This is a write up of the 6th Transgender Europe Council in Bologna 2nd – 5th July 2016. I was honoured and grateful to the STA for the opportunity to go, and the experience will have a lasting effect on my activism and sense of confidence as a trans person and activist. I’ve first talked about the workshops I went to and the key things I learnt, then I’ve included a bit about how it felt to be at the conference and how it has impacted me and my activism.
Workshop 1 – Multiplying our voices – Developing local campaigns with universal messages for trans rights
Presenters: Mina Tolu (TGEU), Yomas Vytautas Raskevicius (LGL) and Isidro Garcia Nieto (Fundacion Daniela)
In this workshop representatives from two different campaigns – the Daniela foundation in Spain, and Trans_LT from Lithuania – talked about how they mounted very successful grassroots campaigns, focussing on how they publicised the campaigns and targeted a mainstream audience to increase the spread of information.
The Daniela foundation is an organisation which focusses on raising awareness and ending stigma and discrimination towards trans children and teenagers. The key points of the campaign building process they highlighted were:
- When launching campaigns you must identify areas where action is needed and make a start on just a small campaign, which can then be carried forward by others in the future
- It is very important to start out with a clear manifesto
- Provide easy ‘actions’ which supporters and allies can use to publicise the campaign, such as a photo collection with a specific phrase or hashtag, or small events that people can attend
- Make it easy for people to share emotive and direct campaign work, especially in awareness focussed campaigns where often the public is sympathetic but ignorant to the messages being shared. Social media plays a key role in this.
- When starting out a campaign you must have clear visions for the campaign future, so that if it is suddenly very popular you have some capacity to capitalise on the popularity at the opportune moment.
Lithuania remains the only country in the EU where there is no ability for trans people to legally change their gender. Trans_LT is a campaign launched by the LGL (Lithuanian Gay League) to raise visibility of trans people in Lithuania. Trans_LT highlighted many of the campaign method points that the Daniela Foundation did, with the below additions:
- Use hashtags and online petitions alongside emotive awareness-raising content so supporters and allies can join in and take action. These voices can be used for leverage and legitimacy against people unfriendly to the campaign.
- People rarely fully read the content of things like online petitions so it is a place where you can get people to agree to a simple message which actually houses more radical legal demands.
- You need to look past the end of the campaign and be open to opportunities you make and people who can take on the message in further campaigns.
These campaigning points and ideas can be used when building grassroots and low-funded campaigns in Scotland.
Workshop 2 – The TGEU Healthcare project
Presenters: Julia Kata (Trans-Fuzja), Jelena Vidic (Gayten-LGBT), Carolina Orre (RFSL), Joz Motmanns (Trans Infopunt Belgium), Natia Gvianishvili (Women’s initiatives support), Isidro Garcia Nieto (Fundacion Daniela) and Adam smiley (TGEU)
The TGEU healthcare project was launched to focus on 5 countries with very different healthcare situations for trans people. Two surveys will be carried out in these countries, one for healthcare users and one for healthcare professionals, with focus on both trans specific and general healthcare. The 5 countries chosen for this project are Georgia, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Sweden. From previous surveys, gatekeeping and waiting times for treatment were two areas most commonly brought up, with pathologisation and the resultant transphobia, social exclusion and body ownership issues it brings up also key. Workshop participants were asked to contribute by answering the following questions:
- What important questions need posing in the survey?
- What research has been done in your country?
- What examples of good practice do you have in your country?
- Do you have tips for reaching healthcare professionals with the survey?
Here is a brief outline of the trans healthcare pathways in each of the participant countries.
- Considered one of the best systems in post-soviet space
- Issues with societal transphobia
- Need surgery for legal gender recognition
- No guidelines or protocol for health professionals
- Only 1 ‘sexologist’ in the country who can diagnose gender dysphoria so they have to be kept happy
- No national protocol for gender recognition
- No gender recognition for non-binary people
- Have to self-fund medical transition
- No provisions for <18
- 65% transition healthcare costs covered by health insurance
- Have to come out as trans and be proved ‘financially independent’ to be prescribed HRT
- No gender recognition law
- Services are only in Belgrade so people have to travel there
- No provisions for <18
- Need diagnosis and 2 years medical treatment (of any kind) for gender recognition
- Healthcare and education regulated by regions leading to inequality of access to healthcare
- Some regions have self-determination laws for healthcare, but need a diagnosis for gender dysphoria for GRC
- Good protocol but not all gender specialists use it
- Soon to have care for people <18
- Treatment covered by health insurance
- Getting referral to gender specialists is hard, with a 2 year waiting time
- Recent survey labelled it as the most transphobic health service in the EU
Once the surveys are complete and the results are analysed they will be published and may be useful to improve trans healthcare practice in Scotland.
