Story at a glance
- At least 13 UN member states criminalize being transgender, according to the Trans Legal Mapping Report.
- The report analyzes laws in 143 UN member states and 19 other jurisdictions.
- While it is not explicitly illegal in the United States, not all states offer the same rights and protections to transgender citizens.
Even as the LGBTQ+ community wins battles for rights and recognition in some parts of the world, others have been left behind.
“To date, at least 13 UN member States worldwide explicitly criminalise trans persons, but we know that a much wider range of laws is used to target them in many more countries,” said Zhan Chiam, coordinator and co-author of the report, in a statement.
The third edition of the Trans Legal Mapping Report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association evaluates transgender recognition before the law in 143 UN member states and 19 other jurisdictions. At least 13 UN member states criminalize being transgender, the report found, often with “cross-dressing laws.” On the other hand, legal gender recognition is available in at least 96 states, although only 25 of those allow for recognition without prohibitive requirements. The United States is not one of them.
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“Evidence collected from communities on the ground highlights how measures related to public nuisance, indecency, morality, loitering, sex work-related offences, and consensual same-sex activity amongst others are actively deployed for the same purpose. The systemic targeting of trans people using seemingly innocuous laws is just as damaging as so-called ‘cross dressing’ regulations which overtly target gender expressions,” Chiam said in a statement.
In the United States, bathroom access laws and gender reassignment treatments remain controversial and the Trump administration has sought to reverse Obama-era protections that prohibit discrimination in health care and housing based on gender identity. But a federal judge stepped in to block one such regulation just days after the Supreme Court established that sex discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees is illegal. Transgender representation in goverment and in the military has grown — but less than 3 percent of the now 843 LGBTQ+ elected officials are trans women and less than 1 percent are trans men.
“It is a difficult time for trans persons globally, which is reflected in the regression or stagnation in legal gender recognition rights in every continent”, explains Jabulani Pereira, chair of the Trans Committee at ILGA World, in a statement. “We continue to push against repressive state laws, and at the same time we will need many more studies that celebrate our challenges and gains in our right to self-determination, our right to gender-affirming care and to live in a world that does not systemically and physically harm us.”
Name and gender marker changes are possible in the United States, but the latter involves prohibitive medical requirements in some states and Idaho and Tennessee do not allow amendments on birth certificates. The report also cited the National Center for Transgender Equality in finding that “burdensome requirements and prohibitive costs prevent the majority of transgender individuals from obtaining accurate identity documents.”
“Although there has been progress towards the full legal recognition of trans and non-binary people in the last couple of years, there still remains much work to be done—especially in parts of the country where trans and non-binary have the fewest protections. We have much to learn from those countries that have advanced progressive policies,” wrote Sasha Buchert, an attorney with Lambda Legal who contributed to the report.
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