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Amnesty International has a new report, published on Tuesday: The State Decides Who I Am:  Lack of Legal Gender Recognition for Transgender People in Europe.

For transgender people, official identity documents reflecting their gender identity are vitally important for the enjoyment of their human rights.  They are not only crucial when traveling but also for everyday life; depending on the specific country, individuals may be asked to produce an official document when they enroll in school, apply for a job, access a public library or open a bank account.

--Amnesty International, The State Decides Who I Am

Legal gender recognition is important as it is a validation of who I am.  When you are born you get your birth certificate and when you die you get your death certificate.  People take that for granted.  It follows you all through life.  Nobody thinks about it.  But if I go into a social welfare office and someone wants to make my life difficult [because I don’t have documents reflecting my gender identity], I have no legal rights to rely on…  Legal gender recognition also validates you within the rest of the population. If you are seen to be legally recognized then you have more legitimacy within the wider community, within the non-transgender community, and that’s important.

--Louise, Dublin

The European Court of Human Rights recognized in 1992 that failing to allow transpeople to change the gender marker on their official documents was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Many countries instituted a requirement of invasive surgeries in order to obtain a legal gender change.  Requiring such surgeries may itself be considered to violate the rights of transpeople.  In addition, the course of procedures usually take years.  In other instances transpeople can only obtain legal gender recognition if they agree to be diagnosed with a mental disorder, divorce their spouses or remain single, and satisfy age restrictions.

Other countries simply continue to refuse a person to have their gender marker changed.

Belgium, Denmark, and Norway are generally considered champions of equality and human rights, but they are joined by 20 other European countries which require transpeople to undergo surgeries to remove their reproductive organs (forced sterilization) before gender marker change will be considered.  The Netherlands deleted the requirement just this past December.

In fact, transgender people face an invidious situation in which they have to choose some human rights at the expense of others.  Enjoying all of their human rights is not an option available to them.  The choices are stark.  Obtain documents reflecting their gender, which would ensure their right to private life, or refuse to divorce their partners?  Being acknowledged by the state and enjoying equal recognition before the law, or preserving their reproductive rights by refusing to undergo sterilization?  Forcing such choices on transgender people is contrary to the states’ obligations to ensure that everyone can enjoy human rights without discrimination, including on grounds of gender identity and expression.

--Amnesty International

It is so difficult to live a life where you feel a constant discrepancy between what you are and how others perceive you.

--Hélène, Paris

People generally do not experience and perceive their gender identities according to one standardized pattern.  Transgender people, whose innate sense of their own gender differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, also experience and express their gender identity according to a variety of patterns.  Their perceptions of gender identity may also evolve over time.  Some transgender people identify themselves as fully male or female; others perceive their gender identity in a continuum between the two.  According to a survey undertaken in Belgium, only 55 per cent of those transgender people who were assigned the male sex at birth identified themselves as either fully or mainly female.  Similarly, only 60 per cent of those transgender people who were assigned the female sex perceived themselves as either fully or mainly male.  The rest identified as neither male nor female, both male and female, or “other”.

--Amnesty International

I’ve seen myself as a male since I was four.  I did not even know I was born female until my cousin peed in front of me and I could see the difference in our bodies.  My gender identity was firmly established at that point and has not changed over time.


It’s a bit tricky when it comes to my gender identity.  Intellectually I think a third gender would fit me the best.  I don’t think I belong to either the male or the female gender.  It’s the same with my sexual orientation.  I consider myself as bisexual.  I haven’t been happy with my male body since the age of four.  My family was transphobic and homophobic. I wanted to come out as a trans person but I always thought about the reactions of those who surrounded me.


I am a woman with a trans background.  I perceive myself as a woman who has a little bit of a different history than other women usually do.  When I was a child, I wondered about my anatomy.  I felt puzzled.  When I was with boys, I felt like I was in a foreign country.  I learned to speak the language but I felt I was not originally from there.  I was 26 when I fully realized that I was transgender.


I am a transsexual. I know that it may make people uncomfortable and that there are not many people who define themselves as transsexuals.  I want to undergo genital reassignment surgery, which is important for me in order to live as a woman.  I couldn’t do that with male genital organs.  I have felt I am a female since the age of four or five but it took me many years to come out… I was 48.


The exact number of transgender people living in Europe is impossible to determine.  Estimates which were based on the number of people who have undergone genital surgery or hormone treatment, or the number who have obtained legal gender recognition generally come to approximately 30,000.  Surveys of the population which include gender identity related questions, however, suggest the number is closer to 1.5 million people (0.3% of the general population).

The report documents several incidences of discrimination against transgender people.  Anna was forced to leave school in Greece because of the verbal and physical abuse she was subjected to…including having two students dump gasoline on her and attempt to set her on fire.  L. Cavaliero was sexually harassed by his university professor in Berlin.  Louise's manager outed her to the public after she transitioned at her place of employment…and she was eventually fired.

