London protest follows Sweden’s trans sterilisation rule

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Worldwide protest at continuing insistence by the Swedish government on what has been described as a policy of eugenics in respect of trans men and women led on Monday to the unusual sight of a demo outside that country’s London embassy.

The protest was good-natured and polite, with around 40 members and supporters of the UK’s trans community giving out leaflets, displaying placards and engaging embassy staff in good natured debate.

Nonetheless, protesters were clear that the issue is serious and will not go away.

The dispute arises from the fact that under Swedish law, dating back to 1972, trans individuals may not obtain recognition in their identified gender unless they first undergo sterilisation. In many instances – MtF gender re-assignment, for instance – this will be the natural outcome of surgery anyway. But there are other circumstances – FtM re-assignment, for instance, where this is not the case.

Not only does this run counter to what is now accepted practice in a number of countries, including Portugal, the UK and Spain, but Sweden also sets an additional requirement: the destruction of any biological reproductive material, including sperm and eggs, which could later be used in IVF procedures. It is an approach that has been condemned by Thomas Hammarberg, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, who has said that such a requirement “clearly runs against principles of human rights and human dignity”.

Outrage is all the fiercer, as it is understood that there is a majority in the Swedish parliament in favour of abandoning this stance…but that moves to do so have been blocked by Sweden’s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in order to retain the support of minority right-wing elements within the governing coalition. This claim has, however, been explicitly denied by Minister Erik Ullenhag.

Giving support to the demonstration was internationally acclaimed gender variant visual artist/activist/educator, Del LaGrace Volcano, who said: “It has taken more than a decade for the mainstream lesbian and gay community in Sweden, represented by RFSL, to wake up to this issue, but THEY are now finally making some headway.

“My feeling is that a new, younger – and more militant – component within Sweden’s trans community are emerging: in the past, many tended to self-pathologise. This generation refuses to do so – and are determined to stand up for their rights as human beings.”

The Swedish ambassador was unavailable for comment at this time – but may do so at a later date.