“Transgender persons encounter severe problems in their daily lives as their identity is met with insensitivity, prejudice or outright rejection” says Commissioner Hammarberg [the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights] in his latest Viewpoint.
Analysing the various difficulties transgender people face, the Commissioner underlines that “they are discriminated against in all member states, in areas such as employment, health care and housing”.
He concludes calling on member states to “take all necessary concrete action to ensure that transphobia is stopped and that transgender persons are no longer discriminated against in any field.”
Really, I think the whole statement is well worth taking the time and trouble to read and think about – the Commissioner’s full statement is available on the Council of Europe’s website (link here) – but here are a few quotes that particularly struck a chord with me:
Some people seem to have a problem with the mere existence of human beings whose outer expression of their inner gender identity is not the same as their gender determined at birth. Aggression against transgender persons cannot however be excused as resulting from ignorance or lack of education.
I have been struck by the lack of knowledge about the human rights issues at stake for transgender persons, even among political decision-makers. This is probably the reason why more has not been done to address transphobia and discrimination based on gender identity.
To require surgery as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of one’s gender identity ignores the fact that such operations are not always desired, medically possible, available, and affordable (without public or other funding). It is estimated that only 10% of transgender persons in Europe actually undergo gender reassignment surgery.
Even access to ordinary health care is a problem for transgender people. The lack of trained staff familiar with the specific health care needs of transgender persons – or simply prejudice towards transgender people – render them vulnerable to unpredictable and sometimes hostile reactions.