Photo by Sparrow (麻雀) (CC BY-SA 4.0)
In Belgium on 4th October Petra De Sutter (a Green Member) was sworn in as one of 7 Deputy Prime Ministers in the country’s new coalition led by new prime minister Alexander De Croo. This makes her the highest-ranking transgender politician in Europe. She will also take on the role of Minister of Civil Service (being in charge of public administration and enterprises). The appointment of a new government ends a 16-month period of Belgium being without a fully functioning government. De Stutter tweeted:
“I am proud that in Belgium and in most of the EU your gender identity does not define you as a person and is a non-issue
“I hope that my appointment as minister and deputy PM can trigger the debate in countries where this is not yet the case. #fighttransphobia”
De Stutter also made history in 2014 when despite unsuccessfully running in the European Parliament election, she became the first openly transgender MP (last year she did manage to win a seat as an MEP). However, her appointment hasn’t been met without criticism from the far-right. She has been criticised by members of her own regional parliament in Flanders (the Northern part of Belgium). Bart Claes of the Flemish Interest Party posted on Facebook that she “wants to destroy and replace all cornerstones of our Western civilization”. But these remarks were immediately criticised by her colleagues with one party colleague Bjorn Rzoska, decrying attempts to “dehumanize her”.