International Trans* Day of visibility, March 31 is the day when we celebrate transgender (trans*) people and their courage to live their authentic lives, out of the binary gender norms. This is the time to recall the specific needs of transgender community.
Transgender people are more likely than others exposed to discrimination and violations of basic human rights such as the right to privacy, human dignity, bodily integrity, life without violence, the choice and the right to medical health care, etc.
On the occasion of this day, we want you to read open letters of several transgender people that are around us, all of them living in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
“I’m E., trans man from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I live, in the country where I have no rights and am not protected. I face discrimination from authorities’ level to the medical institutions. Hormone therapy that I am on, I need to take in Belgrade (Serbia), at my own expense because in BiH there are no doctors who deal with transgender people, who would have prescribed the therapy. I’m married to a beautiful woman, but my marriage is not legally recognized in our country.
I ask you – do we as a “different and other” can live life like any other citizens in our country or we have to flee abroad seeking asylum, where they tell us that our country is safe for us? Can we change documents (including sex mark) before going through full transition that we do not have money for, even though we pay taxes for health insurance that we are eligible for just like any other citizen? Where is my right to be supported from the healthcare system with the costs of the transition and sex change?
Do we have the right to live free of ridicule, discrimination and daily torture, which we go through on regular basis, just name a few – showing a driver’s license, ID card or passport when crossing the border, because our physical appearance does not match the sex mark on the documents? Do we have the right to work without discrimination or will we continue to be treated as a mental case? We are not sick. We are part of this society. I want this government; I want officials to take concrete action on the issue of transgender persons in BiH that shall not remain just empty words on paper. “E, Tuzla
“My name is K. I’m 22 and I’m transgender person. I study in Sarajevo. I wish I could live in this country the way I feel, the way I am, freely. I wish to have proper healthcare services and legal framework to be recognized in BiH. I do not want to be afraid when I go home every night if someone would attack me because I look different from the way I feel. I would love not to leave this country, I want to stay here and be accepted in this society to get a job, and to have a normal future.” K, Mostar
“I am twenty years old; I am student, artist and humanist at heart. I live in Tuzla with my parents and younger brother. I am best in my class, I have friends and people that love me, I study, I go out here and there, nothing special. I still do not change the world, except in the class with the all A’s. The target I have all sorts of things, because I’m transgender, and “do not bother” to look like a typical “male”. I am the target of looks that scare me and rude comments because “you do not belong anywhere.” I have, however, a couple of friends who respect and love me for who I am who call me by my pronoun without a lot of questions and reflections. But in the outside world, even the house, I can’t be a “woman” that looks like a lesbian, or „male, because I barely pass like a man, I’m in a space between, people want me to be a woman, and I feel more like a man. I feel like as I was at the football match and I have to choose one team. As a transgender person I do not have a choice but to put up with it all, at least until the society stops caring and let an individual enjoy his/hers basic human rights and chance for life.“ F, Tuzla
“I’m 26 and I live in Sarajevo. When I entered high school I had a problem where teachers first responded negatively to my sexual orientation, calling my parents and my girlfriend’s parents at the meeting and long talks, where at the end I was out from the school.
Well, I got into another high school after that. I have always written my essays in the male gender and even though my essays were great, my professor was constantly giving me bad reviews, as he couldn’t understand that my gender even if it didn’t fit to my name or documents had nothing to do with my great work at school. His understanding of traditional values was a huge issue, because, you know I have breasts and thus why would I write in male gender?
I escaped to art later in college and the professors were much more open, where they talk to me the way I want and feel. The education system in secondary schools is terribly bad and does not allow basic education on LGBT issues, let alone declare an individual as he / she wants. You should go to some of the high schools and ask students about LGBT people, the first thing you will say is that the abbreviation had never heard. For transgender even less. I say this from personal experience, because now I work with high school students, but for me the high school temple of elementary knowledge. It is scandalous that even today even if they learn something on LGBT, high school students come out of school with the term “disease”, as „we“ are all sick!
It is 2016 and the system that provides knowledge is similar to what it looks like to live in caves and draw after its walls. Education should start urgently from governmental institutions to the administrative counters, because it is not human to through torture every time when the clerk lady gives me looks, because my name in the ID doesn’t match my physical manifestations of man, I am tired of explaining and humiliating myself over and over again. So, please do introduce legislation on gender identity and save us from ridicule and humiliation. It is unacceptable that the police when they stop me in routine car control laugh when they see my documents, or when border police asks me millions of questions while checking my body and asking me to undress, because my physical manifestation disagrees with the document.
In this society I live hard like everyone else, at work place „discrimination“is my middle name, when I get out I fear if someone will punch me in the face, because for them I’m sick and I’m used to, but the most terrible thing is that the system does not do anything in terms of my basic right to be who I am. Since I see that literature in schools and universities is so outdated, you can at least „google“ the term transgender, as something normal as anywhere in the EU and the rest of the world, in case my story hasn’t convinced you, by now.” A, Sarajevo
Research of Sarajevo Open Centre has showed that transgender people in BiH:
- don’t have the ability to gain support from medical healthcare providers. There are no specialized teams to provide medical or hormonal therapy, nor there medical interventions and surgery in the country. All services related to sex change must be taken abroad, and health insurance does not cover these costs or parts of the costs;
- cannot change sex and identification number without full medical transition of sex change. Transgender people are likely to live for years or perhaps a lifetime with a one legal identity, while their sexual and gender identity is different. This discrepancy, particularly in appearance, often results in violence and discrimination.
- Because of their identity they experience discrimination and harassment, and employers are not willing to hire transgender people, and providers often refuse to provide a service;
- Often become the target of violence and crimes of hate.
The situation and protection of transgender and transexual people in BiH is among the worst in Europe. Transgender people in BiH do not have access to adequate legal procedures in order to change documents or do sex adjustment surgeries, nor is this question systematically and legally arranged.
Sarajevo Open Centre will through continuous work with transgender and transexual community from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by working with the experts continue to work on improving the status and recognition of the right of transgender and transexual people.
Transgender people are around us. Let’s celebrate our identities. Let’s be there for one another. Read their stories, contribute as you can!