December 7, 2012

IconWhere’s the T in LGBT rights?

Last week Carrie Lyell wrote a piece about the release of a gender-neutral toy catalogue in Sweden, just one of a number of gender cleansing actions inviting us to consider emigration there. But while it seems that the Swedish government and society are taking steps to obliterate distinctions between the sexes, if your transgender, it’s a complete no go.


Looks pretty radical, doesn't it?


To have your gender legally recognized in Sweden you must undergo sterilization, which involves all reproductive materials being destroyed. No biological children, losing the ability to carry a child and forced to coincide with a gender binary – all to allow you to have correct documentation. What’ so important about correct documents, you might ask?  Well, without them it’s a struggle to go through airport security, to apply or graduate from university, to get health insurance, and a whole host of other mundane activities without having to come out or be refused every time you do so.

Sweden’s not alone

One of 17 other European countries to abide by this draconian law, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands join those that force surgery for document changes. Further afield in Canada the Identity Screening Regulations state that airlines should not transport a passenger if he or she ”does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.” Therefore, if you want to travel in or out of Canada as a trans person, you could face big difficulty. What’s more, in Brazil, an image must be provided to the Government with full body photographic proof of  the transition for documents to be changed.


Where can I be me? (Image via Mother Jones)

Common Protocol

If that weren’t bad enough, common protocol in many other nations involves providing proof of major medical procedures like sex reassignment surgery; hormone replacement therapy; a diagnosis of gender dysphoria; or permission by the courts. Gender dysphoria, for anyone that doesn’t know, is “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/ expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration”, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It’s considered a mental illness and usually has to be diagnosed before essential hormone treatment can be accessed.

Josie, an 8 year old transgender girl on the Tyra show.

The laws are no different for children and for many trangender kids, including Irish, they must travel across borders for treatment. Most transgender people I know identified as trans from the age of five or six and had to wait until their late thirties and forties to acquire treatment. Indeed, in Ireland a bill is in formation which would require transgender couples to divorce to have their gender legally recognized.

Argentina lights the way

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Argentina is lighting the way in gender recognition legislation. Passed in May, their bill allows for self-determination i.e. no diagnosis of a mental illness and requires no proof of surgery or hormone therapy. For transgender people who have no desire for surgery or hormones, or who because of health problems can’t safely undergo surgery or hormone therapy, this is a big deal. Plus, many transgender people don’t associate with having a dysphoria and so are forced into appearing ‘trans enough’ to access treatment and documentation.

For a country that appears so advanced it’s in the future on gender recognition, Sweden has a long way to go. Nobody should be forced into surgery to be recognized as who they are.

1 Response to Where’s the T in LGBT rights?

  1. Maya says:

    The sterilisation requirements have recently been dropped in Sweden, so they are making progress. But I do know women who’ve been on the receiving end of that policy.

    In Ontario Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has recently ruled it stigmatising to require surgery in order to change documentation (although some worked around the problem with breast augmentation as that was considered enough “transsexual surgery”) and now anyone born in that province can get a gender correct birth certificate issued for a nominal fee, a letter from your doctor or psych, and 6-8 weeks.

    Passport Canada will allow you to apply for a passport with the appropriate gender marker (and they are even debating allowing ‘X’ or unspecified for gender), so long as you tick a box on an obscure form stating you acknowledge this may cause problems for you. Actually, you’re more likely to have problems the other way around…

    The Transport Canada visual gender identity regulation is still absurd. And the reason that every Canadian should ask for an ‘X’ as their gender marker in their passport.

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