Russia wants to ban transgender people changing gender on passport

Russia wants to ban transgender people changing gender on passport
By: Transsexual Posted On: April 24, 2023 View: 334

Russia wants to ban transgender people changing gender on passport

Russia's Justice Ministry is gearing up to make it tougher for transgender people to change their gender markers in their passports, which will make gender transition tougher in general.

But Russian LGBTQ+ people have denounced the move, including one transgender woman who is going public with her identity, despite the risk to her personal safety, for the first time because of "the importance of the situation."

Alisa Lesnaya wanted to share her real name and told Newsweek removing transgender people's ability to update their passports and paperwork will be "a very difficult and traumatic experience" for that population.

russan justice minister, president and transgender woman
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko during a gathering marking the 220th anniversary of the Justice Ministry in Moscow on September 20, 2022. Inset, Alisa Lesnaya, a transgender woman in Russia. She denounced plans by Chuychenko to make it harder for transgender people to update their gender on their passports. Grigory Syosev/Supplied by Alisa Lesnaya/AFP

The move comes just months after Russian President Vladimir Putin tightened the restrictions under his so-called "gay propaganda" law which prevents the positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community in mass media. The law, which was first introduced in 2013 and revised in December also prohibits speaking to children about anything related to transgender matters.

Russian Federation Minister of Justice, Konstantin Chuychenko, today announced the move to prohibit transgender people from updating their gender markers on official documentation, including passports, as a means to "fix family values."

"Now, first of all, we are talking about legislatively excluding the possibility of changing sex in the passport and other documents. The permissibility of changing sex was enshrined in Russian law back in 1997. At that time, various international organizations, including the World Health Organization, set the tone in the formation of certain norms," ​​Chuychenko told Russian news outlet TASS on Monday.

The minister explained that since 2018, transgender people in Russia have been permitted to update the gender markers on documentation without undergoing gender affirmation surgery, which is a range of medical procedures that allow a person to make changes to their body to better align with their gender identity.

In order to be officially recognized as transgender in Russia, a person needs a medical note from a sexologist, psychologist and a psychiatrist, the latter of which diagnoses the patient with "transsexualism."

Once that diagnosis is received, the person is then issued with a "certificate of gender transition," which is valid for 12 months and allows a person to update their gender on documents beginning with their birth certificate and then passport. It also allows them a lifetime permission to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT)— the medication that produces physical changes in the body to align with a person's chosen gender identity.

They can also marry a person of the opposite gender and adopt children. According to Minister Chuychenko, this presents a legal quagmire for the state.

"Thus, we see the following: a person who changed sex in their passport, but physiologically remains the same, can marry, adopt children. Questions also arise, at what age can such a person who changed sex on paper retire? Or, if he breaks the law, which correctional facility should he be sent to? And so on. We have not just legal conflicts related to the issue of gender reassignment, but, above all, inconsistency with current conceptual documents and constitutional priorities," he said.

He said that while the Justice Ministry was looking to amend the law, it was also planning to make amendments to legislation dubbed "The Fundamentals of Protecting Citizens' Health in the Russian Federation."

"This will make it possible to exclude in our country the possibility of changing the sex of a person by simply changing documents," Chuychenko said.

The government's plans will make LGBTQ+ people "even more persecuted," which is exactly what it wants, according to Russian human rights lawyer, Konstantin Boikov.

"Transgender people will be not able to change their gender markers. A person born psychologically alienated in the 'wrong' body will not have able to have access to their human rights and in order to lead a lifestyle according with the gender assigned at birth," he told Newsweek.

"In Russia, there will be only one way to get a gender marker change—genital surgery. Only after it, a trans person will change their gender marker."

The plans not only go against the Russian Constitution but also "the norms of international law," Boikov continued, because "they are inhumane [and] anti-scientific."

Boikov is a lawyer with OVD-Info, an independent human rights and media group and also represents LGBTQ+ organization DELO LGBT in legal matters.

He warned: "The life of transgender people is already hard enough, and it will become almost unbearable. They will have to live the life of outcasts without the opportunity to discuss their rights and get the rights itself."

For Vladimir Komov, whose husband is transgender, compared the ministry's moves to "Nazi Germany when the rights of an individual, entire social groups are ignored under the slogan of the interests of the majority and the state."

Komov, who is also the senior partner at DELO LGBT, said lawyers were offering to "urgently change the papers" for transgender people before the minister's plan becomes a reality.

"If they introduce a mandatory requirement for genital surgery [to allow transition], which our state is not going to pay, then we will see a situation when people will be forced to change their documents back again, to dissolve marriages," he told Newsweek.

Vladimir Komov and Konstantin Boikov
(L) Vladimir Komov, senior partner of the Russian organization, Delo LGBT+. (R) Konstantin Boikov, lawyer for human right group OVD Info and DELO LGBT+ spoke to Newsweek about document changes for transgender people of Russia. Supplied by DELO LGBT+

Komov described how his husband, Robert, has put off changing his documents because it may make their marriage void and also prevent them from starting a family. But life as a transgender man navigating the workforce or health services without being officially recognized will likely be very traumatic.

"Our family is very sad about this," he said.

The number of transgender people officially applying to be recognized as transgender in Russia rose from around 300 people in 2018 when the passport laws were introduced to more than 2,700 in 2022. Applications for new passports more than doubled from 428 in 2020 to 936 last year, per data from Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs.

According to research by independent Russian media outlet Mediazona, the dramatic increase probably had a lot to do with the country's military actions in Ukraine which began in February 2022.

"Across the board, there was a sense of urgency to get one's papers in order: one trans person was spurred on by the risk of being drafted, another by the need to tidy up documents before emigrating, and someone else worries that gender-affirming care will be banned in Russia altogether," it wrote in its findings, noting the increase began to be noticeable in March 2022.

Until this proposed ban takes effect, Lesnaya said she was "very pleased" with the process of updating her documents.

She received her gender transition certificate in Moscow and traveled back to her hometown of Nalchik, in the Kabardino-Balkaria region, located in the North Caucasus.

Upon visiting the various offices to change her birth certificate and passport, she was met with some resistance by local officials who believed she needed to have had gender-affirming surgery to update the papers.

"I will not say that I am somehow offended by the employees of the passport office, because it was just ignorance, most likely, because I was probably the only one to have applied for this in those offices," Lesnaya said.

Once she got her hands on the new passport, Lesnaya was able to update her high school diploma with her new name and eventually her university degree once she'd completed her studies.

Lesnaya's "last step" was to remove herself from the military enlistment office which should have been informed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

While she was "removed from the register without any obstacles," the local administration managed to out her "to the entire military town."

"But what do I, a crazy anarchist, care about the condemnation of the locals?" Lesnaya said.

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