(Editor’s note: West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman, an openly gay law professor at USC and Whittler Law School, is in Stockholm researching LGBT rights in Europe. He emailed some observations from the Stockholm Pride Parade and panels on transgender rights in Europe. – Karen Ocamb)
From John Heilman:
The trans man who became pregnant, Thomas Beatie, opened Stockholm Pride. He spoke about his decision to go public after gossip started in his town about his pregnancy. Beatie was well received. In Sweden, the Christian Minister of Health requires trans members to remove reproductive organs in order to transition.
Military openly recruits at the Pride festival.
The Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report in June 2011 for the European Union on discrimination against LGBT people in Europe. Micah Grzynowicz, who worked on the report, talked about it at the Pride festival. He said he discussed the report with the Swedish Minister for the European Union, Birgitta Ohlsson. It’s the first time such a report of this nature was done. It required cooperation between academics, NGO’s, human rights organizations in government and the United Nations program on refugees.
The report has 6 sections; three were discussed: 1) Assembly and association, 2) violence and asylum, and 3) legal recognition of trans people. The report is important but the recommendations are not valid. Thomas Hammemburg from Sweden was responsible for the report. Europe is divided on LGBT rights with lots of progress in Western Europe but with little progress in East. Report can be downloaded in English.
On Assembly and association – 12 out of 47 states have bans on LGBT pride festivals and gatherings. And even of those remaining, there has been violence associated with these events. The countries that ban Pride have a prohibition forbidding any promotion of homosexuality.
Recommendations from report:
1. Respect right of freedom of assembly of LGBT persons to ensure peaceful pride and other public events
2. Provide protection to participants of peaceful Pride and othe LGBT gatherings.
3. Respect right of freedom of expression.
Next section was on violence. Three major issues: underreporting of violence and harassment against LGBT people. Some is based on lack of law enforcement training. In some countries, there are no nationwide hate crime laws, especially in Eastern Europe. Only two countries have protections for trans people in discrimination laws.
Some countries provide asylum for people who are faced with violence based on LGBT status. LGBT refugees may be discriminated against.
Recommendations: improving immigration education and improving safety at refugee centers.
The last topic was on trans rights and gender recognition. Trans rights are mainstreamed throughout report. 24 out of 47 states do not have any law at all; 13 of the 24 are case by case; 29 countries have sterilization requirements. If you have gender reassignment you are required to be sterilized; 4 countries do not require this. Some require you to be unmarried to have gender reassignment. Rights for transgender people are not so neatly divided into West vs Eastern Europe. There are some issues with name changes and diplomas. But there is a Big issue with access to health care for trans people, as well as issues about who bears the cost of gender reassignment surgery.