Written by Levan Berianidze, Gender Movement Program Officer, GATE
Follow up article to Trans Liberation: Strategies for Systemic Change beyond Carceral Activism
Summary: As the fight for trans liberation continues across the globe, there are many examples of successful non-carceral strategies that have transformed institutions and brought about significant change. These strategies are particularly important in countries where transphobia is rampant, as they can serve as beacons of hope and models for change. In my previous article, I promised to provide possible routes to implementing trans liberatory activism beyond carceral approaches by exploring specific examples. In this article, we will examine some of the most successful examples of transforming institutions for trans liberation in the areas of education, healthcare, social security and welfare, economy, and justice and law enforcement.
NOTE: Carceral activism refers to activism focused on enacting legislative changes that aim at eliminating hate-motivated crimes and acts of discrimination.
Education is a critical area for transforming institutions for trans liberation. It is crucial to ensure that all children and young people have access to safe and inclusive learning environments, where they can be themselves without fear of discrimination or harassment. Deprivation of education is one of the most indicative factors in causing economic marginalization, homelessness, incarceration, and poor health outcomes, to name a few. Access to education influences an individuals’ capacity to overcome structural barriers.
One successful example of transforming education for trans liberation comes from Canada, where the Toronto District School Board has developed guidelines for supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students in schools. These guidelines include recommendations for creating safe and inclusive school environments, providing support for students who are transitioning, and respecting students’ chosen names and pronouns.
Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right. It is essential to ensure that trans people have access to quality, affordable, and consistent healthcare, including gender-affirming healthcare, HIV-related services, and sexual and reproductive health services.
One successful example of transforming healthcare for trans liberation comes from Argentina where, in 2012, the government passed a groundbreaking gender identity law. This law recognizes the right of trans people to have their gender identity recognized and provides access to gender-affirming healthcare, including hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. The law also allows trans people to change their name and gender on official documents without requiring any medical or psychological evaluation.¹
Another successful example comes from Thailand, where the government provides free gender-affirming healthcare to all citizens. This includes hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery, as well as counseling and support services for trans people and their families.²
Social Security and Welfare
Social security and welfare systems play a critical role in ensuring that everyone has access to basic living needs and a decent standard of living. Social security and welfare are often of particular importance to trans communities, as systematic exclusion from education and employment, and social and family hostilities can exclude many trans people from basic living standards such as access to safe accommodation and sustenance. However, many social security and welfare systems are not designed to meet the specific needs of trans people, which can result in significant barriers to accessing what is often life-saving support.
One successful example of transforming social security and welfare for trans liberation comes from Nepal where, in 2015, the government introduced a third gender category on all official documents. While this option does not suit all contexts or all trans individuals, this provides an opportunity for trans people who wish to identify with a third gender category to access social security and welfare support without being required to identify as male or female. The government also provides financial support for gender confirmation surgery and has established a trans welfare fund to support the community.³
Economic inequality is a significant barrier to trans liberation, as many trans people face discrimination and barriers to employment, housing, and financial security.
One good example of economic empowerment policies for trans people comes from Argentina where, in 2015, the government launched a program called “Cupo Laboral Travesti Trans,” which aims to promote labor inclusion for the trans community. The program provides job training and employment opportunities for trans people, as well as financial support for entrepreneurs. Additionally, the program includes a quota system that requires businesses to employ a certain percentage of trans people.⁴
Justice and Law Enforcement
Justice and law enforcement systems have historically been a focus for discrimination and violence against trans people, with many trans individuals facing harassment, abuse, and discrimination at the hands of police and justice systems. Criminalization laws are often used to target trans people.⁵ Trans communities also face disproportionately high levels of policing and incarceration.
One successful example of transforming justice and law enforcement for trans liberation is in Portugal where, in 2018, the government introduced a law that simplified the legal gender recognition process for trans people. This law allows trans people to legally change their gender without requiring any medical or psychological evaluation and eliminates the need for court proceedings. The law aims to reduce discrimination and harassment against trans people by law enforcement officials, as it ensures that trans people have legal recognition and protection.
The passing of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) 2003 in New Zealand, which decriminalised sex work, resulted in significant improvements to police and sex worker interactions and relationships, and better working conditions for sex workers. Decriminalization has been found to be the best practice in terms of public health, with positive research findings related to the health and safety of workers in both the New Zealand and New South Wales contexts.⁶ This is of particular benefit to trans people who do sex work.
Advocating for decriminalization including sex work and drug use is beneficial to trans communities and other vulnerable groups. This opens opportunities for cross movement collaboration in decriminalization efforts.
Transforming institutions for trans liberation is a crucial step in the fight for equal rights and opportunities for trans people. The examples discussed in this article demonstrate that change is possible. By moving beyond carceral activism and creating safe and inclusive learning environments, ensuring access to quality healthcare, and promoting economic opportunities for ALL, we can build a world where not only trans people are valued and respected members of society, but everyone else is too.
- Guzmán, M. S. (2019). The right to gender identity in Argentina: An analysis of the gender identity law. Health and Human Rights Journal, 21(2), 119-130.
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). (2021). Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Factsheet: Thailand.
- Alliance for Solidarity. (2018). Trans people in Nepal: Struggling for their rights. Retrieved from https://www.alianzaporlasolidaridad.org/en/trans-people-in-nepal-struggling-for-their-rights/
- Reuters. (2021, June 26). Argentina’s ground-breaking gender identity law turns 9. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-lgbt-lawmaking-trfn-idUSKCN2E11QV
- For more information, please visit the following webpage: https://tgeu.org/portugual-votes-for-self-determination-keeps-medicalization-for-minors/
- Graham, Samantha. “Impacts of decriminalisation for trans sex workers.” Sex Work and the New Zealand Model. Cambridge University Press, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108346610.007.