Amnesty slams Denmark for transgender discrimination

Rights group Amnesty International has slammed Denmark for discriminating against its transgender population, forcing them to undergo psychological evaluations in decisions about their bodies despite law changes aimed at protecting them.

Amnesty slams Denmark for transgender discrimination
Competitors perform on stage during Israel's first Miss Trans beauty pageant last May. File photo: Menahem Kahana/Scanpix

On January 1st, Denmark removed transgender from its list of mental illnesses. Despite this, transgender Danes must still go through a series of much-criticised psychological evaluations before they can receive the green light to change their gender through surgery.

Amnesty International’s Danish arm on Friday issued a damning report on the matter, accusing Denmark of violating the rights of transgender Danes and essentially rendering them legally incompetent by not allowing them to take such decisions about their bodies by themselves.  

“It’s about the right to your own body and your own life. Unfortunately, the point of departure is that the health system doesn’t trust that transgender people are capable of taking decisions about their lives themselves,” Helle Jacobsen was quoted as telling Danish daily Berlingske in an interview.

“It’s still about transgender people having to convince Sexologisk Klinik (national mental health services focused on sexology) that they’re transgender. It’s seriously rendering them legally incompetent.”

”First of all, you are declared legally competent when you turn 18. This means that transgender people have the same right as everyone else can decide about their lives. Secondly, none of the people that Amnesty has spoken with has regretted their treatment. In contrast, it’s something that most of them have been wanting to do for years.”

The psychological evaluations can take up to a year to go through after which the person wishing to undergo a medical procedure to change their gender might be refused to do so based on the evaluation results.

”It should be possible for a person who is transgender to get the kind of treatment that they wish,” Jacobsen said.


Film company to rebuild Danish Girl’s Dresden grave

The Dresden grave of trailblazing trans woman Lili Elbe is to get a new tombstone – funded by the company behind a hit film about her life.

Film company to rebuild Danish Girl's Dresden grave
Eddie Redmayne portrayed Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. Photo: Universal Pictures/dpa

“It was important to us that Lili Elbe showed so much courage in her time,” cemetery manager Beatrice Teichmann told The Local when asked why the grave was to be rebuilt.

The Danish Girl, released in German cinemas in January, tells the story of Elbe, who was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Elbe was born Einar Wegener in 1882 in Denmark, and became a famous painter.

But although he enjoyed career success and was happily married, Wegener was never comfortable living as a man.

The couple moved to Paris where Elbe could live as a woman and her wife, Gerda Gottlieb, as a lesbian.

But in 1930 Elbe travelled to Germany for sex reassignment surgery – a highly experimental procedure at the time.

She underwent a series of four operations over the course of the following months in Berlin and later Dresden, but a final procedure to transplant a womb – decades before the invention of drugs to prevent the body rejecting transplants – proved fatal.

Elbe died in 1931 and was buried in the Trinity Cemetery belonging to the Evangelical Church in Dresden.

For unknown reasons, the gravestone was removed sometime in the 1950s or 1960s – but no-one else has been buried in the plot since.

Now Focus Features – the company behind The Danish Girl movie – has offered to cover the €4,100 costs to reconstruct Elbe's grave. 

The grave is to be officially inaugurated on Friday at a ceremony attended by the Danish ambassador to Germany, film producer Gail Mutrux and David Ebershoff, author of the novel that became the Danish Girl movie.

“The idea was to have a place to remember her again,” cemetery manager Teichmann said.

Teichmann asks that anyone wishing to contribute to commemorating Elbe make a small donation rather than sending flowers. Bank details can be found on the Evangelical Community website.