Russia’s proposed ban on gender surgery has trans campaigners on high alert

Elle Solomina, 36, claims that the year 2021, when she converted her gender to female in her official Russian identification cards, was the year her life truly began.
The IT professional is currently witnessing the path she travelled to self-acceptance shatter as Russia gets ready to ban gender-affirming medical procedures, including surgery, as well as ID gender modifications.

Elle Solomina, 36, a Russian transgender woman from Saratov, attends an interview in Tbilisi, Georgia June 21, 2023. REUTERS/David Chkhikvishvili

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Solomina, who escaped to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, told Reuters that the rule was fascist in its purest form. The only thing I can think of is that people have to live in fear under a totalitarian regime.

The newest stage in a global campaign against LGBTQ rights, which President Vladimir Putin tries to paint as evidence of moral degeneration in Western nations, is the draft legislation, which received early support from the lower chamber of parliament last month.

Advocates for transgender rights are alarmed by the news of the ban and warn of risks to the mental and physical well-being as well as long-term issues brought on by a potential black market for hormone drugs.

The law will enter a second reading on Thursday, according to state news outlets in Russia. Before becoming law, a bill must pass through three readings, be approved by the upper chamber of parliament, and be signed by the president.

Nef Cellarius, the program coordinator for the LGBT rights organization Vykhod (“Coming Out”), told Reuters that when word of the bill spread, demand for support sessions shot up from 12 in a typical month to 45 in June.

Speaking from an unidentified location, Cellarius stated, “I’ve gotten several emails with expressions like, ‘I don’t want to live anymore,’ ‘I don’t know what to do. “Transgender people in Russia are scared and in need.”

According to supporters, the prohibition has been in the works for more than ten years.

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons in Russia are practically prohibited from publicly expressing their lifestyle after Putin signed a law in December last year tightening limits on the propagation of “LGBT propaganda.”

Many LGBTQ Russians claim that previous law has been utilized for years to halt gay pride marches, jail activists, and create a culture of terror among people who lead what the Kremlin refers to as “non-traditional lifestyles.”

Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the State Duma, said during the bill’s first reading in June, “We are preserving Russia for posterity, with its cultural and family values, traditional foundations, and putting up a barrier to the penetration of Western anti-family ideology.”

According to observers, the new law’s vague phrasing may also make hormone therapy illegal.

Moscow-based singer Richard Volkov, 26, claims that other transgender males he knows are rushing to update their IDs and begin hormone treatments.

After the war started, he relocated to Sagarejo, Georgia, where he told Reuters, “This is the worst thing my country could do. It seems that breaking the law just requires telling oneself that they exist.

Four years after decriminalizing homosexuality, in 1997, Russia began allowing IDs to be changed from one gender to another. Although the number of transgender people in Russia is unclear, it is estimated that 0.5% of the adult population is transgender in other nations.

According to the health ministry, 996 persons in Russia requested to change their gender on their passports last year. There were significantly fewer people who underwent surgery.

According to medical professionals who undertake these treatments, the ban would encourage an underground market for hormone substitutes, further jeopardizing patient health.

Transgender people “will self-medicate, prescribe and take these drugs for themselves”, Dr. Andrei Istranov, a plastic surgeon who treats transgender patients, told Reuters in an interview in his private clinic in Moscow. “Patients will undoubtedly experience psychological problems.”

According to Cellarius, the law may cause a transgender exodus from Russia, but Vykhod will concentrate on assisting those who stay.

“The whole point is about changing the situation in Russia, not evacuating everybody,” he declared. “We are prepared to respond.”