Although the fight for justice and equality for Trans individuals is still in its early stages, much progress has been made since last Transgender Day of Visibility (TdoV). Today, we recognise some of the wonderful work being done by trans advocates and their allies – and the amazing changes being seen all across the world.
In Europe, 17 countries signed a letter of intent on IDAHOT 2014 to improve LGBTI rights in Europe, including better legal gender recognition procedures. In the wake of this, the European Transgender network TGEU continued to work with activists and policy makers across Europe, making concrete progress towards improving national gender recognition legislations including for example in Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, the Czech Republic and Malta.
European institutions also initiated several actions in this respect: The Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU published its first ever report specifically on the situation of trans people in Europe, and the EU Council also held its first ever debate on LGBTI rights.
On the judicial front, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that sterilisation cannot be a prerequisite to gender reassignment after an existing Turkish law came under fire by trans advocates.
At country level, much progress was seen in Europe during these last 12 months :
In Sweden a court ruled that it was illegal to demand a mental health diagnosis from trans people as a requirement for legal gender recognition.
While in Norway the government outlawed forced sterilization as a requirement for legal gender recognition, in Ireland, a settlement between the Irish government and a trans woman helped bring new gender recognition into law.
It is Denmark however which passed Europe’s most progressive gender-recognition legislation, based solely on the self-determination of trans people alone.
Although it happened shortly before last TDoV and does not exactly fall into this 12-months retrospective, let’s also mention that Malta became the first country in Europe to include gender identity as a protected ground in its constitution.
In other world regions too, progress was visible:
Forced sterilization of Trans people as prerequisite for officially recognition of their real gender strongly came under fire in North America: In Canada a transgender 12-year-old in Alberta has been awarded a new birth certificate, marking the first recognition of a trans person in the province without surgery. As the American Medical Association issued a recommendation towards this, New York City transgender New Yorkers can now adjust gender on their birth certificates without undergoing surgery.
At international level, the WHO also issued a report condemning forced sterilization of Trans people as part of the protocol to get their gender recognised officially.
In Argentina, a trans woman was awareded financial reparations for “existential discrimination”, in a landmark court case ruling that has helped open the debate on trans issues in the country.
Even in very homophobic and Transphobic settings, some timid light has begun to shine:
Turkey saw its first transgender beauty pageant in Istanbul as part of the weeklong celebration of Pride. The event, which celebreated trans, intersex and gender non-conforming identities, helped to raise funds for local LGBTI support groups, whilst also promoting the idea of alternative beauty standards.
A Transgender activist in Kenya won a landmark case this month when the High Court ordered the Kenya National Examinations Council to change her name on her academic certificates after the council failed to recognise her gender identity.
A bittersweet victory was also seen in Russia – where a transphobic bill that would have banned trans individuals from driving failed to be passed into law.
These past 12 months have been particularly eventful in India, where a census found that India was home to half a million self-identified Trans people. The Supreme Court has issued a landmark verdict creating a new category that allows transgender people to identify themselves as such on official documents. Also in India, for the first time ever an openly-transgender candidate won a mayoral election. While an Indian news network appointed the country’s first transgender news anchor. And in the capital city of Delhi, city authorities have declared the inclusion of transgender children in schools across the capital of India as a priority.
But good news was not just seen in law and politics.
As the discussion of trans issues continued to grow, the representation of trans individuals in the mainstream media became a key issue in 2014 and 2015. Many of us will of course immediately think of US transgender activist and actress Laverne Cox featured on the cover of TIME magazine in May.
Several films and TV series included trans characters which helped open further the discussion of trans visibility in the mainstream.
In the UK long-running soap opera Eastenders has included a Trans character in its storyline. While in America “Transparent”, Amazon’s series about a transgender woman coming out to her family, was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
Austrian singer Conchita Wurst has continued to make global headlines. The gender non-conforming star has been heralded as a wonderful advocate by many and has helped open the discussion on gender issues.
Corporations, which have so far been incredibly shy, to say the least, on Trans rights, are beginning to wake up:
American social media giant Facebook also supported positive progress after it began to allow users to self-define their gender identity, and also gave them the ability to control the audience with whom they share their custom gender (though Facebook still violates Trans rights by not allowing them to change to their preferred name).
Another American company, the Planet Fitness Gym, also demonstrated that even businesses can be positive advocates for trans issues after they revoked the membership of a woman who complained about trans women using female changing rooms.
Sign of the time, Transgender people were mentioned for the first time in US History by President Obama in a State of the Union speech.
Change and acceptance is growing across the world. But on this day it is also important also to remember the sad losses faced by the trans community. As well as celebrating we must also honour the memories of individuals such as Blake Brockington, Leelah Alcorn, and the countless other unnamed individuals whose deaths did not garner media attention.
Let us celebrate this day, so that deaths such as these are never again the only way to raise visibility!