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Transgender, Transition, and Dilemma of Choice in Contemporary Ukraine

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Gender and Choice after Socialism

Abstract

From the late 2000s, transgender rights have been receiving increasing attention in Ukraine, and a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have taken up the cause of the ‘transgender community’. In this chapter, I explore how the transgender phenomenon is constructed as a problematised phenomenon in contemporary Ukraine through local and global governmental mechanisms that make available certain choices and solutions to people falling into the ‘transgender’ category and activists involved in professionalised transgender activism. I understand ‘transgender’ as a problematised term that ‘is the product of a constant, social reiteration (and contestation) of those meanings in a range of contexts – from the day-to-day assertions of gay, lesbian, and transgender communities and the activist strategies of LGBT movement, to the intellectual labor of scholars’. I focus my analysis on professionalised LGBT activism in contemporary Ukraine, its take on transgender ‘problems’, and geopolitical contexts in which both transgender activism and transgender issues have been developed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I mark ‘transgender community’ with inverted commas to highlight the constructed nature of this phenomenon. On the variety of identifications within the Ukrainian ‘transgender community’, see more at Nadzeya Husakouskaya and Insight, Documentation of cases of discrimination in the field of access to health in the process of gender recognition procedure in Ukraine, Kyiv, 2015, pp. 14–17. Available in English: http://www.insight-ukraine.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/reaserch_transgender_2015_eng.pdf (accessed 23 January 2017).

  2. 2.

    David Valentine, Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007, p. 31.

  3. 3.

    Manal A. Jamal, ‘Western donor assistance and gender empowerment in the Palestinian territories and beyond’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, vol. 17, no 2, p. 232.

  4. 4.

    Sabine Saurugger, Wolf-Dieter Eberwein. Professionalization and Participation. NGOs and global participatory democracy? A Research Agenda. International Political Science Convention, July 2009, Santiago de Chile, Chile. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00403678/document, pp. 16–17.

  5. 5.

    Saurugger, Eberwein. Professionalization and Participation, p. 20.

  6. 6.

    See, for example, Roger Deacon, ‘Theory as Practice: Foucault’s Concept of Problematization’, Telos, no 118, 2000, pp. 127–142; Carol Bacchi, Analysing Policy: What’s the Problem Represented to Be?, Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education, 2009; Carol Bacchi, ‘Foucault, Policy and Rule: Challenging the Problem-Solving Paradigm’, Internationale Studier og Samfundsforhold, Aalborg Universitet, 2010, available at http://vbn.aau.dk/files/33190050/FREIA_wp_74.pdf (accessed 15 June 2016); Carol Bacchi, ‘Why Study Problematizations? Making Politics Visible’, Open Journal of Political Science, vol. 2, no 1, 2012, pp. 1–8; Nikolas Rose, Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; Nikolas Rose, Powers of Freedom. Reframing Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

  7. 7.

    Bacchi, Why Study Problematizations? Making Politics Visible, p. 1.

  8. 8.

    Michel Foucault, ‘Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia’, http://foucault.info//system/files/pdf/DiscourseAndTruth_MichelFoucault_1983_0.pdf (accessed 17 January 2017).

  9. 9.

    Bacchi, Analysing Policy, p. 3.

  10. 10.

    Sex reassignment refers to a process of medical interventions that alter the body including (but not limited to) hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment (gender confirmation) surgery. Legal gender recognition refers to a process that is entrenched in legislation and enables transgender people to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender and allows for the acquisition of a new birth certificate, passport, and other documents that reflects this change.

  11. 11.

    Throughout the chapter I use Ukrainian spelling while transliterating the name of the capital, hence Kyiv instead of the Russian version, Kiev.

  12. 12.

    Since 2010, different people have taken this position. During my fieldwork, I worked with two different coordinators.

  13. 13.

    Insight, Situation of transgender persons in Ukraine, Kyiv, 2010. Available online in English: http://www.insight-ukraine.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/TRP_report_engl.pdf (accessed 23 January 2017).

