The 5th European Transgender Council “Trans*: Safe & Equal!” took place from May 1-4 2014 in Budapest. 200 delegates met to discuss, strategize and network over how to improve safety and equality for trans people.

The Council was launched with a meet & greet event with representatives of the Dutch, US, Norwegian and Finnish  embassies and with keynote speeches by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the Maltese Minister of Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Helena Dalli.

The UN High Commissioner delivered her first ever speech focusing specifically on the violations of the human rights of trans people. Addressing European governments, she highlighted that forced sterilisation is widely required throughout the continent and that urgent steps have to be taken:“States should ban discrimination on grounds of gender identity and should make it easier to obtain legal gender recognition of their gender identity. They should ensure that violence against transgender people is properly recorded and investigated and they should sensitize public officials and educate people”. Pillay added: “Our message is loud and clear: trans and gender-variant people are entitled to no more and no less rights than anybody else. The United Nations stands with you!”

Speaking after Pillay, Helena Dali declared that she aspires to make Malta a world-leader in trans equality. She told delegates: “We are doing what is right, what should have been done a long time ago. There should
not be such a thing as second class citizenship – not for trans people, not for anyone.”

The opening events were followed by the first panel discussion, on “Legal gender recognition – Ways forward!”, during which the changing European landscape on legal gender recognition and opportunities and tools for further advocacy efforts were discussed with representatives from trans and human rights organisations and the Maltese government.

Two other panels followed later on, one on “Healing the Wounds – Protection and Support for Transgender Survivors of Violence and Crime” and one on “Next Stop Equality – Towards Trans Persons’ Full Rights”. These panels discussed mechanisms and promising practices to protect trans people from violence and crime, and how trans people and communities can respond to discrimination and demand their full rights, respectively. Panellists included trans and human rights activists, representatives of the European Commission and the Council of Europe, as well as national policy makers.

In addition, 22 workshops were held, covering a wide range of topics, such as advocacy tools and strategies for legal gender recognition; wellbeing of activists; trans people in education; monitoring and documenting violence against trans people; developing, monitoring and evaluating projects; community building; depathologisation of trans identities; anti-discrimination legislation; trans people and employment; advocacy at UN mechanisms; trans youth and students; trans people’s access to domestic violence refuges; sex workers’ rights; EU law on gender identity, expression and reassignment; how to work with multiple forms of discrimination; online trans communities; trans mental health; and reclaiming bodies through pleasure.

In addition, various self-organised spaces took place and regional caucuses for Russian-speaking, Scandinavian, Balkan-based and Central-Eastern European activists were held.

Prior and during the Council, TGEU held separate meetings and workshops for participants of the ProTrans, EqualTrans, including the Access All Areas! Campaign, and Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT) projects. The later ensured representation of some trans communities from outside of Europe.

The Council came to a close with the General Assembly of TGEU’s members. During the Assembly, the move of TGEU’s legal seat from Austria to Germany was completed. At this occasion, Eva Fels from Vienna, as representative for all those who started TGEU back in 2005, received a standing ovation. The Assembly also elected TGEU’s board for 2014-2016, including Alecs Recher (Switzerland), former TGEU secretary, and Arja Voipio (Finland), former TGEU treasurer, as the two new Co-Chairs, and said goodbye to the leaving co-chair Wiktor Dynarski (Poland) with a long applause.

Other members voted onto the Steering Committe are Arian Kajtezovic (Croatia), Jùlia Mendes Pereira (Portugal), Kemal Aysu Ordek (Turkey), Kristian Randelović (Serbia), Krisztina/Kolos Orban (Hungary), Stein Wolff Frydenlund (Norway) and Vreer Verkerke (Netherlands). The newly elected co-chairs appointed Arian Kajtezovic as secretary and Krisztina Kolos Orban as treasurer. Katherine Burrows (UK) and Kira Selin (Finland) were elected as internal auditors.

The General Assembly also approved TGEU’s new Intersex Policy and Strategic Plan 2014-2016.
These votes was followed by a lively and constructive discussion on the future strategic direction of TGEU and the trans movement on the question of introducing non-binary gender markers or removing gender markers altogether from passports and other official documents. It was agreed to continue this discussion over the coming two years.