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Four ways to advance LGBTQI+ equality in Europe

May 17th marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). The date was chosen to commemorate the decision of the World Health Organization, in 1990, to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Despite that progress, many of us still struggle for the right to be who we are, and to love whoever we want  From birth, LGBTQI+ people are forced to comply with the sexual, sex and gender codes of cisheteropatriarchy, a socio-political system which perceives heterosexuality and patriarchy as normal while other forms of being and relating are abnormalized. Heteropatriarchy along with neoliberal capitalism have shaped our society and laws, constructing a system marked by deep structural injustices and inequalities. On the other hand, right-wing governments and ultra-conservative forces in Europe are attacking LBGTQI+ rights and advancing discriminatory measures. In the face of this, we must unite, raise our voices against anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric, and stop human rights violations.

Here are four ways, which can contribute to the advancement of LGBTQI+ equality in Europe.

 

Protect LGBTQI+ rights – a matter of justice and equality

We all know that laws and regulations have a big impact on everyday life. Across Europe, LGBTQI+ people in Europe do not yet enjoy the same rights and opportunities. The battle for full recognition of LGBTQI+ families and gender diverse identities is far from over. In some member states, LGBTQI+ people still struggle to formalise their relationships, acquire the right to adopt children, and to access assisted reproduction. The EU’s fortress-like borders deny queer refugees’ existence and rights. Borders also erase affective ties when crossed by rainbow families, exposing children to fear and uncertainty. To make matters worse, right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland have instrumentalized the COVID crisis to adopt anti-LGBTQI+ legislation that aims to silence the needs and experiences of the LBGTQI+ community. We must stand against state-sponsored LGBTQI+ rights violations and violence. The protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ people must become a material reality for all.

 

Our bodies, our identities, ourselves

For those of us who identify ourselves in a gender different to the sex assigned to us at birth or who are born with sex characteristics that fall outside the strict male/female binary, being ourselves is still considered a pathology. A majority of EU member states still violate transgender people’s right to bodily integrity and self-determination. Conversion treatments, coercive surgeries, invasive mental and physical examinations, sterilization, and forced divorce are some of the requirements that trans people have to meet to get legal recognition. In the same manner, intersex bodies continue to be subjected to mutilating and normalizing medical practices such as genital mutilation or psycho-pathologization. We must end the pathologization and medicalization of trans and intersex identities, fully recognize and protect the right to gender, sex and sexual self-determination.

No more fear 

LGBTQI+ people fear violence and hate everywhere in Europe. One in 10 LGBTI people in the EU were physically or sexually assaulted in the past five years. Statistical data are more alarming if we talk about transphobic and interphobic violence. Yet the rate of violence does not describe the terror and suffering that LGBTQI+ people experience. The data neither show us how neo-fascist and neo-populist movements in Europe are inciting hatred and violence against queer people. Many of us still face discrimination when looking for job or housing, accessing healthcare and social services, in schools, when requesting asylum or when showing an ID card. We must urgently act to end violence against LGBTQI+ people. Living free from violence, persecution, discrimination and stigma is not a gender ideology but a fundamental human right that must be protected.

Fight systemic inequalities – change the system, improve lives

LGBTQI+ inequality persists. The COVID-pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, heightening vulnerability, especially for queer people who embody multiple marginalized identities. The pandemic has exposed a myriad of issues that LGBTQI+ people are facing due to the inherent injustices of the neoliberal system. Under the false promise of equality and freedom, neoliberal capitalism nurtures inequalities across all aspects of life. The unequal distribution of wealth and the steady privatization of public services put many LGBTQI+ people in precarious situations. But, the margin is a site of resistance. With collective action, we can dismantle systemic inequalities and establish a system based on equality, solidarity and care.

Text by Joana Xhemali