Humans have a need to define everything in black or white. If you happen to be red or blue, you simply don´t fit in this system. The problem is, that the world is not meant for a system like that. There are plenty of examples, gender identification being just one of them.
As the awareness of the natural variety of sexual preferences grows, transgender people are still seen as freaks, weirdoes and even as entertainment for much of society. This causes hate crime, discrimination, casting out of families and other social groups and makes it difficult for many trans people to live a happy life.
If someone feels like a man, he should be considered a man, allowed to wear the preferred-gender clothes and use a name that responds to his identity just like other men do. If someone feels like a woman, she should have the same rights as other women. The laws are unfortunately on a different side. In many EU countries, the process of changing your name and sex in your documents is full of obstacles. You may even be forced to undergo sex reassignment surgery, sterilization and psychological evaluation.
Even more, transgender people are forced to experience discrimination and humiliation also in everyday aspects, that for you and me are so trivial, that we hardly think of them. For example, using bathrooms. Gender-divided bathrooms are places, where a lot of transgender people have to endure mean disgusted looks and often verbal or physical abuse.
Arguments for this kind of abuse are absurd. People say, that when transwomen use women’s bathroom, they pose a threat for other women and children, or can´t keep the bathroom clean enough. For transmen, using men’s bathroom holds another threat, the threat of being physically abused. I think no further examples are needed. Just take a few minutes and think about that.
Another thing transgender people have to face, is having to use a name they don´t identify with. This goes much further than just contacts between people. If your ID card or drivers license has the photo and name of a person of another sex, you are forced to not only ‘come out’, but also constantly to explain and prove that you are who you claim to be.
Only in 8 countries in the EU, changing ones name is possible without medical evaluation. In most countries it is impossible to juridically change your name into a name of another gender – unless you have had sex reassignment surgery and/or hormonal treatment. It is an exhausting and time consuming process, that not only is not what all transgender people want, but is financially impossible for many of them.
A Transgender Euro study surveying the healthcare experiences of transgender persons in the EU found that 80% of transgender people were refused state funding for hormone treatments, and 86% of transgender persons in the EU are refused state funding for surgery to change their sex. This means that most transgender people have to pay for themselves if they chose to undergo gender reassignment.
In most EU countries, it is possible for a transgender person to marry a person of another sex after the reassignment. However, in all EU countries except for Lithuania and the Netherlands, transgender people are obliged to divorce from their previous life partner before having their gender officially recognized.
On the International Day of Trans Visibility, take some time and consider, what makes a person a person? Is the gender your friend or colleague was born with more important than the way they feel, act and think? We are all part of the same society and we all face our own problems in our everyday life. Let´s not make the struggle harder for people who are different from us just because their decisions are difficult to understand.
Talvike Mändla is an Estonian graduate with a degree in Special Education. She is currently volunteering on a one-year placement in Zugdidi, Georgia. You can read more of here work on her blog.
For more on Trans Day of Visibility click here.