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Julia Ehrt at the UN panel
ILGA Panel at 2nd UNCHR Session

in WORLD, 29/11/2006

Transgender identities & the European TransGender Network

Dear ladies, gentlemen, trans- and all other genders,

I want to give a very brief introduction on transgender identities. Before I do that, I would like to emphasise that there is no definition of trans-identities everybody in the whole world would agree on. Even on a national level there are discussions about what the appropriate terminology is. So, if I speak of transgender people, I use this word as an umbrella term for a whole bunch of people with possibly very different concepts of gender and different identities. What they all share is that a transgender person is someone who is not living in the gender or sex he or she was assigned at birth.

Click here to listen to the speech or copy the link at the bottom of this page onto a new window.

So, every baby gets a gender assigned at birth. Unfortunately, there are basically everywhere only two options: male or female (which causes a lot of problems for intersexual babies, but I cannot address this issue because of time limitations).

And, if a male-classified person does not go on living in the male gender, then this person is a transgender.
There are again several possibilities of what this can mean:

1. The person could completely change his or her gender and sex and could go on living in the female gender completely. This would include taking female hormones and/or undergoing sex reassignment surgery to some extent -->Transsexual
2. The person could cross dress - all the time or only from time to time --> Cross dresser/transvestite (which has nothing to do with sexual arousal in this case)
3. The person could live in between the genders, trying to live as neither male nor female - or as both.

As this was an extremely brief description of trans-identities, I want to emphasise that this is all a question of identities, not bodies. And one key point to this is the thought that the body and the gender identity are not necessarily related.

Basically this comes down to the fact that there are male people who do have breasts and female people who have penises. And this is not a matter of belief, but a fact for many people every single day.

In the second part of my talk I would like to introduce the organisation I am representing, The European Transgender Network, and briefly speak about our main concern on Transgender rights.

More than 120 transgender activists from 21 European countries representing 66 different local organisations met last year in November in Vienna for the first European TransGender Council on Civil and Political Rights. It was the first such event. Considering the great number of activists, everybody agreed that it is about time to form an European transgender organisation to exchange experience, to learn from each other, to formulate common demands and to put TG rights on international and European political agendas.

This is how the European TransGender Network started.
The basis of our political demands was a voting process on more than 60 demands held on the last day of the Council. I will present only four out of the ten most prominent demands that were all supported by more than 90% of the activists:

1) Free choice of first names regardless of sex, gender or gender role explanation: Most states require that your sex indication and your first name have
the same gender, which is obviously a problem for TG people
2) Full state recognition of the individual’s chosen gender/sex explanation: only a few countries have legislation for that at all
3) Sterilisation shall not be a prerequisite for change of gender status. explanation: Most countries that have legislation - believe it or not - have this condition as a prerequisite!
If I want to be officially addressed as Ms. Julia Ehrt I had to prove sterility. And I am on the lucky side, because my country has trans legislation!
4) Anti-discrimination for all transgender persons and protection against hate
Explanation: Discrimination of TG people is a severe problem in every country in this world. And discrimination on grounds of gender expression has to be included in anti-discrimination legislation

Finally I would like to make a comment on the word emerging in the title of this panel – “Transgender: An emerging human rights issue” It might lead to the conclusion that the whole Transgender issue is a new phenomenon. But in fact it is not; it has been there for a long time.
However, it was pushed out of sight and into the closet for years, decades, maybe even centuries. And it is about time to address this - worldwide.

Thank you for your attention.

Julia Ehrt
European Transgender Network

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