Transphobia in Europe
In January 2017, a bill was submitted to the House of Representatives. The law proposed explicitly states that discrimination on grounds of gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics is prohibited. According to Vera Bergkamp (D66), who proposed the bill, people who are transgender, intersex and non-binary face discrimination and misunderstanding. These groups have high unemployment rates, for example.
The Netherlands is (still) lagging behind the Scandinavian countries, the Czech Republic and Estonia in respect to protection from discrimination. Scandinavia also takes the lead in implementing the suggestions of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Early in 2017, Sweden and Denmark removed ‘Gender dysphoria’ from the list of mental disorders. Whilst in the Netherlands, transgender people still officially need to have the diagnosis ‘gender dysphoria’ before they can complete their medical transition process.
The Netherlands’ pioneer status, which it attained by opening the first transgender clinic in the world in 1975, is now in decline.
The Netherlands’ pioneer status, which it attained by opening the first transgender clinic in the world in 1975, is now in decline. Our country is still seen as trans-friendly. If restrictions that are imposed on transgender people in other parts of Europe would be implemented in the Netherlands they’d be considered inhumane. The European Convention on Human Rights must be honoured by all member countries of the Council of Europe. Despite it’s enforcement by the European Court of human rights, transphobia is still present. The irrational fear and aversion to transgender people (which is expressed by discrimination, bullying, social exclusion, intimidation, aggression, physical violence, severe abuse and in the most serious cases–murder) is even encouraged. How and why does this happen? I searched for answers and have decided to focus on a number of them using research data from Transgender Europe (TGEU).
The irrational fear and aversion to transgender people (which is expressed by discrimination, bullying, social exclusion, intimidation, aggression, physical violence, severe abuse and in the most serious cases–murder) is even encouraged.
Armenia and Georgia
In Armenia and neighbouring Georgia, transsexuality is seen as a congenital disease. Transgender people are often linked to deviant behavior and ‘sins’, such as prostitution and child abuse. Because of this they’re thought of as a problem and a threat to society. In Armenia, there is a belief that homosexuals and transsexuals are the main causes of AIDS / HIV and other STDs. In Georgia, negative stereotyping of transgender people (especially trans women) by the media is fairly common. From a social point of view, they have a weak position and often experience injustice at the hands of institutions; such as the police force.
This law regards everything related to the education of minors on the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity as propaganda.
In Russia, transgender people are structurally confronted with discrimination and violence by government institutions and by society itself. In 2013, the legal ban on “propaganda of homosexuality amongst minors” was introduced, which also relates to “propaganda of transgenderism”. This law regards everything related to the education of minors on the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity as propaganda. As a result, young people are being denied access to reliable information about gender identity and sexual orientation. In the autonomous province of Chechnya, persecution of gay people is ongoing. The media speaks of “internment camps” and the government encourages families to kill their own queer children. Religion is the leading reason why persecution happens. Queer children are seen as a disgrace to the family.
Italy and Turkey
With regard to equal rights for LGBT+ people, Italy is far behind the rest of the EU. As an indication: adoption and IVF are prohibited for homosexual couples. The TGEUs Trans Murder Monitoring Project registered no fewer than 34 murdered trans people in 2016. Turkey is the European leader in terms of the number of registered murders of trans people. TGEU had 44 murders in 2016. The majority were trans female sex workers. Transgender prostitutes work in very risky circumstances.
The regulations drive sex workers into the streets, into the outlying areas where they are declared outlaws and are easily exposed to violence. In Turkey, transgender people, especially trans women, are portrayed by the media as negative role models, drug users, prostitutes and criminals. Social exclusion is their destiny. An exception to this is well-known Turkish trans woman: singer Bülent Ersoy. Popular and operating in the Turkish entertainment industry for decades. This form of tolerance indicates a hypocrisy in society.
Turkey is the European leader in terms of the number of registered murders of trans people.
To understand the ambivalent situation of transgender people in Serbia, one must know that the majority of the population is Serbian Orthodox. Church norms and values leave a big mark on daily life. Trans men and women are accepted as members of the Church after their gender confirmation surgery, on the condition that their orientation is heterosexual. Transsexuals can officially get married by the Orthodox church but only if they have medical documents from their sex operation and a modified passport.
In April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights found that the sterilisation requirement for legal recognition violates transgender people and their rights. Julia Ehrt, director of TGEU, spoke the words “Today is a victory for trans people and their human rights in Europe. This decision ends the dark chapter of sterilisation in Europe. In the 22 countries, where sterilisation is now still mandatory, these practices must come to an end quickly. We are looking forward to supporting those and other countries in reforming their national legislation.”
Many Eastern European countries are not members of the EU. It is precisely in these countries that a lot of injustice takes place in the areas of freedom, gender recognition, social and societal acceptance. For centuries these countries have been under the influence of dictators and social prejudices; which often have a strong religious influence. Most of these countries are members of the Council of Europe and therefore obliged to comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). That is a small bright spot. It will take a while before transphobia has disappeared from Europe, so I would like to welcome all LGBT people in our relatively safe little country …