Open Letter on Transphobia in the USA and Germany

Dear Foreign Minister Baerbock,
Dear Education Minister Stark-Watzinger,

The year 2023 has not yet come to an end, and already 80 transphobic laws have been enacted – in the USA alone [Q1].

The increase in anti-trans laws there by more than 190% compared to the previous year, the exclusion of elected representatives from parliaments, and the political rhetoric of leading conservative politicians do not pass without consequences [Q2]. They instill fear of life among those affected, to the extent that they are even afraid to speak out publicly. Many fear violence.

This legalization of human rights violations should also concern the German government, and especially you as Foreign Minister. This is not only due to the historical responsibility stemming from the systematic conviction of hundreds of thousands and eventual deportation, including at least 15,000 homosexual men – numbers that don’t even account for other members of the queer community [Q3]. But it’s also due to the deepened economic interdependence and transatlantic cooperation with the United States. Ignoring these developments not only questions the human rights enshrined in the basic law, but also contradicts your current political guidelines regarding the Self-Determination Act and ultimately your feminist foreign policy.

In response to an inquiry on this matter, we received the following statement from your ministry:

„Das Auswärtige Amt ist sich daher der kontroversen identitätspolitischen Debatten in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika sowie der legislativen Entwicklungen in bestimmten US-Bundesstaaten bewusst, die sich aus den aktivistischen Forderungen von Transpersonen nach entsprechenden Rechten und davon abweichenden politischen Positionen ergeben.“

(The Foreign Office is aware of the controversial identity-political debates in the United States of America, as well as the legislative developments in certain U.S. states resulting from the activist demands of transgender individuals for corresponding rights and differing political positions.)

This statement is deeply disturbing. It suggests a legitimate discourse between political persecution of trans* individuals and those affected. It speaks of „demands […] for corresponding rights“ when it is about the struggle not to lose human rights. And it refers to „differing political positions“ when it concerns systematic discrimination and the denial of human rights. Aside from all this downplaying, this statement lacks any clear stance. Therefore, we are left with no choice but to fear the worst: that you are merely standing by. For the Foreign Ministry, regarding your important ally, this is tantamount to supporting this hostile policy towards people.

This also raises doubts about how much the government is willing to protect the trans* community and the LGBTIQ* community as a whole from similar endeavours in Germany [Q4].

And the danger for these individuals is far from hypothetical. In Germany, the recorded violence against the LGBTIQ* community has been on the rise for years [Q5], as evidenced by recent incidents like the violent crime following the CSD (Christopher Street Day) in Hannover [Q6]. The hate crimes documented by the Lesbian and Gay Association are just the tip of the iceberg, indicating a much higher level of unreported cases [Q7]. Germany and the USA are not isolated cases; however, their significance is of utmost importance because these developments reinforce and legitimize each other through their interplay.

At the same time, conservative politicians from Germany travel to the United States to align themselves with the transphobic U.S. Governor Ron DeSantis [Q8]. Additionally, for years, queer-phobic proposals have been put forward in the Bundestag, aiming to essentially abolish e.g. gender and queer sciences in a scarily historic manner[Q9.1][Q9.2] . Just as in Florida, where the legal funding for these sciences was removed [Q10]. This attacks the freedom of those affected, students, researchers, and science itself. Similar to the situation in the USA, often no argumentative discourse takes place here, but instead, legitimate human rights are pseudo-scientifically denied. Thus, the fight for the safety, freedom, and rights of these individuals is needed both internationally and nationally. 

Despite the danger to human rights and academic freedom, the significant historical responsibility, and the heightened resurgence of hatred – both in the USA and here in Germany – there is a lack of opposing positions from the federal government, particularly from the Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The guideline of the Foreign Office, „We take the lead in combating violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ* individuals,“ seems to be nothing more than an empty phrase at present [Q11].

Now is the time to take a clear stance, to denounce and condemn human rights violations, to firmly defend academic freedom and important fields of study. It is the time to stand in solidarity with those affected, to support them, and to join forces in combating transphobia. Without doing so, you must admit your failure to uphold this guideline. A failure that has real human consequences, both internationally and locally. We earnestly implore you to do the right thing and not continue to merely watch from the sidelines!

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