Speech in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia on the occasion of marking the International Day for Combating Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Speech in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia on the occasion of marking the International Day for Combating Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Lila Milić (Transforma): Dear Members of Parliament, representatives of civil society organizations and representatives of the diplomatic corps,

May 17th – The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated around the world for a very good reason. The hatred towards those who deviate from the traditional norms and from everything that is “generally accepted” is very real, real and often materializes not only in stigma and discrimination, but also in physical violence, and if the hatred is not limited and prevented institutionally level, it can result in violence and even hate killings. In particular, at the global level, transgender women are the most exposed to hate killings. Since 2008, The Trans Murder Monitoring Report[1] project has documented hate killings of transgender people. Since the beginning of the project, 13 years ago, 4039 murders have been recorded. This figure is only the visible tip of the iceberg as the data is only obtained from countries where there are established networks of trans organizations that monitor these cases, while many cases remain unreported or unrecognized as such. In the Republic of North Macedonia, we have not yet documented a case of murder motivated by hatred against a member of the LGBTI+ population, but we cannot claim with certainty that it did not happen because acts of hatred based on sexual orientation and gender identity were only recognized in 2018 in the law, and we are still faced with insufficient capacities of law enforcement authorities to recognize and protect against this type of crime. We certainly cannot boast that we zealously defend and advocate for the rights of LGBTI+ people, much less that we try to institutionally limit and prevent hatred. In other words, we are very far from democratic modern societies, even though we declare ourselves convinced of it.

Unfortunately, what we can state is that hate speech against the LGBTI+ population, and especially the transgender community, is only gaining momentum in our society. Although we have reported countless documented cases of hate speech directed at the LGBTI+ community to both the police and the public prosecutor’s office, there has not yet been a single case in which an individual or group has been convicted. Personally, I am a continuous victim of hate speech especially from organizations that come together with the sole purpose of denying the rights of LGBTI people and gender equality. They call me sick, abnormal, they threaten me with beatings, rape, death, they don’t recognize my gender identity, they constantly make fun of me and threaten me. I have filed a criminal complaint many times and asked for protection, but the prosecutor’s office and the police have not taken any action. The message from the institutions to me is clear, my life and the lives of transgender people are not equally worth protecting.

This situation is compounded by religious leaders who loudly call not to pass the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Birth Records in the section on legal recognition of gender. Yes religious leaders, those who enjoy power and status, those for whom the state makes an exception to anti-discrimination and allows them to legally discriminate against women in employment, not to pay taxes but to charge for goods and services, those who build skyscrapers at Holiday Inn contrary to public interest and enrich themselves on the backs of the impoverished people. They moralize about what a woman was and how a woman should behave and look, they take it upon themselves to spread hatred and incite violence against LGBTI people and call it morality. If that is moral, and my struggle to avoid being beaten, harassed, to find employment and to have equal educational opportunities is immoral, then we have to ask ourselves if we really want to be a democracy or a theocracy. But let me remind you of how the world looked when the clergy ruled it, we speak of the Middle Ages as the dark years of dizzyingly rich church authorities who oppress, silence, exploit and mistreat the entire population. This is not done by religious leaders without interest, their goal is to maintain the status quo in which they enjoy power through close ties with politicians and businessmen. In a more democratic and gender-equal society, religious communities do not have much influence among the population, so politicians and businessmen will not buy reputation from them, which will reduce their properties and vehicle fleets.

Finally, when we come to the institutional arrangements and the alleged institutional support from the state that would guarantee and protect our rights as a marginalized community – for years the Law on Civil Registry, which regulates the legal recognition of gender, has been in and out of the Parliamentary procedure due to various political calculations to woo the electorate, with which politicians fail to deliver on their own commitments. Their commitment is that every citizen should enjoy their human rights, and the transgender community, even in 2023, still cannot realize one of the most basic human rights according to all international conventions – the right to identity, the right to identify yourself the way you feel. and as you are created, just because you cannot enter the matrix of the traditional and conventional majority. What gives hope right now is the announcement that the Law on Civil Registry will again enter the Parliamentary procedure and let’s hope that the MPs will vote for it this time despite the long delay. Dear Members of Parliament, do not fall for the propaganda against this law! Do not fall for the propaganda that dehumanizes us and presents us as monsters that are harmful to society and especially to children! The law makes it possible to change personal documents, which affect only the person who owns them and the institutions to which he submits them. No one asks me for an ID card to enter a women’s club, and now with an M in the ID card I enter a women’s club and none of what the opponents predicted happened, the family did not fall apart, society did not fall apart. Transgender people in this country already change documents, procedures that are provisional and can last from 1 to 10 years. With this law, instead of changing our documents pending a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, they will be changed by a decision of the Registry Office. Instead of changing in a decade, they will change in a month. For transgender people, this means a lot, it means that we will not lose 10 years of life that leave consequences to the end, it means that we will be able to find a job, not be social cases, that our health will not suffer because of the fear and anxiety every time we go to bank or at the border. Unlike us, these documents mean nothing to the rest of us. So far, about 14 transgender people have changed their gender and birth certificate, so the end of the world has not come as the opponents predict. You cannot prevent us from changing the gender marking on documents, it is a won right in Europe. We just ask that you make our way easier, don’t play with our lives, we ask for the opportunity to equally participate and contribute to society. Instead of dealing with personal documents for years, let’s learn, develop, work, contribute during that time.

As a transwoman, I also stand for family values, and I have a family. But for me family values are love, empathy and support from loved ones, it means that loved ones accept you with all your differences, virtues and flaws and help you to be the best version of yourself. But opponents think that a family value is to hate those who are different, for the man to decide and control the wife and children in the family, to behave violently and that is forgiven. No, these are not family values in a democratic society, these are patriarchal norms that lead to insecure, unhappy and violent young people, who, in the absence of adequate support and the inability to speak about their needs, cannot use their potential.

Once again, vote FOR the amendments to the Civil Registry Law and stand on the side of love, justice and equality.

Thank you!