Clem Onojeghuo /

The trans community is the latest to fall victim to Russian state repression

The Bell

While much of the world is celebrating Pride month in support and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, Russia is preparing changes to legislation that would prohibit gender transition. Russian lawmakers explain these changes as protection of “traditional values” and “national interests.” But in reality, it means that the lives of people in the process of transition, or who are preparing for it, will be crippled. And this is no exaggeration.

  • The bill, which includes an article “prohibiting the change of sex of a person,” was submitted for consideration by almost 400 deputies of the lower house of Russia’s parliament. That’s more than half the legislators sitting in the state duma, so there is no doubt that it will be passed into law and it has already passed the first of its three readings. The bill prohibits any medical interventions related to gender transition, preventing doctors from performing breast removal and shaping operations, vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, etc. Hormone replacement therapy for gender transitions will also be banned.
  • In effect, deputies are demanding that doctors refuse to help trans people, even though this goes against the basis of Russian medical law, which states that medical help should be available to all people and without discrimination“on the basis of gender.” Moreover, Russia is increasingly disavowing the most recent 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases, trans activists warn. The classification identifies being transgender as a normal medical condition to be treated as needed. Russia began moving to ICD-11 in 2022 and should complete the process by 2025. However, the new law allows it to apply the classification in a simplified format, explained Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. “It’s a piece of paper, it can be corrected,” he said.
  • If the law is passed, trans people will be unable to change their designated gender in their passports. Statistics show in Russia issued 428 passports due to “sex change” in 2020, 554 in 2021 and 936 in 2022.
  • The bill makes some exceptions. Deputies propose permitting “medical interventions” to treat “congenital physiological anomalies in forming the sex of children.” However, any procedure would require the approval of a commission from a state medical institution. At the same time, the rest of the world is tending towards a ban on such operations during childhood, endocrinologists say.
  • At public discussions of the bill, State Duma deputies described transitions among American teenagers as “Satanism” and said that “the Western transgender industry is trying to seep into our country.” According to lawmakers, a ban on gender transitions is necessary, among other things, to prevent “crowds of homosexuals” from adopting children and evading military service by changing their gender.

Why the world should care

The Russian authorities continue to systematically ban any trace of LGBTQ+ activity. At the end of last year, a law banning “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” was imposed, effectively banning any reference to homosexuality in art (literature, cinema) and in everyday life. Now, the authorities have trans people in their sights. In these circumstances, some analysts and human rights activists fear that their next step might be reinstating conversion therapy in Russia, something that is legally prohibited in many countries.


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