Serious Trans Issues in Denmark

In early March 2016 Amnesty International published a report on transgender rights in Denmark expressing strong criticism of the way trans people are being treated in the Danish health system.

Serious Trans Issues in Denmark

Along with organisations LGBT Denmark and Copenhagen Pride, Amnesty has subsequently launched a campaign named “sick system” [#sygtsystem] aiming to improve medical treatment and calling on the government and The Danish Health Authority to stop classifying transgenderism as a mental disorder.

A recent survey in Denmark showed that 8 out of 10 Danes do not consider transgenderism to be a mental disorder, but regardless of public opinion the Danish health system continues to label trans people with a mental disorder diagnosis. Furthermore a recent report carried out by Amnesty strongly criticises the medical treatment of transgender people in a number of ways concluding that Denmark is violating both human rights as well as The Yogyakarta Principles.

“Denmark is forcing transgender people to undergo years of humiliating clinical investigations. It is not only degrading but also in breach of their human rights”, says Helle Jacobsen from Amnesty Denmark.

“Do you think of your parents while masturbating?”
In the report 21 Danish transgender people talk about their experiences with the health system and stories include answering questions such as “do you think of your parents while masturbating?”, “do you enjoy roller coasters?” and “have you ever had sex for pay?”.

One transgender, Stine, explains in the report how the understanding of gender is both outdated and extremely binary at the Sexological Clinic at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, currently the only place in Denmark permitted to treat transgender people:

“The practitioner did not think that I was dressed womanly enough, even though she herself was wearing a suit. I asked her what she considered to be womanly. I mean, women wear everything from skirts to jogging pants or suits. She did not answer that. Instead she asked me if I tend to masturbate while wearing women’s clothing”.

The long wait for hormones
Due to the very long and complex clinical investigations that also have the purpose of ruling out possible psychotic disorders, it can easily take years before transgender people are prescribed hormones and actually begin their treatment. This leads to some taking treatment into their own hands by ordering hormones illegally online. Amnesty in their report points out the importance of adopting regulation to establish reasonable time limits for the provision of hormone treatment.

The current monopoly that the Sexological Clinic in Copenhagen has on treating trans people is also criticised and it is recommended that the right of independent doctors to carry out hormone treatment is being reinstated. This would both bring down the waiting time and give transgender people the option of being treated by their doctor of choice.

Denmark falling behind
While a legal change of gender became possible without undergoing forced sterilisation or surgery back in 2014, Denmark is no longer the progressive frontrunner on the trans issue and has been overtaken by countries such as Argentina in which the only requirement for treatment of transgender people is informed consent.

With the current campaign for transgender rights both Amnesty International, Copenhagen Pride and LGBT Denmark is calling on politicians to stop the discrimination and take immediate action on the serious challenges within the health system and to remove transgenderism (“transsexualism”) from the official list of diagnosable mental illnesses once and for all.

“We need to put an end to this constricting and inhuman binary gender perception which prevents trans people from getting started with their treatment and become healthy and strong citizens who are piloting their own lives. This is 2016. The time has come to stop violating transgender people”, says Lars Henriksen, chair of Copenhagen Pride.

The campaign for trans rights will continue throughout Spring and Summer and a number of activities are planned by the organisations involved. The hope is that 2016 will see long-awaited political results and radical improvements in the way trans people are being treated in the Danish health system.

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