A German trans man underwent mandatory sterilisation to legally transition. Now he wants justice

GRA inquiry: Tell the women and equalities committee about trans equality

A trans man from Germany who was sterilised in order to obtain the correct gender marker on his legal documents is demanding compensation and a government apology.

Tsepo Bollwinkel said he was “eager to follow the rules, even if they sounded insane” when authorities insisted he be sterilised to be legally considered a man in 1994.

“I felt grateful [at the time] for that opportunity because it was important for me to get legal recognition,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Until 2011, trans people were required to be “permanently infertile” and to have “undergone surgery which has changed his or her external sexual characteristics and which has resulted in clearly approaching the person’s appearance to that of the other gender” to be legally recognised in Germany.

These requirements were ruled unlawful by the German Constitutional Court almost a decade ago.

Now, more than 25 years after his own procedure, Bollwinkel is fighting for compensation for himself and potentially thousands of other trans people like him.

“I am not interested in money,” Bollwinkel said.

“But in Germany, like in other European societies, recognition has to come in the shape of euros to be considered real.”

10,000 German trans people sterilised.

Bundesverband Trans (BvT), a trans advocacy group which is backing Bollwinkel’s campaign, estimates that at least 10,000 trans people were sterilised before 2011.

One trans woman who underwent the procedure almost 30 years ago said “there was no justification” for the theft of her reproductive future.

“They just could not conceive that a man could get pregnant or that a woman could make another woman pregnant,” the woman told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“They stole that from us. There was no justification.”

Sweden became the first country in the world to offer compensation to trans people who were sterilised in order to have their gender recognised back in 2018, and has called on Germany to follow suit.

According to Thomson Reuters, when one lawmaker raised the issue with the German parliament in 2019, the federal government sent a written reply saying it had “taken note” of the recommendation but “saw no need for those measures”.

Germany lags behind on trans rights.

Like Britain and many European countries, Germany does not permit trans people to self-determine their gender, instead requiring the approval of a doctor.

Tessa Ganserer, the country’s first openly-trans MP, is campaigning to change the law.

Some progress was made in 2019 when Germany became the first EU country to introduce a third gender marker for official documents.

However, this can only be issued with a medical certificate stating that a “variant of gender development” is present.

The LGBT+ group Third Option said that this excludes both non-binary trans people and intersex people who “cannot or do not want to present a certificate”.