Posted on 30. November 2010 in Law, discrimination & human rights



EU Agency report confirms for Trans people in the EU:
A life in dignity and free from discrimination? Not there yet!


The Fundamental Rights Agency publishes today its updated study on the legal situation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people in the European Union: Homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity[1]. The report, as a novelty highlights in the title explicitly Transphobia and gender identity, paints a gloomy picture for trans people.


All EU countries require for legal gender recognition a ‘medical opinion’ aka mental diagnosis, 17 member states demand sterilization. In 15 countries transgender people are not (clearly) protected from discrimination (in breach of EU law). This and the invisibility of trans issues in public awareness campaigns of public and national equality  bodies is appalling: 79% of trans people in the EU experience some form of harassment in public ranging from transphobic comments to physical or sexual abuse.


Legal Gender Recognition

The presented overview of the requirements for legal gender recognition gives a glimpse of the great personal cost people have to take upon themselves to have their documents changed in the EU: It revieles once more that what should be a simply administrative process is a medical and legal limbo as all EU countries require a so called ‘medical opinion’. The requirement to be diagnosed with a mental condition is a humiliating and degrading process for many. Human Rights defenders worldwide demand a stop to a pathologization of an entire social group as this state-sanctioned stigmatization fuels into discrimination and hatred faced by trans people on a daily basis. As the Human Rights Commissioner states: From a human rights and health care perspective no mental disorder needs to be diagnosed in order to give access to treatment for a condition in need of medical care.  Furthermore, 17 EU-countries demand genital surgery leading to sterilization, 9 countries require a divorce, in 9 countries  a ‘real-life-test’ is mandatory – demanding from a person already having lived for a time-period in the preferred gender, often without any supporting documents inviting in discrimination and harassment.



EU law and 17 EU countries view transsexuals to be covered under anti-discrimination legislation. The FRA had already in its 2008 report pointed out that there is there is no reason not to extend the protection from discrimination beyond transsexuals, to cover ‘cross dressers, and transvestites, people who live permanently in the gender ‘opposite’ to that on their birth certificate without any medical intervention and all those people who simply wish to present their gender differently’.


Clearly more needs to be done in this direction, to enable all trans people to know and claim their rights. This starts with the pro-active inclusion of transgender issues in the mandate of national equality bodies and reaching out to strengthen local trans communities. The report shows once more that a long road is ahead to achieve true equality for trans people. But, without comparative data it will be even more difficult to find holistic solutions improving the living situation of trans people sustainably.


The report together with background information is available online at


[1] The comparative report updates and complements the FRA study Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU Member States Part I – Legal Analysis of June 2008. The update follows a request by the European Parliament to look into the fundamental rights situation of LGBT persons in the EU.