‘Lawful transphobia’ stopping Ukraine’s trans community from fleeing

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By Katherine Berjikian
Joanne with some of the activists that helped her cross the Polish border.
Joanne with some of the activists that helped her cross the Polish border.   -   Copyright  Credit: Rain Dove

Members of Ukraine's transgender community are having trouble fleeing Russia's bombardment of the country, activists have told Euronews.

They say some are being stopped at the border because the gender markers on their passports or identification documents do not match their actual genders.

Activists say both transgender men and women are facing the problem, but it is a particular problem for the latter.

This is because Ukraine has banned military-aged men from leaving the country.

“The situation is very hard because the LGBTQ+ community was feeling marginalised and discriminated against before the war began,” said Igor Medvid, a coordinator for HPLGBT.

“Many people say that when they attempted to cross the border, the border police and the border guards are making their decision based on the gender marker in the passport…and we consider this as another example of lawful transphobia.”

While LGBTQ+ activists in Ukraine have made strides over the past couple of years, there are still many barriers for trans people.

Before 2017, members of the trans community had to spend time supervised in a mental institution before they could begin transitioning.

But while that requirement has been scrapped, people still need an outpatient psychiatric examination to change their gender markers, which could lead to inpatient hospitalisation.

They also have to undergo “irreversible medical intervention”.

Due to these barriers, many people do not have the appropriate documentation to leave the country.

'It makes the situation worse'

And some of those people have resorted to extreme measures, such as losing their documents, to try to get across the border.

Although this is not recommended.

“There are two trans organisations in Ukraine, and we are both advising people to not lose their documents. And to not use these illegal methods, such as bribing because people are just getting caught and jailed,” said Anastasiia Yeva Domani, the CEO of the NGO Cohort.

“It makes the situation worse. Because if your documents are put in the database as lost, it will just create further problems for you.”

Instead, she advises that people move to the western parts of the country to wait out the fighting.

Her organisation is also providing aid for those that remain in Ukraine, such as hormones for people not on the front lines.

While other activists are calling for a humanitarian corridor to help get members of the trans community out of the country.

'Afraid to leave Kyiv'

When Joanne first arrived in Lviv, she did not expect to cross the Polish border like many other displaced people.

Her main concern was her paperwork because she is a trans woman, and she had only started updating her documents before the war began.

Before she got to the city in Western Ukraine, she only had time to update her birth certificate.

“I thought that a birth certificate was not enough to cross the border,” she told Euronews. “I thought you needed an ID, which I do not have. So, my concern was that I would be rejected.”

She did eventually get across the border with help of activists on the ground.

And she is now in Warsaw, where she is resting before she plans on moving to another European country.

Credit: Rain Dove
Joanne hugging one of the activists that helped her cross the border.Credit: Rain Dove

Other people in similar situations have not been as lucky.

After she got into Poland, Joanne waited at the border for a group of trans women being helped by the same activists.

But unlike Joanne, they were all rejected.

“You need to have the documents. If you have the documents, everything is great. If you don't, everything is bad,” she added.

“But you need to be brave. Right now, I am chatting with one trans girl. And she is even afraid to leave Kyiv for Lviv. So, I don't even know how she will try to cross the border to Poland.”