or indirectly contribute to, or impede developments in the other. Drawing upon Federal Constitutional Court rulings on relevant provisions of the Transsexual Act and legislation on same-sex partnerships, this blog entry traces how the regulation of homosexuality and transsexuality impacted upon each other since the Transsexual Act was enacted.[iv]

Preventing same-sex marriages and violations of s. 175 StGB in the Transsexual Act

Several sections of the Act were devised to prevent homosexual partnerships and violations of s. 175 StGB. For example, s. 7(1)3 TSG ruled that the change of first names becomes ineffective, if the applicant marries, hence preventing the impression of a same-sex marriage. Section 8(1)2 TSG determined that a person applying for a revision of gender status was required to be unmarried, a rule created to prevent a de facto same-sex marriage. While s. 8(1)4 TSG may no longer be applied, the rule provides that a revision of gender status can only be granted on the condition that the applicant has undergone sex reassignment surgery to the effect of approximating the outer appearance of the ‘other’ sex. The aforementioned rule was introduced for several reasons, one of which was to avoid that a male person marries another male person “as long as he can engage in sex as a man”.[v] In order to restore heteronormative hegemony,[vi] the legislator condoned violations of trans people’s fundamental human rights, such as the right to human dignity (Art. 1 [1] GG [Grundgesetz; Basic Law]), free development of personality (Art. 2[1] GG), physical integrity (Art. 2[2] GG) and state protection of marriage and family (Art. 6 GG).[vii]

Effects of gains in the recognition of same-sex partnerships and the abolishment of s. 175 StGB on s. 7(1)3 TSG

While s. 7(1)3 TSG met with resistance soon after the Act came into force,[viii] successful litigation against this provision depended, among other things,[ix] on legal and political developments regarding homosexuality. In 1994, s. 175 StGB was abolished in the course of the approximation of laws after German reunification. In 2001, the governing Social Democratic and Green Party coalition introduced the Registered Life Partnership (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft). However, this civil union between same-sex couples entailed fewer rights than a marriage, which continued to be reserved for differently sexed couples.[x] It was in part against this background that the Federal Constitutional Court declared s. 7(1)3 StGB unconstitutional on 06 Dec. 2005. The Court argued that the provision violates a homosexual transsexual person’s legally protected right to a name and the right to the protection of their intimate sphere as long as a homosexual transsexual individual does not have the option to enter a legally secured partnership without losing the names signifying their identity.[xi] Since the legislator did not provide a constitutional solution, marriages between legally differently gendered individuals with names denoting the same gender became possible.[xii]

The abolishment of s. 8(1)2 TSG and the introduction of same-sex marriage for cis homosexual individuals

Decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court on s. 8(1)2 TSG also contributed to the developments regarding same-sex marriage. On 27 May 2008, the Court decided that the provision requiring a married transsexual individual to get divorced prior to a revision of gender status was incompatible with Art. 2(1) GG in conjunction with Art. 1(1) GG, and Art. 6(1) GG. The Court made three suggestions for a constitutional solution, one of which was to convert a marriage to a registered life partnership without stripping it of the duties and privileges that come along with a marriage. Another suggestion was to create a legally sanctioned partnership equivalent to marriage. A further suggestion was to delete s. 8(1)2 TSG.[xiii] In the end, the legislator opted for the latter,[xiv] hence tolerating same-sex marriages in exceptional cases. In 2015, the government picked up this decision in the explanatory note to the Bill to introduce the right to marry for same-sex individuals, arguing that the legislator had already accepted changing notions of marriage by deleting s. 8(1)2 TSG. [xv]  Same-sex individuals in general finally achieved the right to marry on 01 Oct. 2017. 

Side effects of the recognition of the Registered Life Partnership on ss. 8(1)3 TSG and 8(1)4 TSG

Similarly, the existence of the Registered Life Partnership,[xvi] which became defunct on 01 Oct. 2017 was instrumental in declaring the rules of the Transsexual Act that demanded sex-reassignment surgery (s. 8[1]4 TSG) and permanent sterility (s. 8[1]3 TSG) for a revision of gender status unconstitutional. On 11 Jan. 2011, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the abovementioned sections unconstitutional in a case dealing with a homosexual trans woman, who had been granted a change of first names according to the Act and who did not intend to undergo surgery. She had in vain sought to enter a registered life partnership with her female partner, rather than a marriage.[xvii] The Court held that  ss. 8(1)3 TSG and 8(1)4 TSG violated Art. 2(1) GG and Art. 2(2) GG in conjunction with Art. 1(1) GG, if a transsexual individual could only legally secure their same-sex partnership in a registered life partnership after having undergone sex reassignment surgery and an intervention to achieve permanent sterility.[xviii]

The episodes outlined above shed light upon how jurisdiction on individual rules of the Transsexual Act and legislation regarding s. 175 StGB and the Registered Life Partnership impacted upon each other. Depending on the historical context, they either served as the background for restrictive rules or created opportunities to draw upon in the respective other field. The effects of these processes mirror, and contributed to shifts within the heteronormative regime, hence providing evidence of the historically-specific nature of the sexual regime and the relational character of gender and sexuality in this particular time and place.