  14. 14.

    Olena Vovkogon, Olena Romanyuk, and Insight, Impediment of civil rights of transgender people, Kyiv, 2012. Available in Ukrainian only: http://www.insight-ukraine.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Дослідження.pdf (accessed 23 January 2017).

  15. 15.

    Insight, Analysis of the procedure of “sex change (correction)” in Ukraine and international practices, Kyiv, 2014. Available only in Ukrainian: http://www.insight-ukraine.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/analiz-site.pdf (accessed 23 January 2017).

  16. 16.

    Nadzeya Husakouskaya and Insight, Documentation of cases of discrimination.

  17. 17.

    Insight, Transgender people in Ukraine: social barriers and discrimination, Kyiv, 2016. Available in English http://insight-ukraine.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/broshura_transgender_eng_OK_FULL.pdf (accessed 23 January 2017).

  18. 18.

    Anna Dovbakh, ‘My sdelali neskol’ko prostykh shagov k sil’nomu soobshchestvu’ in Stas Naumenko, Taras Karasiichuk, and Maksim Kasyanchuk (eds.), Ukrainskoe LGBT dvizhenie, 25 (Kyiv: Gay Alliance Ukraine, 2015), p. 14.

  19. 19.

    Interview with Olena Shevchenko, 21 July 2014.

  20. 20.

    See T-ema’s web page: http://t-ema.org.ua/# (in Russian only) and their statute—http://t-ema.org.ua/files/Ustav_CI_T-ema.pdf (in Russian only) (accessed 11 January 2016).

  21. 21.

    The scope of the article does not allow me to address the specificity of Ukrainian transgender/queer grassroots groups. I would like to list them here to acknowledge their presence in the transgender activist scene. Trans* Coalition, a grassroots network of trans* activists from post-Soviet countries, was formed in summer 2013. It mostly operates as an online platform of and for trans* people in the post-Soviet region (see http://www.transcoalition.info; accessed 29 January 2017). In November 2015, the activist group Lavender Threat emerged as an Internet initiative with its mission defined as ‘the deconstruction of patriarchy and queer revolution through radical education’ (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/lavandovaya.ugroza/; accessed 10 January 2017). In July 2016, the trans*feminist leadership initiative AdamanT was launched in Kyiv focusing on strengthening the socio-economic situation of the trans*community in the post-Soviet space (see https://www.facebook.com/pg/adamant.trans/about/?ref=page_internal; accessed 10 January 2017).

  22. 22.

    See Decree no. 57 from 15.03.1996 (in Ukrainian only)—http://zakon4.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/z0279-96) (accessed 22 January 2017).

  23. 23.

    See the Decree no.60 from 03.02.2011 (in Ukrainian only)—http://www.moz.gov.ua/ua/portal/dn_20110203_60.html (accessed 22 January 2017).

  24. 24.

    See the Decree no. 1041 from 10.10.2016 (in Ukrainian only)—http://zakon0.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/z1589-16 (accessed 25 January 2017).

  25. 25.

    See footnotes 13–17.

  26. 26.

    Michel Foucault, The Care of the Self. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 3, New York, Pantheon Books, p. 12.

  27. 27.

    This is what these indications and counter-indications are called in the Decree.

  28. 28.

    In Ukraine, a person has the right to change their first name and surname once they reach the age of 16. This right is regulated by the Civil Code (Chapter 22, par. 295/1) and is gender-neutral, which means there is no explicit restriction on cross-gender name change. See Ukrainian Civil Code—http://zakon4.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/435-15/page6 (accessed 11 January 2016).

  29. 29.

    The patronymic (in the case of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia ) is based on the given name of one’s father and has a gendered ending. Therefore, if the patronymic remains unaltered in documents, this inadvertently reveals a person’s gender.

  30. 30.

