Welcome to the very first episode of Women's March Geneva!
In the inaugural International Women's Day Episode, Doreen and Isobel tell you about Women's March, why we started this podcast and how you can stay up to date with us. We also do an interview with Annick Ecuyer, a Geneva-based trans* rights activist.
Women's March Global: www.womensmarchglobal.com/
Women's March Geneva: www.womensmarchgeneva.org/
Trans Network Switzerland: tgns.ch
Government Backs Broader Definition of Rape: www.swissinfo.ch/eng/tougher-pena…of-rape/43907110
Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis: aspen-matis.com/book/
The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Hidden Genocide: www.hurstpublishers.com/book/the-rohingyas/
Women's March GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/group/show/23515…n-s-march-geneva
Interview with Annick Ecuyer Translation
How are you?
I’m fine, thank you.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a trans-feminist activist, meaning for me, it’s important to work on feminist issues, which include trans issues and issues of gender identity, and to fight for trans people for us to be able to be ourselves, and to overcome certain obstacles.
I’m also in Parliament. Being a trans person Parliament work on these issues in another context. I find that it’s a complementary approach to my other work — I also participate in demonstrations, write and work with other activists.
Can you tell us some more about your history, like where you were born and what you studied?
I was born in Geneva. I studied information sciences management. I’m also interested in sociology, although I don’t have any formal qualifications in it yet.
How did you become an activist?
When I started my transition, I had already been involved in politics in the country’s left party. I asked myself if I wanted to remain working as a public figure, or if I should take some time for myself to complete my transition. Upon seeing the difficulties that trans people face, I found it important to defend trans rights including in policy spaces. This is how I sort of mixed my activism with my transition.
Can you talk a little more about you do in concrete terms as an activist?
Like I mentioned earlier, I write articles (texts), participate in public events, like Pride as well as other types of demonstrations. I intervene at Parliament on subjects concerning LGBT/trans people, and I’m also quite active in feminist spaces, such as SlutWalk. I find this to be very important; in my opinion, it’s not something we can separate. It’s a continuation.
What are the challenges that trans people face in Geneva and in Switzerland at large?
There are some difficulties because the laws are cantonal; there are no federal laws on the rights of trans people. The most difficult thing is that there are no specific laws on trans people. In Switzerland, we still legally must depend on doctors to transition, and we’ve been required to go through a fairly intrusive process to be able to.
There’s also the issue if changing your personal records. While you can change your first name relatively easily, it’s quite a bit more difficult to legally change your gender. You’re often required to have an irreversible procedure to guarantee that you won’t change your mind. This can inaccessible for many, and some simply don’t want to.
Like I was mentioning earlier, right now in Switzerland, there are no legal protections for trans people regarding violence and discrimination. There are no specific laws about protecting our right to privacy when it comes to gender identity. And notably, trans women are not covered under any laws regarding rape, when we’re often victims of sexual violence.
It’s horrible that trans women aren’t covered by that law.
There’s a very narrow understanding of rape in Switzerland. It needs to be changed for all women, including trans women.
The law in general seems pretty restrictive to me, because a cis man could also be a victim of rape, couldn’t he?
It’s restrictive for everyone. Sexual violence is only seen through the lens of potential pregnancy. It’s clearly part of preserving a patriarchal society, and not about protecting individual people’s rights.
For you, what’s the connection between feminism and trans rights?
Trans people push the limits of what it means to be considered a man or a woman in terms of gender. We must challenge the idea that someone’s sex is something natural and immutable — this is behind such sexist violence.
We— that is, all women — also need to be able to defend our bodily autonomy. Trans people/women shouldn’t be required to undergo medical intervention, where it’s completely left to chance that we might have an understanding doctor. It’s not our fathers who get to dictate what we do with our own bodies. It’s clearly a feminist fight, and one that will benefit all women, whether or not they’re trans.
In your opinion, are understanding of trans rights and societal acceptance improving in Geneva, in Switzerland, or in the world at large?
Nowadays, we do have much more visibility, although laws are still an issue. For example, in the United States, violence against trans people is getting worse. In France, while everyone now has the legal right to get married, trans people are more targeted in terms of violence. Still, there are many countries that allow people to legally change their genders without first having to consult a doctor.
We did have a small victory made in Geneva where now it’s possible for someone to legally change their gender without having surgery. Going on hormones can be considered “irreversible. But that is something took quite some time and only happened recently.
You mentioned greater visibility of trans people. What do you think of this portrayal of trans people in the media?
We tend to see a lot of people who are kind of bourgeois, who have lots of resources to choose how they will transition —
And they’re usually white, I think…
Yeah, and white. SWe see these types of people a lot. On the other hand, we also see trans people who are meant to be pitied and you’re supposed to look at them and think “Oh, poor person; I wouldn’t want to be like them”. This makes it difficult for people who are questioning their gender identities, to see what it’s really like to be trans. And yes, there are many trans people who face difficulties, who end up having to resort to sex work for survival, for example. But it’s important to show different types of people — to show young people and people of all ages who transition, people from all socioeconomic classes. It’s important to show more diversity.
What does success look like for the trans rights movement?
We can’t succeed if we remain in a patriarchal system. Success will involve being able to make our ideas around gender more flexible, when it’s easier to transition, when we can receive services without having to overcome so many obstacles, and getting past the gate keepers. When we end violence and discrimination. People are also scared of what they don’t know and that makes them fearful of trans people. The fact that we’re more visible helps.
Finally, what would you like tell everyone about human rights?
I we — trans people (men, women, non-binary people) and women— have already done so much together. These are feminist issues. We need to fight together for a more just society. Above all, we shouldn’t forget that people are diverse. There are trans people, there are people of color, and all our lives are intertwined. Instead of seeing each other as a threat, we remember the importance of diversity when we fight for our rights.
Thanks so much!