In what feels like the only real good news in politics these days, Belgium has just sworn in their next Deputy Prime Minister, and she’s an openly transgender woman!
Per SBS, Belgian politician Petra de Sutter is a Green MP, Professor, Gynaecologist and activist for reproductive health and trans rights. De Sutter became Belgium’s first openly trans MP in 2014, and is now the Deputy PM and new public administration and public enterprises, officially making her the highest ranking trans politician in the world. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Hellooo, let’s celebrate that!“
“I am proud that in Belgium and in most of Europe, your gender identity does not define you as a person and is a non-issue,” De Sutter said in a tweet about her achievement. “I hope that my appointment as Minister and Deputy PM can trigger the debate in countries where this is not yet the case.”
Some of these countries, you might remember, include Poland where local governors are dubbing their towns “LGBT-free,” and Hungary, where the Hungarian dictator and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is trying to criminalise transgendered identities and end the legal recognition of trans people.
In response to the former country’s anti-LGBTQIA+ policies, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, “Being yourself is not your ideology, it is your identity. And no one can ever take it away. So, I want to be crystal clear. LGBTQIA+-free zones are humanity-free zones and they have no place in our union.”
While the moment is an historic achievement for trans and non-binary people around the world, back in Belgium, the politician’s trans identity is treated like everyone else’s. As Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Europe wrote in Politico, “the lack of a media frenzy over Petra de Sutter’s gender identity is a powerful sign of progress.”
“That the media coverage of her nomination as deputy prime minister focused on her work rather than on her trans identity is a reflection not just of her impressive political career but also of the progressive nature of Belgian politics today. It is not hard to imagine that the headlines would have looked very different in another country — even another European country.”