Belgium: First transgender parliamentarian appointed to Senate

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Professor Petra De Sutter has become Belgium’s first transgender Member of Parliament, making her the second serving transgender MP in Europe, following the country’s recent elections.

Professor De Sutter comes from a medical background. She is head of the Reproductive Medicine Department of the University Hospital Ghent, as well as an associate professor of gynaecology at the University of Ghent.

She ran in the recent elections to the European Parliament. She came second within the Belgian Groen (Green) party, with 47,000 votes, but the party only managed to secure one seat (which went to Bart Staes, who has served continuously as an MEP since 1999).

She said ahead of the elections that she wanted to fight “for a more social and fairer Europe, where everyone feels at home” and against “an unpleasant mentality of everyone for themselves”.

Although she failed to become an MEP, she has now been co-opted by the Greens as a member of the Belgian Senate, the upper house of the country’s federal government.

Following reforms this year, members of the Senate are now no longer elected. Fifty senators are appointed from regional and community parliaments, and the final ten are co-opted by their political peers.

This appointment makes her only the second serving transgender parliamentarian in Europe, joining Polish MP Anna Grodzka. Both De Sutter and Grodzka belong to the Green Party in their respective countries.

They follow Vladimir Luxuria, who was elected Europe’s first transgender MP in Italy in 2006 but lost her seat in 2008, and New Zealand’s Georgina Beyer, who became the first transgender MP in the world in 1999 but retired from politics in 2007.

Belgium has also had an openly gay Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, since 2011.