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15th December 2023
Transgender Persons in Lithuania: Name Change Procedure Does Not Ensure Safety

In February 2022, the renewed rules for changing a person’s name and surname came into force, which gave transgender people the opportunity to change their name and surname in documents to those that correspond to their gender identity. However, transgender people living in Lithuania claim that the practical application of this procedure is very limited and can lead to even greater discrimination. This was revealed by the first data from a qualitative study of the situation of transgender people in Lithuania, which is currently being carried out by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson. During the research, in-depth interviews were conducted with transgender people of different ages, places of residence, and different gender identities.

“Trans people participating in the study emphasize that changing documents is a very important part of their transition. It not only establishes a person’s gender identity as legitimate, but also allows for dignified participation in public life. However, the existing rules create several problems and may lead to even greater discrimination. Research participants mention unsafe situations that may violate their privacy at airport checkpoints, when concluding employment contracts, in health care institutions and elsewhere,” –  says sociologist Mažvydas Karalius, who is conducting the research.

Currently, transgender persons can change their name and surname in documents, but the procedure is available only to adult, unmarried persons who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder. However, even after changing the name and surname, the gender marker and the personal code (the structure of which is linked to the person’s gender in Lithuania) which do not correspond to the gender identity, remain in the documents. They can only be changed by a court decision. The costs of this process often become an unbearable financial burden for the individual.

Ieva Laugalytė, an expert at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, says that the current situation is extremely disappointing: “The only way for a transgender person to confirm their gender identity in documents, that does not require court proceedings, is very limited – we can see from the research data that after a name change, unsafe, often even humiliating document verification procedures do not end. Such everyday actions as presenting a document at a healthcare institution or picking up a delivery at the post office can become a big psychological challenge for a transgender person. The progressive gender identity recognition law could solve the problem.”

The qualitative study is a part of the project Centering the Voices of Transgender People, carried out together with the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud in Norway

The project is funded by EEA and Norway Grants.