Y’ALL BETTER QUIET DOWN…
By Paulie Amanita Calderon-Cifuentes
Trigger warning: This article mentions sexualized violence and self-harm
“I have been to jail. I have been raped. And beaten. Many times! By men, heterosexual men that do not belong in the homosexual shelter. But do you do anything for me? No. You tell me to go and hide my tail between my legs. I will not put up with this shit. I have been beaten. I have had my nose broken. I have been thrown in jail. I have lost my job. I have lost my apartment for gay liberation and you all treat me this way? What the fuck’s wrong with you all? Think about that!”
Sylvia Rivera, 1973
The 10 initiatives proposed by ex-minister for equality, Mogens Jensen, barely challenged the deeply rooted gender ideology in Denmark, and ignored the intersectionality between gender, sexuality, race, migration status, and socio-economical class. “The fight for gender equality has gone too far” is a statement that 43% of Danes agree with, according to an article published in February 2020 by fvm.dk. The focus on so-called gender equality in Denmark remains on the gap between men and women’s pay, parental leave, and now increasingly on how few rape-cases are reported and how even fewer end in convictions. I wonder, however, how could someone think that we are even near to gender equality, when non-binary identities are still not legally recognised; when underage trans kids, asylum seekers and incarcerated people can’t access legal gender recognition (LGR) or trans-specific health care (TSH); and when the legislations proposed do not aim for cultural and societal changes that dismantle cisnormativity, transphobia and binary gender. Even worse, they don’t challenge the patriarchal system that has oppressed the queer community for over a millennium.
Why is the education system still not addressing gender norms and sexuality, along with affirmative, empowering and thriving sexual practices, in the class-rooms – at early ages – so children can grow up with a sex-positive mindset and learn to set boundaries?
Why do we allow the constant violation of human rights against trans and queer people in the asylum camps? Why don’t they recognize sexual orientation and gender identity in all asylum requests? And if they do recognize it, why do they have to police the sexuality of the applicants and question their lived experiences?
Why don’t we have clear laws against conversion therapy?
Why don’t we have a third gender option in our CPR numbers?
Why do we allow cis-heterosexual men to emotionally and sexually exploit trans women and trans feminine people?
Every time the trans communities raises these questions we are told to stand down. People keep using the patronizing discourse of “change takes time”. Well darling, Lili Elbe died in 1931 and we are still waiting for the rights that she should have had already almost 100 years ago. So, allow me to insist and say we need radical change now, not in another 100 years. People are attempting suicide in the asylum camps. People are being tortured by being denied the possibility to synchronize their gender identity with their gender expression, by denying them access to TSH and LGR. People’s lives are being put on hold while the government through the CKI (Center for Gender Identity at Rigshospitalet, Ed.) decides whether they are trans enough to have access to basic medical interventions that are essential for the well-being of many trans people. Trans women are being constantly raped by cisgender heterosexual men and no one does anything because they are usually racialized women with migrant experiences who don’t really matter to the colonial, white supremacist, cis-hetero patriarchal system. Neurodiverse trans people are outcast entirely from many sectors of society, while being made invisible and ignored.
There is a huge lack of focus on preventing discrimination and hate crimes in Denmark. The task of dealing with hate crimes, discrimination, bullying etc. lies primarily in prevention; in public schools, youth education and educational institutions for people working in welfare institutions (health professionals, pedagogical professionals, and teachers). The task is to change the norms and support those who experience discrimination because they deviate from the norms. Therefore, prevention should be a top priority, rather than the focus on the juridical system and the authority of the police. A central task is to ensure that the employees who will have to deal/work with these complaints (Ligebehandlingsnævnet (The Equal Treatment Board), healthcare personnel (e.g., in relation to sexualized violence) are trained and have the knowledge and experience to work with this and understand the issues at hand. To ensure this, employees should receive continuous education and training by trans and intersex-led organizations, BIPoC-led organizations/initiatives, etc. The result of the lack of understanding and knowledge of the issues at hand result in people not getting the support they need and are entitled to. Lack of understanding also leads people to not seek support in the future, as well as avoiding reporting the discrimination and hate crimes they experience.
So, here are some of the demands coming from the trans communities (I would like to insist that I do not speak for all trans communities):
- Trans-specific health care (TSH) for every trans person who needs it on the basis of self-proclamation and with zero gatekeeping. This means dismantling ageism, racism, anti-Blackness, colonialism, anti-migrant structures, cis-hetero patriarchy and the gender binary, ableism, classism within TSH.
- Legal gender recognition without a minimum age, no consideration time, and with clear procedures for everybody including migrants that might or might not have changed their gender and name in their countries of origin.
- Recognition of non-binary people, degendering of the CPR system and the creation of a third gender option. Also, non-binary or no-gender option in passports and CPR numbers.
- Immediate ban of unnecessary surgeries and treatment on intersex infants and minors and ensuring intersex people’s access to redress and compensation.
- Anti-discrimination legislation which specifically includes gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, in all areas of life.
- Recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity in asylum requests. In fact, close the asylum camps and ensure asylum and permanent residence for people applying on the basis of trans experiences and sexual orientation.
- Redistribute money and financially support trans-led organisations that provide peer-to-peer support and work with an approach that links trans struggles to anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggles.
- Finance trans-led research on trans-specific matters such as descriptive studies of trans people in Denmark, or explanatory research to address the causes and consequences of being a key population in high risk of contracting HIV.
- Improvement of the quality of the service provided by shelters to trans and non-binary people. Increase the budget for training gender-based violence shelters on trans issues and collecting data to assess the dramatic increase of homelessness among LGBTI+ youth. In fact, recognize the lived experiences of queer and trans people who experience homelessness as a first step.
- Increased protection of sex workers and access to the government’s support packages. Support demands by sex worker rights initiatives.
- Recognition of the legal gender of trans parents on their child’s birth certificate.
- Freedom from torture, cruel inhuman, or degrading treatment for trans prisoners and asylum seekers. If not the total abolition of the asylum camps.
- Inclusion of gender norms, sexuality, reproductive rights, and sexual practices in a sex-positive mindset in the education system of primary and secondary education.
- Stop medicalizing and pathologizing discourses.
The future of trans-specific legislation is intersectional and recognizes the struggles of all trans-communities. Prioritizing the most vulnerable populations is essential for their survival. We learned from radical feminism that it’s not enough just to infiltrate the system and play by its rules. It is essential to dismantle it. Gender is a Western colonial concept that doesn’t favor anybody: not trans people, but also not cisgender people. The gender norms that come along with a binary concept of gender have oppressed people for thousands of years now, resulting in issues such as toxic and fragile masculinity. At the end of the day, masculinity and femininity have become two extreme forms of oppression that need to be abolished. And the legislative changes should point in that direction. Anything else will be a band-aid on a deep, bleeding wound.
To finish this article, I would like to go back to the memory of Sylvia Rivera. This Puerto Rican trans woman, together with the African American Marsha P. Johnson, sparked and led the queer revolution in the U.S.A, that eventually expanded to the rest of the world. These two powerful women of color sacrificed everything they had for gay liberation, only to be white-washed out of history by the gay movement and the women’s liberation movement. History cannot be repeated. The legislation changes need to include the needs of the most vulnerable trans-communities, such as black and indigenous trans women and trans feminine people with migrant experiences. It is not enough to aim for minor changes that benefit only the middle class in the country.
Trans and Queer revolution HAS to be radical, transformative, intersectional and inclusive.