#Trans #community #Ukraine #crosshairs #war
Oleksandra wanted to leave Ukraine since her house was bombed. But she can’t, because her passport says she’s a man and can therefore be drafted into the army.
Like many other transgender people in Ukraine, she fears discrimination if she is drafted into the Ukrainian army.
But until she can meet all the requirements to legally change her gender, she remains male in her passport and cannot leave the country, as men are required to stay in Ukraine to support the war effort.
“I’m afraid of being discriminated against if I’m called to the front lines,” Oleksandra, 39, told AFP in a video call.
In Ukraine, the trans community still faces stigma and Oleksandra lives in fear of that stigma every day.
She fled her home in Mykolayiv in March after the city was attacked by Russian attacks.
With the help of an association that also provides her with free accommodation, she made her way to Odessa.
She has already had to answer questions from the local administration to obtain her resettlement permit, which she needs to access humanitarian aid.
Luckily it was well received.
“They asked me why I had false papers, but fortunately they were understanding when I explained the situation,” she said.
– special exemption –
More than eight million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. There is no data on how many belong to the LGBTQ community or how big this community was in pre-war Ukraine.
But escaping can be more complicated for the trans community.
If your passport states that you are male, you are not allowed to leave the country.
Changing the gender in a passport is not impossible in Ukraine – but it is not easy.
Previously, applicants had to undergo surgery before they could legally apply for gender reassignment surgery. Hormone therapy is enough.
Still, they must take their case to the authorities, which involves a medical certificate stating they are transgender, something not all doctors are willing to provide.
And many activists say transgender people shouldn’t have to receive hormone therapy at all to legally change their sex, arguing that this requirement is discriminatory.
For Oleksandra, the administrative hurdles mean she has to stay for the time being.
“I can’t get across the border with my documents: they don’t match my person,” she said, giving only one name for security reasons.
She has considered appealing to the Military Registration Office to obtain a combat exemption.
With that she might be able to leave the country. But there’s not much hope that she could.
She has not undergone any hormone treatment or surgery and fears she could be denied a special permit.
The agency has “arbitrarily” denied such exceptions to trans people, says Inna Iriskina, coordinator at LGBTQ rights group Insight.
– Fear for the missing –
Although trans rights have improved in recent years, Ukraine is still far from exemplary.
Pro-LGBTQ laws were improved after 2014, when massive pro-European rallies on Maidan Square led to the fall of the pro-Russian government.
But in 2020, Ukraine ranked 39th out of 49 European countries in upholding LGBTQ rights, according to the NGO ILGA-Europe.
The war has further complicated the lives of some members of the trans community.
Jahn would like to join the army as a man, but cannot.
“My birth certificate says I’m female, and women are only accepted if they have military experience,” says the 20-year-old student with colorful dreadlocks.
Iriskina does not believe that this case is an isolated case. She believes that most transgender people would be willing to show their patriotism if they could without suffering discrimination.
Some transgender women have veiled their sex to join the army, she said.
Others may have left Ukraine in secret, a risky move since desertion is a criminal offense.
The war has made life difficult for transgender people in Ukraine in other ways.
Iriskina said access to hormones became very difficult in February after the invasion, and thanks to continued shortages “their price has risen sharply”.
She is now sending hormone treatments to transgender people in the army — if she can get her hands on them.
And those living in areas newly controlled by the Russians worry about how they might be treated.
Compared to Ukraine, tolerance for trans rights is very low in Russia, where any speech deemed pro-LGBTQ has long been banned.
Iriskina says she has two trans friends in parts of Ukraine now occupied by the Russians and fears for their fate.
“I have no news of two people who are there,” she said.
#Trans #community #Ukraine #crosshairs #war