November 20, 2013 marks the 15th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Trans* people are those whose gender identity does not conform either to their sex or to the conventional conceptions of what is “male” and “female.” They face a disproportionate amount of violence due to transphobia – 238 trans* people have been murdered over the last 12 months, according to a report from Transgender Europe (http://tgeu.org/node/435). The purpose of the Transgender Day of Remembrance is to pay respect to those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, and also to elevate the status of trans* issues, which are often swept under the rug.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, trans* people are often excluded from the LGBT dialogue – we have a steep hill to climb in order to bring trans* issues into the mainstream. Transgender persons do not have access to appropriate gender reassignment services. Moreover, neither the Federation of BiH nor the Republic of Srpska cover the costs of gender reassignment treatment. Transgender persons wishing to undergo gender reassignment treatment are, thus, forced to seek such treatment abroad at their own expenses.
Also, BiH must establish adequate procedures for document replacement and identity number change for transexual persons who have undergone sex reassignment, and the procedure should be harmonized throughout the country. In Brcko discrict, for example, the current law does not include sex change as one of the reasons one can change their documents.
Trans* persons are also a target of hate crime in BiH. The next step for Bosnia and Herzegovina is to ensure equal protection and implementation of hate crime legislation inclusive of gender identity. We must also work to prevent transphobic hate crimes and to properly prosecute them when they occur.
In a survey conducted by the Sarajevo Open Centre in spring of 2013, 8/9 self-identified trans* people said that they experienced psychological difficulties as a result of the transphobia they face due to their gender identity. We have provided guidance to trans* people in the past, whether they are looking to change their official documents, seeking community support activities, or fundraising for sex reassignment, and we strongly encourage anyone who is questioning their gender identity to contact us for confidential support.
Sarajevo Open Centre wants – today, especially, but also every day of the year – to honor the trans* people around the globe who have been killed because of transphobia, and also the brave trans* people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina who, despite not having access to adequate legal protections and social and medical services, are fighting to achieve a more inclusive society.