Cite this article: Adrian de Silva “Interactions between the regulation of homosexuality and transsexuality since the enactment of the Transsexual Act”, in: History | Sexuality | Law, 19/05/2021, https://hsl.hypotheses.org1694, (accessed on: Datum).


[i] The German name of the Act is Gesetz zur Änderung des Vornamens und die Feststellung der Geschlechtszugehörigkeit in besonderen Fällen (Transsexuellengesetz – TSG)The statute will be referred to as the Transsexual Act or the Act.
[ii] Other notions that fed into the Act were the concepts of two socially and physically polarized genders and transsexuality as a homogeneous phenomenon, with heterosexuality and the desire for sex-reassignment surgery as defining features. 
[iii] For example, Butler notes that the heterosexualisation of desire requires and reproduces distinct and polarized notions of femininity and masculinity. Cf. Butler, Judith, 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London / New York: Routledge, 17.
[iv] These and further issues are dealt with in greater detail and complexity in Adamietz, Laura, 2011, Geschlecht als Erwartung: Das Geschlechtsdiskriminierungverbot als Recht gegen Diskriminierung wegen der sexuellen Orientierung und der Geschlechtsidentität (= Schriften zur Gleichstellung, vol. 34), Baden-Baden: Nomos and de Silva, Adrian, 2018, Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime: Developments and Debates on Trans(sexuality) in the Federal Republic of Germany, Bielefeld: transcript. These monographs will be referred to as Adamietz, 2011, Geschlecht als Erwartung and de Silva, 2018, Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime.
[v] Bundesministerium des Innern (BMI) 1978, Referentenentwurf, Stand: 31. Aug. 1978 mit Erläuterung (Parlamentsarchiv Dokument 738/1, Anlage, 15; cf. Grünberger, Michael, 2007, Ein Plädoyer für ein zeitgemäßes Transsexuellengesetz, in: StAZ 60 (12), 357-368; 361.
[vi] For the development of the concept of heteronormative hegemony, see Ludwig, Gundula, 2011, Geschlecht regieren: Zum Verhältnis von Staat, Subjekt und heteronormativer Hegemonie, Frankfurt/Main: Campus.
[vii] de Silva, 2018, Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime, 378/379.
[viii] See, for instance, Augstein, Maria Sabine, 1981, Zum Transsexuellengesetz, in: StAZ 34 (1), 10-16.
[ix] Further factors include greater sexological and legal emphasis on the subjective dimension of gender and the sexological insight that transsexual individuals are diverse regarding sexual orientation and the request for surgery to live according to their experienced gender. Cf. Becker, Sophinette/ Berner, Wolfgang/ Dannecker, Martin/ Richter-Appelt, Hertha, 2001, Stellungnahme zur Anfrage des Bundesministeriums des Innern (V 5a-133 115-1/1) vom 11. Dezember 2000 zur Revision des Transsexuellengesetzes, in: Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung 14(3), 258-268; 260/261; Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2006, Decision on 06 Dec. 2005 – 1 BvL 3/03, in: StAZ 59 (4), 102-107; 103. This decision will be referred to as Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2006, Decision on 05 Dec. 2005 – 1 BvL 3/03; Adamietz, 2011, Geschlecht als Erwartung, 137; de Silva, Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime, 283/284.
[x] Mangold, Anna Katharina, 2018, Stationen der Ehe für alle in Deutschland, in: Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung (Ed.); Dossier Homosexualität, https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/gender/homosexualitaet/274019/stationen-der-ehe-fuer-alle-in-deutschland, 24 Apr. 2021.
[xi] Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2006, Decision on 06 Dec. 2005 – 1BvL 3/03, 102. Under the Act, it is possible to opt for a change of first names only. Originally, the prerequisites for a change of first names, which are outlined in the first part of the Act, and for a revision of gender status differed, with higher demands placed on individuals applying for a revision of gender status. 
[xii] Cf. de Silva, 2018, Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime, 290.
[xiii] Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2008, Decision on 27 May 2008 – 1BvR 10/05, in: StAZ 61 (10), 312-318; 317.
[xiv] See, the Act to Amend the Transsexual Act.
[xv] Deutscher Bundestag, 2015, Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts, Drucksache 18/6665, 11 Nov. 2015, https://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/18/066/1806665.pdf, 8.
[xvi] See, s. 3(1) of the Act to change the Act to introduce the right to marry individuals of the same sex (Gesetz zur Änderung des Gesetzes zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts).
[xvii] Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2011, Decision on 11 Jan. 2011 – 1BvR 3295/07, https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2011/01/rs20110111_1bvr329507.html, nos. 44/45. This case will referred to as Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2011, Decision on 11 Jan. 2001 – 1 BvR 3295/07.
[xviii] Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2011, Decision on 11 Jan. 2001 – 1 BvR 3295/07, headnote.


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