Workshop 3 – How to work on trans issues in education? Best practices and tools.
Presenters: Alex Mosconi (Bologna LGBT center), Giulia Selma (Il Progetto Alice), Isidro Garcia Nieto & Leo Mulio (Fundacion Daniela)
The workshop focussed on capacity building for developing materials for raising the level of knowledge about trans people in education. It was noted how numerous school projects were blocked through cultural backlash over recent developments to trans people’s rights. Things such as trans teachers having problems with parents and books about trans kids being withdrawn from school libraries were highlighted. Two projects were being run in this area – one student run one called ‘We are all in transition’, a year-long project aiming to talk about gender identity, build connections and raise awareness of trans students, and one called ‘Everything you want to know but didn’t dare to ask’. The student led and peer education focus of these campaigns was key.
It was noted that systematic work in all schools, with resources for students as well as training for staff (including workshops, training leaflets etc), along with laws for enforcing teaching of trans issues creating a holistic approach would be ideal. This would include getting teachers and parent associations on board, promoting the idea that it’s ok for us to change our opinions when confronted with new ideas. As with the first workshop it was noted that using individual human centred examples of the work you’re trying to promote works very well when dealing with potential supporters. A universal approach such as this could be very successful in Scotland, especially with the generally receptive climate.
Workshop 4 – Access to physical activity and sports for trans people in Europe
Presenter: Natascia Bernardi
A smaller session, the presenter talked about some of their research on trans people accessing sport in Sweden. There was discussion around the table on a number of points, including reasons why people do sport, what considerations must be made when making sport accessible to trans people. The following points were discussed:
- People said they did sport for a range of reasons, including physical and mental fitness, developing different body shapes to lessen dysphoria, developing muscle for protection against attack, community building and confidence.
- A number of people felt that trouble finding sport specific clothing that allows trans people to feel comfortable but also are suitable for the environment was a large sporting barrier. There is potential mandate for such clothing to be developed in the future.
- It was commented that there are different levels of barriers to different sports, with the suggestion that trans individuals could start with a sport with few barriers to gain confidence before trying a sport with greater barriers (such as swimming).
- Sporting rules and regulations were brought up, with the discrepancy between different sports and different sporting levels highlighted.
- There was the suggestion of using funds from pride organisations to start or maintain local sports groups/teams as a way to support the community and distribute funds.
These points are all relevant to Scotland and can be considered when developing trans friendly sporting groups and facilities.
Socialising and thoughts on the council
Going to the council I was very excited. I was very much looking forward to being around hundreds of other trans people and trans activists for 4 days. I was ready to learn how other people focus and frame their activism, and how they keep it progressive and sustainable. The other people going from Scotland were really brilliant. They were friendly and warm, and I know that I made some great friends and allies in those people. I also made friends and built relationships with people from other organisations and other countries who I am very much looking forward to building partnerships with. These people were so generous with their time and their words, and their energy and enthusiasm for their work was inspiring.
I have come back so much more confident, so inspired by the energy and dedication and love I found. But also more confident in myself and the activism we do. We were all brought together at the conference from a desire to change minds and experience and public opinion and law to improve our countries for trans people, and there are so many people all working for this common aim that radical change seems inevitable. This has given me a massive boost in drive and energy for activism that we do in Scotland, and having a larger scale of relevance for it has helped contextualise the successes we have and the areas we need to focus energy on.
More personally, being at the conference helped me see a future for myself as a trans person and activist. Being around lots of other trans people, especially post-transition trans people who are just getting on with their lives with who they are whilst doing badass activism, allowed me to see beyond my currently hectic and sometimes precarious situation. This strengthening of resolve will help me to continue campaigning and working harder for the improvement of the experience of trans people in Scotland.