Legal gender recognition is important because, once and for all, I wouldn’t have to battle with people [for anything] I have a right [to], like social welfare.  Having a legal gender recognition certificate would make these issues easier, instead of fighting every corner, which is what I’ve had to do.  I want to be recognised as who I bloody well am.  It’s ridiculous that the state doesn’t recognize me as who I am.

--Victoria, Dublin

Just how International Human Rights Law applies in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity is outlined in the Yogyakarta Principles, developed in 2006 "in response to well-documented patterns of abuse".
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Human beings of all sexual orientations and gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights.

--Principle 1

Amnesty International performed specific analysis of conditions in Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Norway and to a lesser extent Belgium and Germany.

Recommendations to all governments:

1.  Allow individuals to change their legal name and gender, including the gender markers on official documents issued by the state, through a quick, accessible, and transparent procedure and in accordance with the individual’s sense of gender identity;

2.  Ensure that non-state institutions and bodies put in place quick, accessible and transparent procedures aimed at providing transgender people with documents, such as diplomas or other education certificates, that reflect their gender identity;

3.  Ensure that all information concerning changes of legal name and gender is kept confidential; such information should not generally be accessible to third parties without the explicit consent of the persons concerned;

4.  Remove gender identity from the classification of mental diseases and reclassify aspects relevant to the provision of health care in a non-stigmatizing health category;

5.  Abolish requirements to undergo psychiatric assessment and receive a diagnosis for obtaining legal gender recognition;

6.  Abolish any medical requirement, including surgeries and sterilization, in relation to legal gender recognition;

7.  Abolish any requirement of single status as a prerequisite to obtain legal gender recognition;

8.  Abolish blanket age restrictions to legal gender recognition procedures and ensure that legal recognition is accessible to minors, taking into account the child’s freely expressed views regarding their own best interests, in light of their evolving capacities;

9.  Provide explicit legal protection against discrimination on grounds of gender identity and expression in all areas;

10.  Ensure that gender identity and expression are explicitly included as grounds for prosecution of hate crimes;

11.  Ensure that medical practices, especially the provision of medical care for transgender people, do not perpetuate stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.  Ensure that health treatments are accessible to transgender people on the basis of their informed consent;

12.  Take steps to raise public awareness of transgender identities and the discrimination experienced by transgender people.

Originally posted to TransAction on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Voices on the Square, LGBT Kos Community, and Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Yogyakarta Principles Preamble: (28+ / 0-)
    RECALLING that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

    DISTURBED that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all regions of the world because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, that these experiences are compounded by discrimination on grounds including gender, race, age, religion, disability, health and economic status, and that such violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses, may weaken their sense of self-worth and belonging to their community, and lead many to conceal or suppress their identity and to live lives of fear and invisibility;

    AWARE that historically people have experienced these human rights violations because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual, because of their consensual sexual conduct with persons of the same gender or because they are or are perceived to be transsexual, transgender or intersex or belong to social groups identified in particular societies by sexual orientation or gender identity;

    UNDERSTANDING ‘sexual orientation’ to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender;

    UNDERSTANDING ‘gender identity’ to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms;

    OBSERVING that international human rights law affirms that all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights, that the application of existing human rights entitlements should take account of the specific situations and experiences of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and that in all actions concerning children the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration and a child who is capable of forming personal views has the right to express those views freely, such views being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child;

    NOTING that international human rights law imposes an absolute prohibition of discrimination in regard to the full enjoyment of all human rights, civil, cultural, economic, political and social, that respect for sexual rights, sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to the realisation of equality between men and women and that States must take measures to seek to eliminate prejudices and customs based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of one sex or on stereotyped roles for men and women, and noting further that the international community has recognised the right of persons to decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence;

    RECOGNISING that there is significant value in articulating in a systematic manner international human rights law as applicable to the lives and experiences of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities;

    ACKNOWLEDGING that this articulation must rely on the current state of international human rights law and will require revision on a regular basis in order to take account of developments in that law and its application to the particular lives and experiences of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities over time and in diverse regions and countries;


    PRINCIPLE 1. The Right to the Universal Enjoyment of Human Rights
    PRINCIPLE 2. The Rights to Equality and Non-discrimination
    PRINCIPLE 3. The Right to recognition before the law
    PRINCIPLE 4. The Right to Life
    PRINCIPLE 5. The Right to Security of the Person
    PRINCIPLE 6. The Right to Privacy
    PRINCIPLE 7. The Right to Freedom from Arbitrary deprivation of liberty
    PRINCIPLE 8. The Right to a Fair Trial
    PRINCIPLE 9. The Right to Treatment with Humanity while in Detention
    PRINCIPLE 10. The Right to Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    PRINCIPLE 11. The Right to Protection from all forms of exploitation, sale and trafficking of human beings
    PRINCIPLE 12. The right to Work
    PRINCIPLE 13. The right to social security and to other social protection measures
    PRINCIPLE 14. The right to an adequate standard of living
    PRINCIPLE 15. The Right to Adequate Housing
    PRINCIPLE 16. The Right to Education
    PRINCIPLE 17. The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health
    PRINCIPLE 18. Protection from Medical Abuses
    PRINCIPLE 19. The Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
    PRINCIPLE 20. The Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
    PRINCIPLE 21. The Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
    PRINCIPLE 22. The Right to Freedom of Movement
    PRINCIPLE 23. The Right to seek Asylum
    PRINCIPLE 24. The Right to Found a Family
    PRINCIPLE 25. The Right to participate in public life
    PRINCIPLE 26. The Right to Participate in Cultural Life
    PRINCIPLE 27. The Right to Promote Human Rights
    PRINCIPLE 28. The Right to Effective Remedies and Redress
    PRINCIPLE 29. Accountability


