Trans women are being prevented from leaving Ukraine as violence strikes in the country during the Russian invasion. These women couldn’t cross the borders because their documents still identify them as male, using their “birth names”, according to the American-Canadian magazine VICE. The LGBTQIA+ community has been suffering all kinds of oppression from the government for years, so the beginning of war could only put them in a more vulnerable position.
Understand more about the conflicts in Ukraine and what is happening to trans women.
Ukraine: a new war zone in Europe
At the end of February, Ukraine was invaded by Russia. Since the election of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in 2019, Russia has been threatened to lose its influence over the neighboring country. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, feared the rise of an extremist wave.
Despite the official allegations, Russia was also worried about a possible approximation between Ukraine and alliances like NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union. The entry of Ukraine into NATO is seen as a threat by the Russians, especially for Putin, who has a desire to reestablish the influence over the territory of the dismembered Soviet Union.
The consequence of the attacks is the panic of the population. Families are fleeing to the border countries looking for refuge. With an imminent war, the authorities of Ukraine prohibited the exit of men between 18 and 60 years, who had to join the defenses. For this reason, many families remain separated.
What is the LGBTQIA+ worry in the middle of the conflicts?
For the LGBTQIA+ community, the Russian attack is a danger to their recent (and unstable) rights. That’s because the acceptance of “gay sex” by the Ukrainian authorities isn’t older than 30 years, and since then, they are persecuted by Far-Right Groups.
Besides that, the influence of the Orthodox Christian Church in the country also impacts the way this community is treated, and the manifestations against the LGBTQIA+ aren’t rare. The Russian invasion is one more factor to worry about. In Russia, a law approved in 2013 prohibited “gay advertising”.
In 2016, Russia was present in a list by International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association that classifies the top 10 Most Dangerous Countries To Be A LGBTQIA+.
Because of this prejudice inside both the country and the invader, the Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ fear for a Russian reaction against them, with manifestations full of violence.
Violation of the right to be: the negligence of trans woman
Leaving the country becomes harder for transgender women who don’t have documents to prove their gender identity. The absence of official evidence about their gender stems from the very bureaucratic and abusive process that trans people have to undergo to change their gender in papers.
Scared and oppressed by the politics of their own country, the majority of Ukrainians trans prefer to keep their documents, even without identifying them as they are, trying to avoid possible acts of transphobia and humiliation.
In the war scenario, trans women who are not considered women in their documents are directly harmed by the decree that bars the exit of men between 18 and 60 years. They are forced to stay in the country to serve the Ukrainian army in the war.
The situation for trans men is not better, the authorities are manipulating the crossing by preventing them from leaving, justifying it without ethics, using transphobic quotes like “if you’re really a man, fight for your country”.
Humanitarian organizations suggest that trans women don’t show their documents to the border authorities and say that it was lost in the middle of the chaos to leave the country. According to them, it’s a way to make the escape to other countries easier. Although the exit feels like a relief, transgenders are also denounced in countries like Poland and Hungary, where there are even more discriminatory governments.
In an interview for the American-Canadian Portal VICE, the Ukrainian trans singer Zi Faámelu said that transgender people feel abandoned and invisible at this moment. They need help from organizations and people who worry about human rights, she quotes as an example the United Nations.
On Instagram, the singer reiterates that she knows that the situation in Ukraine is very serious in many other issues, but also says that her life matters as a woman and a human being, and she will fight for her community.