    Michel Foucault, ‘Lecture from 17 March 1976’ in Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended. Lectures at the College de France, 1975–1976 (New York: Picador. 2003), p. 252.

  31. 31.

    Husakouskaya and Insight, Documentation of cases of discrimination, p. 61.

  32. 32.

    I conceal the name as requested.

  33. 33.

    Foucault, Lecture from 17 March 1976.

  34. 34.

    Anna Kirey, Proiti komissiiu chtoby byt’ soboi, 22.11.13 https://www.hrw.org/ru/news/2013/11/22/251869, accessed 19 September 2017.

  35. 35.

    Judith Butler, Undoing Gender, New York and London: Routledge, 2004, p. 67.

  36. 36.

    Butler, Undoing Gender, p. 69.

  37. 37.

    This list is compiled from indications and counter-indications that are translated from the original document as accurately as possible following wording of the Decree.

  38. 38.

    Oblast (ukr.) is a type of administrative division in Ukraine (similarly in Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) that can be tentatively translated into English as ‘province’, or ‘region’.

  39. 39.

    The propiska is a system of registration of population and tool for demographic control used in the Soviet Union.

  40. 40.

    Butler, Undoing Gender, pp. 29–30.

  41. 41.

    See, for example, the allegation letter regarding the legal gender recognition procedure in Ukraine, as specified in Order No. 60 of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (Human Rights Watch, 27 April, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/27/allegation-letter-regarding-legal-gender-recognition-procedure-ukraine-specified, accessed 29 January 2017).

  42. 42.

    One of the milestones in the legal fight was the decision of the Administrative Court (from 19 June 2015) that overturned ‘the despicable legal requirement for transgender people in Ukraine to undergo forced sterilization’ (see http://insight-ukraine.org/kievskij-administrativnyj-sud-priznal-nezakonnoj-prinuditelnuyu-sterilizaciyu-transgendernyx-lyudej-v-ukraine/). Accessed 12 January 2016.

  43. 43.

    It is noteworthy that the transgender community was represented by transgender activists from T-ema known for their assimilationist, binary, and medicalised approach to the transgender phenomenon . Other transgender activists including Insight were pushed out of the negotiations. In February 2016, a draft of the Decree was made available for public discussion, and transgender activists and other groups were given the choice of submitting their comments and remarks. Some of these were accepted, but others did not make it into the new version of the Decree.

  44. 44.

    Transgender Europe, Ukraine abolishes arbitrary and cruel trans health protocol, 25 January 2017: http://tgeu.org/ukraine-abolishes-arbitrary-and-cruel-trans-health-protocol/ (accessed 26 January 2017).

  45. 45.

    Tamara Martsenyuk, ‘LGBT dvizhenie v Ukraine: 10 let spustya’, Gendernye issledovanya, no 20–21, 2010, p. 134; and Maksim Kasyanchuk, ‘LGBT spil’nota Ukrainy: istoriya i suchsnist’, in Stas Naumenko, Taras Karasiichuk, and Maksim Kasyanchuk (eds.), Ukrainskoe LGBT dvizhenie, 25 (Kyiv: Gay Alliance Ukraine, 2015), p. 135–38.

  46. 46.

    In 2000, Nash Mir (Our World) published the first research on the lives of gay and lesbian people in Ukraine (Nash Mir, Golubaya kniga. Polozhenie geyev i lesbiyanok v Ukraine, 2000: http://www.gay.org.ua/publications/bluebook/bluebook.htm, accessed 20 January 2017). In 2003, a project ‘Strengthening of LGBT community in Ukraine’ was launched in Kyiv (Kasyanchuk, LGBT spil’nota Ukrainy: istoriya i suchsnist’, p. 139).

  47. 47.

    Martsenyuk, LGBT dvizhenie v Ukraine: 10 let spustya, p. 135, and Kasyanchuk, LGBT spil’nota Ukrainy: istoriya i suchsnist, p. 126, 133.

  48. 48.

