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The Legality of Gender Change

Over a third of countries allow a gender change (to male, female, or another) on documents such as passports. Researchers have only begun to document this fast-changing legal topic.

Legally possible

Legal regionally or with difficulty

Impossible or to be determined

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DATA AS OF OCTOBER 2016

Legally possible

Legal with no restrictions (5 countries)

In these countries, making a change is simply based on the request of the individual.

Legal but with social or medical requirements (41 countries)

Almost all countries that allow a legal change require a diagnosis of mental disorder. Many require a person to be childless or unmarried; some require hormone therapy, surgery, and/or sterilization. Advocates denounce such rules as violations of human rights.

Legal regionally or with difficulty

Legality and requirements vary regionally (4 countries)

In some countries, including the United States, local practices may take precedence, making legality and the requirements for changing a matter of geography.

Legal but inconsistently allowed (27 countries)

Even if a country’s rules allow a change to be made, unclear regulations, court decisions, and bureaucratic barriers can block changes in status.

Impossible or to be determined

Not legally possible (67 countries)

No legal provisions allow a change in gender. Some countries are so strict that wearing clothing not associated with the sex assigned at birth is criminalized.

No information available

For much of the world, data addressing legal gender change has yet to be collected, and discussion of the issue is a new frontier. In some countries such discussion may be considered taboo.

For the full list of sources used to create this map and additional information about the legality of gender change, click here.

This map appears in the January 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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