Executive Summary

AuthorDirectorate-General for Justice and Consumers (European Commission), ICF
Legal gender recognition in the EU: the journeys of trans people towards full equality
June 2020
The European Commission is committed to tackling discrimination and promoting
equality for transgender people. To further this objective, the European Commission’s
department responsible for justice, consumer rights and g ender equality (DG Justice
and Consumers) commissioned and supervised this study. The research focused on the
position and experiences of trans people in education, employment and later life, as well
as their interactions with Legal Gender Recognition (LGR) procedures and th eir
experiences of coming out. It also considered the impact of discrimin ation that trans
individuals can face throughout their lifetime.
Focusing on these areas, the study had two key objectives: 1) providing an overview of
the situation of t ransgender people in the EU and 2) un derstanding whether there is a
positive correlation between inclusive policies allowing for Legal Gender R ecognition
(LGR) and the well-being of transgender people.
To achieve those tw o main objectives, the study consulted a total of 1,015 adults who
identified as transgender across the 27 EU Member States and the UK, in addition to
conducting a literature review, legal research an d a quantitative analysis of available
data. The results of these activities brought a wealth of insights into the challenges and
barriers transgender people face across Europe. These formed the basis of
recommendations at EU and Member State level.
I. Being trans - the position of transgender people in EU society
i. Coming out and transitioning
Trans people’s experien ces of coming out and transitioning vary, depending on their
age, gender identity, family support, the visibility and acceptance of other trans people
in wider society, existing legal systems, and other factors. Many study participants noted
that coming out processes can be long and complex, and can entai l many phases.
Most trans p eople realise that their gender does not match their sex assigned at birth
before reaching the age of 18, according to FRA’s 2019 LGBTI survey. During this period,
children’s gender expression can be policed by parents, teachers and other members of
For some trans individuals, initial awareness of their identity in early childhood is
sometimes accompanied by feelings of frustration or failure that they have not ‘lived up’
to societal expectations of their assigned gender. Amongst participan ts in this study,
some of these incidents related to playing with toys that were stereotypically associated
with another gender, internalising comments from adults about what was ‘appropriate’
behaviour, or being excluded from gender-segregated activities, such a s team sports.
There can be a gap between trans individuals becoming conscious of their gender
identity and first telling somebody about it . Even for those trans respondents who
became conscious of their gender identit y when t hey were young (e.g. ag es 0-5, 6-9
and 10-14), it was on average not until they reached their early 20s that they first came
out to someone (FRA’s 2019 LGBTI survey). Some participants in our study had
repressed their feelings about their gender identity and delayed coming out for decades
rather than years, due to their strong fear of familial rejection or losing their jobs.
‘I’ve known since I was little […] I r emember telling my mum […] She […] became
like really upset and told me never to tell anybody… That’s what I did … [I had] all
these feelings my whole life. I hoped they would go away, but they n ever did.’
Trans woman, aged 35-44, residing in UK
‘There was no information on this in Romania. […] I couldn’t go to anyone to help me
define how I felt. As a result, it took me years … I set aside my sentiments towards
Legal gender recognition in the EU: the journeys of trans people towards full equality
June 2020
my identity so that I could look after what I had in that moment, such as my children
and family.’
Trans woman, aged 35-44, residing in Romania
Trans individuals can face a range of reactions from family and fri ends after disclosing
their gender identity, reflecting the gaps in social understanding of trans identities and,
in some cases, overt hostility towards them. Although many participants noted positive
reactions, many others experienced rejection from family members. Some were left
unable to see their children or facing divorce.
Coming out is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous and iterative process. The
burden of repetitively coming out may have negative effects on the well -being of trans
people. Additionally, coming out is not always a choice. Many trans people are forced to
come out about their gender identity, especially in public places, such as post offices,
banks, city hall, exam venues, bars, and any other location where ID is required . Of
concern, some participants feared being perceived as trans in public, due to the risk of
transphobic violence or other hostile responses. This is supported by large-scale survey
data: approximately 30% of trans respondents in the FRA LGBTI survey r eported that
they ‘alwa ys’ or ‘often’ avoided expressing their gender through their physical
appearance and clothing, for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed (2019) .
As part of transitioning, some individuals may wish to undergo medical interventions,
but this process may be hampered by difficulties accessing hormone therap y, a lack of
support from healthcare professionals and negative reactions from others.
Having access to information about trans identities can be particularly useful for trans
people in understanding their identity and coming out. Participants spoke of helpful
sources such as the media, social media, oth er online sources, books and peer support
groups. Relatedly, having the words to describe their gender identity was an important
step for some. Conversely, many struggled to define their gender identity and come out
without the appropriate terms and information. The presence of negative narratives
about trans people in th e media and wider society was also a barrier to coming out for
Understanding one’s gender identity can be especially hard for some groups of trans
people. Fo r many people with non-binary identities, the binary structure of society
and often, their national lan guage may make it hard for them to ‘find the words’ to
come to understand their gender identity and express it to others.
‘My father complained about me not being normal, even as a trans person… My father
told me, and I’m quoting, “a normal trans person is from male to female or female to
male. I don’t even know what you’re doing, you’re an extremist, like the Taliban ”.’
Non-binary person, aged 35-44, residing in Italy
Furthermore, trans people with autism and with speech or learning disabilities may face
extra challenge s in verbalising t heir gender identity. However, it is worth noting that
some participants actually felt having autism had b een benefici al to them in
understanding their identity, as it meant they were able to question binary gender norms
and their own gender identity at an early age.
ii. Being trans in education
In 2019, the FRA LGBTI survey found that these were the highest educational
qualifications that trans respondents had gained: secondary education (applied to
40.6% of trans respondents), post-secondary education other than college/university
(12%), and t ertiary education (43.6%). Aroun d 3.8% of respondents had no formal
education or had only completed primary education as their highest level.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT