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Joint Trans Language Submission to UN Independent Expert SOGI

About the publication

This is a joint submission on language related to gender identity and expression to the United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This short submission raises some issues with language, content, and references with regards to gender identity and expression issues in the IE SOGI’s first report. In part, the submission builds on the in-person private meeting that the IE SOGI had with 17 trans advocates during the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 7 June 2017.


  1. Define gender identity more broadly to incorporate gender expression components.
  2. Include references to gender expression throughout the work of the Mandate in order to bring more focused attention to expression-specific issues.
  3. Avoid using the internal/external dichotomy when addressing gender identity and sexual orientation.
  4. When appropriate, refer to sexual orientation or gender identity, not only to sexual orientation and gender identity. Be specific about whether a point is about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or all of these.
  5. Build on the introductory point that everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity by fundamentally breaking the association between sexual orientation as cisgender and gender identity as transgender and providing specific examples to this end.
  6. Continue to address gender identity issues specifically and directly.
  7. Avoid preference towards sexual orientation as the first or only examples.
  8. Avoid creating artificial progress accounts that put advances on sexual orientation issues as a precondition for advances on gender identity issues, and acknowledge that cultures and peoples around the world respond to and legislate around sexual and gender diversity in different ways.
  9. We recommend that this underpinning is rephrased as “Decriminalization of same-sex relations or gender identity and/or expression.”
  10. We further recommend that the IE SOGI includes more detailed examples of how criminalization affects trans and gender diverse people.
  11. We recommend to acknowledge the possible confusion in discussing gender identity and expression by focusing on the concepts and avoiding broad phrases that could have derogatory implications towards trans people generally and specifically avoiding phrases such as “you are not the only ones who are confused”, as these can underplay how central a person’s gender identity is to an individual’s personality, self-determination, dignity and freedom.
  12. We recommend that the IE SOGI refrain from using terms such as “biologically male/female” and instead apply the phrase “sex assigned at birth” throughout this Mandate.
  13. We recommend that the IE SOGI makes explicit references to and provide examples of non-binary identities.
  14. We recommend that the IE SOGI makes explicit references to a variety of specific identities, including identities originating in the Global South and those not easily translated to or explained in English.
  15. We recommend that the IE SOGI use the pronouns “he”, “she”, and “they” in future speeches in an effort to include those with non-binary identities.



(Alphabetical Order)

  • Lukas Berredo, Transrespect Officer, Transgender Europe (TGEU)
  • Jack Byrne, Independent human rights researcher, TransAction
  • Zhan Chiam, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Senior Programme Officer, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
  • F.J. Genus, Associate Director – Policy and Advocacy, TransWave Jamaica
  • Mauro Cabral Grinspan, Executive Director, Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE)
  • Micah Grzywnowicz, International Advocacy Advisor RFSL, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights
  • Dodo Karsay, Research and Information Officer, ARC International
  • Ricky Nathanson, Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT); Southern Africa Trans Forum (SATF)
  • Cianán B. Russell, Human Rights & Advocacy Officer, Asia Pacific Transgender Network
  • Leigh Ann van der Merwe, Coordinator, S.H.E., Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa
  • Viviane Vergueiro, Project Coordinator, Akahatá Studies Group on Sexualities and Genders
  • Fritz von Klein, Trans* Coalition on Post-Soviet Space


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