steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Hate Laws

A couple of posts ago I wrote of my doubts about the principle of hate crimes. It seems only fair to balance this by acknowledging that much of the grief trans people and other minority groups receive originates from those who make rather than break the law. Here are three things that have swum into my ken just within the last couple of days.

A bill to stop trans people in Tennessee from using public toilets, changing rooms and other public accommodations has sufferered a setback with the withdrawal of its sponsor in the state senate. This is a disappointment for its author, Richard Floyd, whose proud boast is that he would "stomp a mudhole" in any trans woman who dared to get changed in the same dressing room as his wife. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm assuming it's not pleasant. With luck, Floyd will now be left to wallow in his mudhole alone.

In Canada there was much disquiet a few days ago, when a judge declared that the same-sex marriages that had been held in that country over the last few years were invalid, if one or both of the couple came from a country where same-sex marriage was illegal. This strange ruling, which retrospectively divorced thousands of Canadian citizens and their partners, conjured some bizarre outcomes, were the principle to be applied to other areas of the law (would Saudi women living in Canada be banned from driving, for example?); however, it seems - as far as I can gather - to have been the result of a badly drafted law rather than malicious intent, and moves are afoot to put matters to rights.

Which brings us to Sweden, a country that prides itself on being a liberal-minded sort of place, where an attempt to change a law about trans people dating from 1972 has just been defeated. This law (which has equivalents in several other countries, including France, although I don't know how exactly they resemble each other) mandates that any trans person wishing for legal transition must be sterilized.

I'll just repeat that. For anyone who needs to transition in Sweden, forced sterilization is part of the deal.

I'd vaguely known this for a while, and thought it was pretty horrific, but I admit I'd not realized quite how bad it was. In fact, I'd assumed it was a law about SRS, rather than legal transition. Male-to-female SRS involves sterilization as a kind of by-product; and while this is not necessarily the case with female-to-male surgery, I'd thought the Swedish law was about limiting the range and combination of operational procedures available. (I hadn't really thought it through, in truth - but I've seen the same mistake repeated in some of the reports on this issue.)

But no. The Swedish law has nothing to do with SRS. You can, in fact, legally transition in Sweden without getting SRS, just as you can here in the UK. However, they insist on your being sterilized first. Not only that, even if you have eggs or sperm stored anywhere, these too have to be destroyed, to ensure that you can't reproduce by that route. They stop just short of hunting down and exterminating any existing children you may have, but the message is very clear: trans people are not fit to be parents.

It's hard to know what lies behind this. I can think of three possibilities:

a) It's good old-fashioned eugenics, of the kind that Sweden practised enthusiastically until the mid-1970s, and which was frequently targeted at those deemed 'deviant' and their families.
b) It stems from a conservative social belief that there is only one proper model for family life - the heterosexual, cissexual nuclear family - and that all variants should be prevented.
c) It's an outcome of the bureaucratic oddity by which all Swedish females are assigned an even-numbered identity card, and all males an odd-numbered one. Revamping that system to take account of transition (let alone non-binary-identified people) would cost money, and upset their filing system, and sterilizing their citizens is the easier course.

The likeliest answer is: d) All of the above. But it's a depressing list. What's even more depressing is that now, forty years after this law was first put in place, the Swedish parliament has decided that it's still a good one.
Tags: current affairs, gender
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