Transsexuality: A hype, just a “trans fashion”? – The controversy over Alice Schwarzer’s theses

“Emma Terfs ins Klo” and “Transresistance” are written in large graffiti letters on the staircase of the medieval tower that houses Alice Schwarzer’s “Emma” editorial office on the banks of the Rhine in Cologne. “Terf” is an abbreviation for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism”. In this case, the term should undoubtedly be understood as an insult to Alice Schwarzer. “Who does that?” asks the editors indignantly on their website.

Germany’s best-known feminist, who will be 80 this year, finds the hostility unfair and downright absurd. When words like “gender” were still almost unknown in Germany, she was already campaigning for transsexuals, she defended herself in an interview with the German Press Agency (dpa) in her office inside the tower.

“In the mid-1970s, I first met a man who said, ‘I’m in the wrong body, I want to be a woman.’ Then I thought: ‘Incredible, the soul can be stronger than the body.’”

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In the early 1980s, she was one of the few who campaigned in public debate for the transgender law, which allows people to change (or change) their gender. But what was considered an achievement at the time is now considered undignified and humiliating by many 40 years later.

Great suffering due to the current transsexual law

“Anyone who listens to trans people feels the great psychological strain caused by the current transsexual law and social discrimination,” says Sven Lehmann (Greens), the federal government’s queer officer, of the dpa.

Sven Lehmann, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Sven Lehmann, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Source: dpa

For example, if you want to change your name and gender entry, you have to go through a lengthy process and have compulsory reports drawn up. The traffic light parties have therefore stipulated in the coalition agreement that the transsexual law should be replaced by a self-determination law. “The Self-Determination Act, which the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Justice are currently working on jointly, is about changing the gender entry in civil status, i.e. in ID cards and other official documents,” explains Lehmann.

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The Greens member of the Bundestag Sven Lehmann, 42, is the Federal Government Commissioner for the Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity.  He lives with his husband in Cologne

Alice Schwarzer is critical of the project and has now published a polemic with “Emma” editor Chantal Louis entitled “Transsexuality – What is a woman? What is a man?“.

The book is intended to trigger a broad public debate, which Schwarzer believes does not currently exist. “It’s not about the extremely small group of true trans people,” she insists. “It’s about tens of thousands of young girls who suddenly want to change their sex. Especially very young girls. There are now classes in which four girls sit and say: “I’m trans – I want to be a boy!” It’s becoming a mass phenomenon.” She speaks of a real “trans fashion”.

Societal pressures on young girls?

The “Emma” editor suspects something completely different to be the cause of this: “These young girls who are now storming the therapist’s offices live in a world that gives them very contradictory messages. On the one hand, they are told: “You can become chancellor, you can become an astronaut, you can do everything that men can do!” The body, the breasts, the face – everything has to be perfect!”

Sees conflicting messages to young women that overwhelm them

Sees conflicting messages to young women that overwhelm them

Source: dpa

Understandably, this balancing act creates unease with one’s own role as a woman. “But the solution to this problem is not to mutilate your own body. The solution is to overcome the role of women and simply take so-called male liberties. Therapists need to learn to differentiate between the rare real cases of transsexuality and the many, many cases where young women and sometimes young men just have gender issues.”

Sven Lehmann sees it very differently. “Alice Schwarzer cannot judge from the outside what moves trans people and shouldn’t do that either,” he criticizes. “Trans is definitely not a hype or a fad.” Nobody does it lightly or for fun.

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Nele (left) and her partner Elie Vandenbussche

In his opinion, the fact that the number of trans people has risen sharply is due to the fact that society has become more open and there is now more information, more opportunities for identification and more advice centers. “And of course, role models also encourage courage, including the first two open trans women in the Bundestag.” If it were true that many young people made the decision prematurely, then many would have to regret this step afterwards – but that’s not the case: “We know from studies that less than one percent of people who change their marital status regret this decision.”

“A 14-year-old girl suddenly says, ‘I’m trans'”

Alice Schwarzer is particularly outraged that the so-called gender change should in future be possible from the age of 14. It should no longer be seriously examined whether it is a case of untreatable transsexuality or just a gender role irritation. “From the age of 14 you should be able to change your gender, even if your parents don’t agree! You have to imagine that: A 14-year-old teenager who is going through puberty, busy finding her own identity, suddenly says: “I’m trans.”

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A private photo by Ella, who was still living in Magdeburg at the time

Changing the gender entry is often only the first step, which is often followed as a second step by treatment with puberty blockers, hormones and surgery. Of course, some therapists and doctors as well as the pharmaceutical industry also have a great commercial interest in these gender reassignments and the associated operations and lifelong hormone treatment.

Lehmann counters this: “The Self-Determination Act does not regulate any medical issues, it is about official civil status. We are currently discussing the form of the self-determination law within the government. The age limit of 18 years already applies to gender reassignment operations in specialist medical guidelines, and there are only a few exceptions that fall below this limit.”

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Schwarzer argues, “I think this whole debate is confusing nature with culture. I am one of those people who want to abolish cultural gender roles. That means I don’t think, for example, that women are better mothers just because they can bear children. And I think girls should be able to play soccer and boys should be allowed to cry. But now you suddenly come up and say: “The biological sex has to be changed.” But we cannot abolish nature.”


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