    The EuroMaidan events in Ukraine were first ignited in November 2013 and erupted at full strength in February 2014. In March 2014, the Russian Federation abruptly annexed the Crimea. In autumn 2014, in the East of the country (in Donetsk and Luhansk regions), a military conflict broke out between Ukrainian armed forces and separatists allegedly backed by Russia .

  49. 49.

    Kasyanchuk, LGBT spilnota Ukrainy: istoriya i suchsnist, p. 141.

  50. 50.

    Tatyana Zhurzhenko, ‘Mezhdu klanom i natsiei: muzhesvennost’ i zhensvennost’ v “tsvetnykh revolyutsiyakh”’, in Tatyana Zhurzhenko, Gendernye rynki Ukrainy: politicheskya ekonomiya natsional’nogo stroitel’stva (Vilnius, EHU, 2008), p. 194.

  51. 51.

    Zhurzhenko, Mezhdu klanom i natsiei: muzhesvennost’ i zhensvennost’ v “tsvetnykh revolyutsiyakh”, p. 194.

  52. 52.

    ‘Ukraine crisis: Protesters remain in central Kiev as MPs meet’. BBC News, 23 February 2014. Retrieved from the archive, it is not available online anymore. Emphasis is mine—NH.

  53. 53.

    Koen Slootmaeckers, Heleen Touquet, and Peter Vermeersch, ‘Introduction. EU enlargement and LGBT rights – beyond symbolism?’, in Koen Slootmaeckers, Heleen Touquet, and Peter Vermeersch (eds), The EU Enlargement and Gay Politics: The Impact of Eastern Enlargement on Rights, Activism and Prejudice (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), p. 1.

  54. 54.

    Council of the European Union, ‘Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons’, 2013, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/foraff/137584.pdf (accessed 13 December 2016).

  55. 55.

    Mattias Kristoffersson, Bjorn van Roozendaal, and Lilit Poghosyan, ‘European integration and LGBTI activism: Partners in Realising change?’, in Koen Slootmaeckers, Heleen Touquet and Peter Vermeersch (eds), The EU Enlargement and Gay Politics: The impact of Eastern Enlargement on Rights, Activism and Prejudice (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), p. 45.

  56. 56.

    See more Koen Slootmaeckers and Heleen Touquet, ‘The co-evolution of EU’s Eastern enlargement and LGBT politics: An ever gayer union?’, in Koen Slootmaeckers, Heleen Touquet, and Peter Vermeersch (eds), The EU Enlargement and Gay Politics: The Impact of Eastern Enlargement on Rights, Activism and Prejudice (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), pp. 20–24.

  57. 57.

    See interview of Petro Poroshenko, the newly elected Ukrainian president at CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2014/06/27/intv-amanpour.cnn (accessed 25 September 2016).

  58. 58.

    Claudio Radaelli in Phillip Ayoub, ‘Cooperative transnationalism in contemporary Europe: Europeanization and political opportunities for LGBT mobilization in the European Union’, European Political Science Review: EPSR 5, no 2, 2013, p. 283.

  59. 59.

    Frank Schimmelfennig and Ulrich Sedelmeier, ‘Governance by conditionality: EU rule transfer to the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 11, no 4, 2004, pp. 661–679; and Frank Schimmelfennig and Ulrich Sedelmeier, The Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe, Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2005.

  60. 60.

    See the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 17 April 2014 http://www.eap-index.eu/node/342 (accessed 3 July 2016).

  61. 61.

    The visa-free regime was one of the key promises and premises for the mobilisation of pro-European Maidan protesters and the consequent change of the elite in the country.

  62. 62.

    Jozsef Borocz, ‘Goodness Is Elsewhere: The Rule of European Difference’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 48, no 1, 2006, p. 124.

  63. 63.

    On ‘external incentives’ and ‘social learning’ models of external governmentality , see Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, Governance by conditionality, p. 661.

  64. 64.

    Ryan R. Thoreson, Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide, Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2014, p. 6.