  •  There was a recent controversy on Daily Kos (6+ / 0-)

    about drawing an analogy between the treatment to which trans people have been subjected with things that happened ti victims of the Nazi holocaust. Forced sterilization by the state is right out of the Nazi playbook.

  •  Transgender Recognition (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, rserven

    I preface my comments/thoughts with the note that I don’t know any transgender people, or at least I don’t know if anyone I know is transgendered, so I’ve never had the opportunity to ask this question in a face to face conversation.

    Would transgender folk prefer to simply be recognized as being the gender they identify as, or to have recognition of their transgender status?

    My guess is that this is something that will vary from person to person.

    A relative of mine is a pediatrician. Years ago she told me that legal documents should have five (5) genders instead of two, being male, trans-male, female, trans-female and hermaphrodite.  

    Her view was that if we legally recognized that gender has (at least) five flavors, the general public would start to become more accepting of differences from the standard M or F.

    I suspect that the strategy of demanding official recognition of genuine, identifiable, objective differences (like the 5 genders above) will be more likely to achieve political success than arguments over who is or isn't considered male/female.

    Such an approach would also go some way to reduce people's fixation with what has or hasn't been done to someone's genitals. If you're a transgender woman, you're a transgender woman, regardless of whether you've had surgery affirming that or not.

    To hold to the Olympic "ideal" of excluding politics is to be indifferent to the suffering of other humans - which is itself a political act.

    by HiKa on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 09:14:18 PM PST

    •  I don't think other people should decide that. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven, HiKa, randyhauser

      My gender status is my own business unless I disclose it.  It's not open for discussion or identification outside those parameters.  Having 5 genders rather than 3 (male, female, intersex) or 4 (male, female, intersex, neuter) and forcing people into sub male and female boxes denies that they are who they say they are - it makes them something else.  There may very well be people who are ok with being loud and proud about their journey, but not everyone is - and being labeled for the general public's education is not acceptable in my book.

      I'm so fat! Oh, they're going to love me, I'm so marbled! - Jack LeMans, Bounty Killer

      by Mortifyd on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 12:15:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  AI is a wonderful org. Please support them (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, LakeSuperior, rserven

    So they can continue to protect and enhance the quality of life for all of us in all the ways that they do.

    •  Sometimes guilty of cultural bias (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Giving a free pass to Western countries, but never fundamentally wrong about what they do chose to highlight.

      So yeah, support them by speak out to their leadership which could use some changes in the board or directors.

      No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

      by koNko on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 10:55:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So you think the Board is wrong in supporting (0+ / 0-)

        the transgender community, and want to replace them?  

        •  Did I say that at all? Or anything close? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Please read my comment again, including the part about being fundamentally right about what they chose to focus on.

          What I am saying is they have often been guilty of the sin of omission or having double standards for different societies, particularly when it has come to their annual reports, and their director has been criticized for being a bit biased and running the organization with a personal agenda.

          I'm glad they finally have seen fit to support the trans community.

          I'm glad they have taken on numerous other causes.

          I'm critical of then turning a blind eye toward what they rather not see in their own back yard.

          I think if they had a stronger board, maybe these problems would be solved. An activist board is a good thing whether it's a for profit or non-profit; they ask questions, provide balance and often contribute good ideas that come from objectivity.

          No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

          by koNko on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 11:06:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Happy Birthday Wlliam S. Burroughs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rserven, Oh Mary Oh

    he would have been 103 yesterday.

    His message, his art: do not let the state define who you are. actively work against that bullshit.

    "It is essential that there should be organization of Labor. Capital organizes & therefore Labor must organize" Theodore Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 04:23:11 AM PST

  •  This seems like a reasonable document (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rserven, Calamity Jean

    I am a cisgendered white male (like Piers Morgan) and can't for the life of me imagine how allowing all people to have the same rights and privileges I received by accident takes anything away from me.

    I CAN say that feminism has allowed my wife to be a better, more full person and that is good for me.

    I can say that my best friend, who is a black man, enriches my life in a way that would not have happened 40 or 50 years ago.

    I can say that living in the San Francisco Bay Area and seeing how this city has opened itself up to the LBGT community has enbiggend us all but I haven't identified a down side.

    To Dare is to Do!...Tottenham Hotspur slogan

    by randyhauser on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 04:27:53 PM PST

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