In October 2016, France scrapped its transgender sterilisation law; a law which stated that anyone wanting to legally change their gender had to undergo obligatory sterilisation. My reaction, to put it simply, was ‘WTF?!’ (and I’m sure many of you echo my sentiment). Apparently, this barbaric law was introduced as a way of proving transgender people were serious about transitioning. Because of course there must be hundreds of people agonisingly waiting months to go through gender reassignment surgery and legally change their gender for a ‘joke’.
As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, France isn’t the only country guilty of enforcing this law. A study in 2013 found that nearly two dozen European countries imposed obligatory sterilisation, including Finland, Russia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland – and it used to be a law in the UK too.
This is something you’d expect to have been gotten rid of in the 20th Century, but it’s surprising how many out-dated and frankly sickening laws targeting the LGBT community have managed to ‘slip through the net’. For example, people still report being prescribed ‘gay cure’ therapies when consulting the NHS, despite them having been widely criticised and condemned. In terms of the sterilisation law, health services are essentially forcing transgender individuals to choose between living as themselves or having a biological family, which, to be blunt, is pretty fucked up.
On a more positive note, the scrapping of this law is a slow but significant move towards wider societal acceptance of transgender issues. LGBT organisations have praised the decision, although recognising that in most countries transgender individuals still have to consult a court before being able to legally change their gender. There has been a push for more countries to follow in the footsteps of Denmark, Malta, and Ireland, where anyone wanting to change their gender no longer has to gain any kind of medical or judicial permission (an approach advocated by the Council of Europe). Here’s hoping that France’s decision will provide the necessary push to finally rid Europe of this discriminatory and backwards law.
[Katie Fannin –@katfnan]
Image of the Gay Pride Parade in Bordeaux, credit Jean Pierre Muller, AFP