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Europe: Transgender people must make 'odious' decision for legal recognition, Amnesty warns in new report

Transgender people across Europe are being forced to decide between undergoing a raft of degrading measures to have their gender legally recognised and living with a gender based on the sex they were assigned at birth – even if that contradicts their appearance and identity, Amnesty International warns in a report out today.

The report, entitled The state decides who I am: lack of legal recognition for transgender people in Europe (PDF), focuses on seven countries and explores how transgender people across Europe can often only have their new gender legally recognised if they are: 

  • diagnosed with a mental disorder
  • agree to undergo hormone treatments and surgery resulting in irreversible sterilisation
  • can prove they are single.

It highlights how procedures to obtain legal gender recognition violate fundamental human rights in Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Belgium and Germany. In Ireland, no procedure exists at all, though legislation in this area is planned.

It is estimated that there could be as many as 1.5 million transgender people in the European Union.

Marco Perolini, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination said:

“Many transgender people have to overcome enormous difficulties in coming to terms with their identity, and problems are often compounded by blatant state discrimination.

“People have to make an odious decision – either they allow themselves to be subjected to a raft of degrading steps and measures at the behest of the state or they are forced to continue to live with a gender based on the sex they were assigned at birth – even if that contradicts their appearance and identity.
“States must ensure that transgender people can obtain legal recognition of their gender through a quick, accessible and transparent procedure in accordance with the individual’s own sense of their gender identity.”

Legal gender recognition is key for the enjoyment of human rights by transgender people. Transgender people are at risk of being discriminated against whenever they have to produce documents mentioning a name or gender-related information that do not reflect their gender identity and expression.

Case study

Victoria, a transgender woman living in Dublin, told Amnesty: “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. I want to be recognised as who I bloody well am. It’s ridiculous that the state doesn’t recognise me as who I am.”   

See also:
Europe: Denied identities: Cases of transgender people
Transgender people in Europe: Questions and Answers

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'The State decides who I am'