Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trans Rights Go Global

Trans Rights Go Global

(Gay City News, Friday, June 12, 20009)

May was an historic month for the transgendered around the world.The issue of transphobia was inscribed on the global LGBT agenda thanks to new initiatives from the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The effort includes a global petition campaign in favor of rights for the transgendered aimed at the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and governments around the world, which has already resulted in major changes in the status of the gender-variant citizens of several countries.These initiatives came from the fertile mind of the brilliant French academic Louis-Georges Tin, president of the Paris-based International Committee for IDAHO, which he founded.

Tin is the father of the Declaration to the United Nations in favor of the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, which has already been signed by the governments of 66 nations, including the Obama administration. The declaration was presented to the United Nations General Assembly last December (see this reporter’s Mar. 20-Apr.1, 2009 article, “U.S. Joins Global Gay Effort,” and his Dec. 24, 2008-Jan. 7, 2009 article, “An Historic Day at the UN.")Tin, who is also a star of the emerging French black civil rights movement, hopes to repeat the success of the UN decriminalization declaration with IDAHO’s global transgender position. “In 2010, the World Health Organization is to conduct a review of its list of mental disorders,”

Tin told Gay City News by telephone from Paris. “That’s why this year we changed the name of IDAHO to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and launched our global online petition campaign for transgender rights.”The new petition, entitled “Reject Transphobia, Respect Gender Identity,” includes a call for the WHO to stop considering trans people as mentally disordered; for the UN’s human rights bodies to examine the human rights abuses they face around the world; and for governments to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles in favor of LGBT rights.

The declaration also seeks to insure that transgendered people benefit from health care, including the right to gender reassignment if they wish it, and the right to adapt their civil status to their preferred gender. (See below for the complete text of this petition.)IDAHO is celebrated every year in more than 60 countries around the world on May 17, the anniversary of the day in 1993 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

“The gay movement owes an enormous debt to the transgendered, because we must not forget that transgenders, transvestites, and other gender dissidents were in the forefront at Stonewall and have greatly contributed to our movements since,” Tin said. The IDAHO president also reported that there were a lot of negative reactions to IDAHO’s decision to adopt transdender rights as its theme this year.“Sometimes it’s been a very violent reaction,”

Tin said, adding: “A journalist who’s the specialist in LGBT questions for one major French media outlet practically reproached me for having chosen this theme because, she told me, ‘When I raised it in our editorial meeting, everyone laughed, and while I can write about homophobia, if I write about transphobia they’re going to kill my article.’ I responded that while this was going on, transphobia is killing transsexuals. We need to emphasize transphobic violence, because today murders of the transgendered are too often treated the way murders of homosexuals were treated 15 or 20 years ago, as obscure crimes without motivations or only minimal references to the gender status of those killed, so the victims die and the witnesses to their deaths are afraid to speak.”

However, the IDAHO transgender rights petition has already won concrete results in France and the Netherlands. After a year-long lobbying campaign led by Tin, last year the French government officially endorsed IDAHO and agreed to use its six-month term in the rotating presidency of the European Union last year to launch the campaign for the UN declaration on decriminalization of homosexuality. (See this reporter’s May 22-28, 2008 article, “France Fights for Decriminalization” ).

This year, IDAHO’s petition for transgender rights was published in full in France’s newspaper of record, Le Monde, with the signatures of a host of VIPs, among them Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and Jacques Delors, former president of the European Union’s governing commission; and writers, academics and scientists, and including two winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professors Luc Montaigner and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, honored for their work in the discovery of the HIV virus.

To underscore its support for this year’s IDAHO events, on the eve of May 17 the French government officially announced it would no longer classify transgender identity and expression as a mental disorder, becoming the first government to take that action. French Minister of Health Roselyne Bachelot announced on May 16 that she had directed the country’s Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS, or High Authority for Health) to execute this change in policy.At the same time, in the Netherlands, at a May 15 conference on LGBT rights sponsored by the Dutch Parliament in connection with IDAHO, the country’s minister for Foreign Affairs, Maxime Verhagen, announced that the government would end the legal requirement that transgendered people must first undergo gender reassignment surgery before obtaining new government identity documents.

