Vladimir Putin may have just banned transgender people from driving, but Paris Lees, a leading trans activist, isn’t losing hope. Far from it
By Paris Lees
09 Jan 2015
Russia has just made it illegal for transgender people to drive. Are you surprised? Don’t be. Around the world trans people are subject to a litany of injustices from birth to death, ranging from the unforgivably tedious, like not being granted access to appropriate changing rooms, or loos, to the downright soul destroying, like, I don’t know, not even being able to walk down the street without fear of being attacked. It’s all very well if you drive, I suppose, but in Russia now trans individuals don’t even have that.
Maybe the trans folk there should just lock themselves up in a room and never come out again. I did that for a few years, and I doubt I was the first, or last, trans person to do so.
The Russian government says it is tightening down on driving laws to improve road safety. People with “mental disorders”, ranging from fetishism to “pathological” gambling will also be denied driving permits. This is what happens when we treat trans and gay people as though they are mentally ill rather than products of natural humanProfessional Drivers Union supports the move, with the organisation’s head, Alexander Kotov saying: “We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified”. This is an actual debate that is happening in Russia at the moment. It is beyond satire.
One only has to look at the degraded status of women in countries like Saudi Arabia for comparison. Women there are not allowed to drive themselves, but not because they have been deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder. No, it is their ovaries that prevent them from operating vehicles, according to learned Saudi clerics. It’s astonishing the logic bigots employ to justify nothing more than plain old discrimination. Mind you, we have had quite a bit of rain since equal marriage was introduced last summer, so maybe the fear-mongers are onto something after all.
So why don’t we hear more about these daily injustices? Well, we’re finally starting to. Transgender children have suffered abuse at the hands of their own families for decades, but the mainstream is only just starting to comprehend the scale of the problem. The reaction to Leelah Alcorn’s death last month, the 17-year-old trans girl driven, by her own account, to suicide by her parents, has sparked an outpouring of sympathy and understanding over the past few weeks. People get it. Such a response would have been unimaginable even just a few years ago, not least for the fact that social blogging sites like Tumblr, on which Leelah left her damning, moving, and heart-breaking suicide note, didn’t exist. Mainstream society is starting to understand exactly what trans people have to endure because we have finally found ways to tell you.