  65. 65.

    Thoreson, Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide, p. 6.

  66. 66.

    Conor O’Dwyer, ‘From Conditionality to Persuasion? Europeanization and the Rights of Sexual Minorities in Post-Accession Poland’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 32, no 2, 2010, p. 221.

  67. 67.

    Gressgård, ‘The Instrumentalization of Sexual Diversity in a Civilizational Frame of Cosmopolitanism and Tolerance’, p. 99.

  68. 68.

    The instrumentalisation of sexual diversity in the West/North has been problematised through the notions of homonormativity and homonationalism (see Lisa Duggan, ‘The new homonormativity: the sexual politics of neoliberalism ’ in, Russ Castronovo and Dana D. Nelson (eds.), Materializing Democracy: Towards a Revitalized Cultural Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), pp. 175–194, and Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2007).

  69. 69.

    Gressgård, ‘The Instrumentalization of Sexual Diversity in a Civilizational Frame of Cosmopolitanism and Tolerance’, p. 99.

  70. 70.

    I am using an asterisk (*) here following Insight’s usage of it in the ‘digital’ name of the event (Trans*Conf.org.ua) and its stated goal (see http://transconf.org.ua/en/; accessed 11 June 2016).

  71. 71.

    Quotes are from my field notes and audio recordings of speeches from the conference.

  72. 72.

    Alison Stenning and Kathrin Hörschelmann, ‘History, geography and difference in the post-socialist world: Or, do we still need post-socialism?’, Antipode, vol. 40, no 2, 2008, p. 320.

  73. 73.

    Merje Kuus, ‘Europe’s eastern expansion and the reinscription of otherness in East-Central Europe’, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 28, no 4, 2004, p. 476.

  74. 74.

    Transgender Europe, ‘Trans rights Europe map and index 2016’, http://tgeu.org/trans-rights_europe_map_2016/ (accessed 20 January 2017).

  75. 75.

    Transgender Europe, ‘Trans rights Europe map and index 2016’.

  76. 76.

    ‘Norway has one of the most liberal transgender laws in the world – and here’s the result’, Business Insider Nordic, 3 August 2016, http://nordic.businessinsider.com/norwegian-gender-law-2016-8/ (accessed 20 January 2017).

  77. 77.

    See Tarald’s post, Transgender in Norway, https://framandkar.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/transgender-in-norway/ (accessed 20 January 2017).

  78. 78.

    http://tgeu.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/trans-map-B-july2016.pdf (accessed 20 January 2017).

  79. 79.

    See, for example, Koen Slootmaeckers, Heleen Touquet, and Peter Vermeersch (eds), The EU Enlargement and Gay Politics: The Impact of Eastern Enlargement on Rights, Activism and Prejudice, London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, and also Heinrich Böll Foundation, Anti-gender movements in rise? Strategizing for gender equality in Central and Eastern Europe, Publication series on democracy, vol. 38, 2015.

  80. 80.

    Sandeep Bakshi, Suhraiya Jivraj, and Silvia Posocco (eds), Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions, Oxford: Counterpress, 2016; b. binaohan, Deconolizing Trans/Gender 101, Biyuti Publishing, 2014.

  81. 81.

    See, for example, Tom Boellstorff, Mauro Cabral, Micha Cardenas, Trystan Cotten, Eric A. Stanley, Kalaniopua Young, Aren Z. Aizura, ‘Decolonizing transgender: A roundtable discussion’, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, vol. 1, no 3, 2014, pp. 419–439.

  82. 82.

    Robert Kulpa and Joanna Mizielinska (eds), De-Centralizing Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

  83. 83.

    James D. Sidaway in Kuus, Europe’s eastern expansion, p. 473.

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Husakouskaya, N. (2018). Transgender, Transition, and Dilemma of Choice in Contemporary Ukraine. In: Attwood, L., Schimpfössl, E., Yusupova, M. (eds) Gender and Choice after Socialism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73661-7_2

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