Verhagen acknowledged that existing Dutch law violated Principle 18 of the Yogyakarta Principles, the right to be protected from medical abuses.“These breakthrough victories in France and the Netherlands show that we can achieve our goals,” IDAHO’s Tin told Gay City News. The IDAHO petition for transgender rights has already been signed by more than 300 organizations from 75 countries, “a majority of which are from the global South — Africa, Latin America, and South Asia,” Tin said. In another first, the petition has been endorsed by seven organizations from China.Also for the first time, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, under its new executive director Rae Carey, broke its long refusal to engage in international LGBT solidarity actions by endorsing the IDAHO transgender petition.

Other U.S. organizations supporting this petition include Soulforce, Equality Nevada, the Durham Gender Alliance in North Carolina, and the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, NYAGRA. Still, support in the US for IDAHO remains remarkably sparse, and the largest US LGBT organization, the Human Rights Campaign, continues to boycott IDAHO and has failed to endorse its transgender rights petition.

In contrast, IDAHO has been officially endorsed by the European Union, which represents 27 countries, as well as by individual governments like those of the United Kingdom — where LGBT organizations staged more than 80 separate IDAHO events this year on May 17— Costa Rica, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and, of course, France.For more information on IDAHO and its global online petition campaign for transgender rights, click on Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at

IDAHO’S TRANSGENDER RIGHTS DECLARATION:Reject Transphobia, Respect Gender Identity: An Appeal to the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the States of the WorldEvery day, people who live at variance to expected gender norms face violence, abuse, rape, torture, and hate crime all over the world, in their home as well as in the public arena. Though most cases of violence never get documented, we know that in the first weeks of 2009 alone, Trans women have been murdered in Honduras, Serbia, and in the USA. Trans men are equally victims of hate crimes, prejudice, and discrimination despite their frequent social and cultural invisibility.The basic human rights of Trans people are being ignored or denied in all nations — be it out of ignorance, prejudice, fear, or hate, and Trans people overwhelmingly face daily discrimination, which results in social exclusion, poverty, poor health care, and little prospects of appropriate employment.

Far from protecting Trans citizens, States and International bodies reinforce social transphobia through short-sighted negligence or reactionary politics:Because of the failure of national law and social justice, in far too many States Trans people are being forced to live a gender which they experience as fundamentally wrong for them. In most countries, any attempt to change one’s gender can lead to legal sanctions, brutal mistreatment, and social stigma.In other countries, legal recognition of gender change is subject to sterilization or other major surgical intervention. Trans people who cannot or do not wish to submit to this cannot obtain legal recognition of their preferred gender, and are forced to “come out” whenever they cross a border, run into a police patrol, apply for a new job, move into a new home, or simply want to buy a mobile phone.

Contributing factors include that current International health classifications still consider all Trans people as mentally “disordered.” This outdated vision is insulting and incorrect and is used to justify daily discrimination and stigmatization in all aspects of Trans people’s lives.Recently though in some countries with very different social and cultural contexts significant legal advances have been made. Following in the wake of bold judicial decisions, State action has led to increased acceptance of Trans people within their society. This demonstrates that understanding and progress is possible.Currently Trans people everywhere in the world rise up to reclaim their human rights and freedom.

They carry an unanimous message that they will no longer accept to be labeled sick or treated as non-human beings on the basis of their gender identity and gender expression (such as transvestite, transsexual, transgender, and other cultural identities related to cross-gender dressing and living).This is why we ask:The WHO. to stop considering Trans people as mentally disordered and to promote access to adequate health care and psychological support, as desired by Trans people.

The United Nations Human Rights bodies to examine the human rights abuses that Trans people face around the world and to take action to combat these abuses.The States of the World to adopt the international Yogyakarta Principles and ensure that all Trans people benefit from appropriate health care, including gender reassignment if they so wish; be allowed to adapt their civil status to their preferred gender; live their social, family, or professional lives without being exposed to transphobic discrimination, prejudice, or hate crimes and that they are protected by the police and justice systems from physical and non-physical violence.

We call on the UN, the WHO, and the nations of the world, in adopting these measures, to refuse transphobia and welcome the right of their citizens to live fully and freely in their preferred gender, assumed as an expression of cultural freedom.You can sign this online petition by clicking on

For background, see these earlier stories in GCN on this subject:
Going Global on Gay RightsThe United Nations at the FulcrumBold Move for U.N. ActionCataloguing the OppressionTell Obama, Clinton: Act Now for UN DecriminalizationMarking A Year Since Iran Hangings

No comments: