Are the Netherlands about to abolish gender registration?

One might be tempted to think so, following the recent developments. First they liberalise the gender change legislation for trans people. Then the Justice Ministry orders an investigation into the issues with binary gender registration. Now an expert meeting will take place and conservative government party VVD calls for abolition plans to presented next year and next for month a debate is planned. Continue reading

New webinars in June 2015

trans rights are human rights

And so are intersex rights!

Between 16 and 20 June 2015 Vreerwerk will again organise a series of webinars on transgender and intersex developments on the human rights level. We will hold three webinars of two hours on the following themes:

  1. Recent developments in the European trans* and intersex theatre. Where do they stand rights-wise? What can we learn from them to advance our national cause?
  2. How can you use the UN to engage your government? What can we learn from good practices on both trans* and intersex?
  3. How to use the Yogyakarta Principles of human rights on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) issues in national advocacy?

The costs are 89 (incl VAT) euro per webinar, 239 (incl. VAT) for all three.

When interested send an e-mail to vreerwerk@xs4all.nl and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Or fill this form:

Sex and gender domino

April 2015 is for trans* and intersex human rights in Europe a rather fortunate month. On the legal level that is. It still rains trans murders and suicides, not to speak of other atrocities. Which – cynically maybe – show precisely what we need that legislation for.

I want  your attention for two cities in two countries for two different important advances. The first town is Valletta, on Malta. The other is Geneva in Switzerland. And then for two more where no less important stones fell in Oslo, Norway and Strasbourg, France. Continue reading

World Health Day 2015

The United Nations have labelled April 7 World Health Day. A day to pay explicit attention to health issues. Since our focus is trans* and inter*, or differently (and more universally) put: gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, this is what we will look into.

Luxury

For transgender persons, or trans* people, or gender variant/diverse people, having a good health is often a luxury they cannot afford. Because they are not recognized as a group in need of specific health care (or even health care at). In many parts of the world including enlightened Europe, wishing to adapt your body’s sex characteristics is a frowned upon phenomenon. Both the general public and the medical sector may despise you for your needs.

World Health DayInsurance

The next issue is getting the health care covered by insurance. Of the countries that provide health care to relieve the plight of trans* people, most cover maybe the ‘basics’ and then still often on extraneous conditions. These so-called basics are not by definition what the trans* person asks. Because being trans* does not only concern those people who need to ‘switch’ genders for their well-being, but every trans* person who is in need of any health care to increase their well-being with their gendered and sexed body. Some people may need hormone replacement therapy because their natal sex hormones don’t agree with them. Some need to only get rid of (the largest part of) their breasts. And given the choice, the percentage of trans* women that insists in getting rid of their original genitals is not that high. In the Netherlands only 12% of the whole trans* population (estimated at 2 to 3% of the population) decides for medical assistance. Communication from Spain indicates a similar percentage.

Fate

In most countries doctors don’t agree with prescribing hormones or doing surgery upon a patient unless a psychologist has done a thorough assessment of the care user’s mental health and observes the presence of “Gender Identity Disorder” or “Gender Dysphoria”. That process of establishing the diagnosis can easily aggravate the presupposed dysphoria (a word that actually refers to severe depression, and by virtue of that is not a good term). When left to the discretion of a prejudiced medical profession, that has no good understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity (and expression) phenomena, they will try to explain things away, but not legitimize the existence of gender diversity. The higher the level of morals conservatism, the higher the chance trans* people will meet this fate and only can progress medically assisted gender transition with a diagnosis of severe mental disorder.

Standards

Also in the progressive Netherlands you cannot easily enter medically assistance with gender transition. Where the Standards of Care for transgender health care states that informed consent is the way to go, the Amsterdam gender team still insists in a lengthy psychological evaluation and in case you may encounter practical trouble (intensifying ‘dysphoria’, growing life problems for non conforming ..) they may prolong evaluation or when already on HRT, suggest you to lower the dosage. As if that were the issue. Doing so leads to iatrogenic increase of mental instability. Which in turn leads to a decrease of the patient’s health.

Assessment

Another issue that weirdly is coupled to a trans* person’s health, is Legal Gender Recognition and the preconditions for that. In Europe 33 countries require psychological or medical interventions before recognizing a trans* person’s wish to change their gender assignment; 19 still require sterilization and genital realignment. Only two states in the world give the possibility to change one’s gender assignment with no strings attached: Argentina, and Malta. Denmark comes next, but still requires a half-year wait (and being over 18 y.o.). Everywhere else, where there are regulations, psychological assessment is the least invasive requirement, also in the Netherlands. Only two to three countries take trans* people seriously. And only one of these has provisions for a non-male/non-female reassignment.

Malta

Laws and regulations can have an important effect on trans and inter* persons’ well-being. They regulate the conditions for legal gender change, for medical assistance: which interventions are available at all, which ones are insurance funded? For intersex (or inter*, because it can also be an identity and those more ‘intergender’ and the asterisk in both inter* and trans* indicates a vastness in possibilities). Only one state in the whole world, one state out of more than 192 states, prohibits explicitly that sex characteristics get adapted to a social ideal of having genitals clearly distinguishable as male or female. Everywhere but in Malta this is still legal, and standing practice.Human Rights Also for Intersex PeopleProgress

Engaging in these usually non-consensual surgeries is a gross violation of a person’s dignity and personal autonomy. Intersex genital mutilations – usually performed on minors – equals forced sterilisation of women for belonging to the wrong ethnic group (forbidden by the European Human Rights Court en the UN!). When asked a paediatrician they sometimes agree that in the past many errors have been made, but nowadays medical science is so much better that the results are incomparable with the sorry state of technique and results of twenty-five years ago. By using that argument they still deny people their right to bodily autonomy, to decide for themselves about their body. They preclude being OK with those genitals (or gonads or chromosomes), with their body and their life.

Power

The health of a person considered physically or mentally deviant is the explicit object of power play, of medical, psychiatric and legal paternalistic laws and practices. That goes against the most basic rights and that alone already is pretty bad for one’s health.

Redress for lifelong trans discrimination

A Buenos Aires court yesterday recognized the lifelong institutional violence, stigma and discrimination of a 60 year old trans woman in Buenos Aires during all of her life. The judge called it “Existential discrimination”. The woman was granted lifelong living wage as a reparation for all the violence. This is a necessity, because there is no justice without social economic justice being applied.

In the process the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of human rights law to sexual orientation and gender identity have been used extensively. A key role was played by Principle 20 on the right to effective remedies and redress. This elaboration of human rights law goes further than the regular use for legal gender recognition or the right to health and freedom from forced medical interventions. As do human rights in general.

Pink LAvender drawing of a woman looking in a hand mirror

The beneficary wants to stay anonymous. and four other 40-plus women are awaiting the decision in their cases. The case was brought on by the Mesa Nacional por la Igualdad, the Federación Argentina LGBT and the Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales y Transgénero (Attta). It was supported by the LGBT Ombudsoffice of the capital.

This case is the first in its kind to get a positive result. In 2013 Swedish trans people who underwent coerced genital surgery under the old law, tried to sue the state for this but the case got dismissed. They hope to now stand another chance.

This news comes from an e-mail by Mauro Cabral of GATE and an article on Infojus Noticias in Argentina. An update will be provided when there is more news.

Christelijk hoogleraar pleit voor wachten en conversietherapie

Afgelopen zaterdag14 februari 2015 verscheen er een opiniestuk in het Nederlands Dagblad, krant van conservatief christelijke signatuur, over transgenderkinderen. Dat staat bol van de misvattingen. Het stuk zelf is te vinden op nd.nl/opinie. Ik behandel de grootste problemen eruit.

In zijn opinieartikel d.d. 14-2-2015 schrijft professor Boer over transgender en genderdysforie. Daar zitten een aantal misvattingen in.
Als eerste dit: transgender is de identiteit en genderdysforie is de courante medisch-psychiatrische diagnose. Genderdysforie wordt gezien als een complex van aanhoudende klachten, die gepaard gaan met de innerlijke overtuiging niet tot het toegewezen geslacht te behoren en anders te willen leven, veelal in de rol van het andere geslacht. Transgender is ook geen spelen, maar een anders-zíjn. En het is geen stoornis, maar een genderidentiteit. Daarom moet genderdysforie ook verdwijnen uit handboeken als de Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, het handboek van psychologen en psychiaters.
Het idee dat genderdysforie door familiare of ontwikkelingsfactoren beïnvloed wordt, zoals de heer Boer stelt is een verzinsel, een vooroordeel. Conversietherapie waar hij op zinspeelt, is door onder meer de World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) en de American Psychological Association als onmenselijk, onwenselijk en krenkend gekwalificeerd.

Transgender is een genderidentiteitsontwikkeling die, zoals bij iedereen, al jong begint. Sommige mensen weten al met twee-drie jaar dat hun gevoel niet klopt met wat ze om zich heen zien. Veel volwassenen die dat als kind zo hebben ervaren, hebben in de tussentijd veel trauma’s opgelopen doordat ze niet konden zijn wie ze zich ten diepste voelden. Vanuit het idee het beste voor het kind te doen, is het beter wél in te gaan op de wens van het kind tot verandering, dan het te dwingen in een identiteit die het niet heeft en zeker niet door dwang zal verkrijgen.

Over de fuik van een behandeling: juist door open te kunnen zijn over wie men is en zich niet anders te hoeven voordoen (bijv. een homoseksueel leven leiden als idee van dichtst haalbare optie), voorkom je foute keuzes. Het blijkt dat het aantal “spijtoptanten” statistisch niet significant is (<1 procent) en uit onderzoek onder meer dan duizend transgenders door een kliniek in New York die met informed consent werkt, blijkt dat er nul mensen zijn die spijt hebben.

Nederlands dagblad

In tegenstelling tot wat de heer Boer suggereert, draait het helemaal niet om de medische behandeling. Om de mens te kunnen worden die je je voelt, hoef je alleen maar des stappen te zetten die jij voelt. Daarbij hoort veelal een wijziging van het juridische geslacht ter (betere) reflectie van de beleefde identiteit. En soms ook medische interventies, waartoe hormoonbehandeling behoort en eventueel operaties. Maar dit alles is niet wat de trans-persoon tot de man, vrouw of anderszins gegenderde persoon maakt die men zich voelt. De beleving van de gevoelde identiteit erkend krijgen is een mensenrecht. En zowel het gedwongen worden tot medische interventies teneinde het lichaam aan te passen omdat de wet dit vraagt (in Nederland gebeurt dit gelukkig niet meer), als het niet kunnen aanpassen van het lichaam, zijn schendingen van de mensenrechten. Internationale verdragen stellen duidelijk dat men het recht heeft op erkenning voor de wet en dat ongewenste medische interventies gelijk staan aan wrede en ongebruikelijke behandeling.

Juist omdat de hormoonbehandeling en de eventuele operaties niet de kern van een transitie zijn, worden pubers helemaal niet geopereerd. In plaats daarvan krijgen zij puberteitsremmers aangeboden zodat ze in alle rust kunnen nadenken over wat zij met hun toekomst willen. Het kenmerk van de puberteitsremmers is juist dat er niets onomkeerbaars gebeurt. Met zijn brief zet de heer Boer de lezers van uw krant dan ook op het verkeerde been: hij suggereert dingen die gewoonweg niet gebeuren.
Ik hoop vurig dat degenen die naar de heer Boer zijn verwezen een hulpverlener vinden die meer respect heeft voor hun identiteit.

J. Vreer Verkerke
bestuurslid Transgender Europe
mede-oprichter Transgender Netwerk Nederland