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Trans Women and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine 

Trans Women and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine 

Russia invaded Ukraine over a month ago. The conflict and violence have resulted in millions of civilians being displaced and forced to flee their homes. As if the horrors Russia is inflicting on them are not enough, certain populations and communities in Ukraine face their own country and government turning its back on them. This is true for all minorities in Ukraine, but little talked about is that transgender women are currently being harassed, left behind, and forced to turn back at the border.

What Is Going On? 

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The invasion has caused millions of civilians to flee to neighboring countries — however, some face more difficulties than others. On top of all of the inhumane and deplorable war crimes Russia has committed, Ukrainian trans women are facing discrimination from their own country, primarily through martial law being enacted. 

Under normal circumstances, Ukraine is ranked 39 in overall livability out of 49 European countries for its treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community according to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, ILGA Europe. This ranking is based on how the policies and laws of countries impact the lives of LGBTQIA+ people, including everything from family issues and asylum rights to gender recognition and freedom of expression.

Trans people have been legally recognized in Ukraine since 2017. However, while that was progress, it has far from solved these communities’ hardships. Before any person’s gender can be confirmed on official documents, they must endure a grueling bureaucratic process and intensive psychiatric observation. 

On the day Russian forces invaded the country, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law. For those who don’t know, martial law is a temporary override of a country’s political system where power is passed off to military authority. While the details and specifics of martial law vary by country, it is universally invoked during times of war. Under this kind of law, civilian leaders’ authority is replaced by that of military officials.

Specific Issues That Trans Women Are Facing

Along with mobilizing over 36,000 reservists, martial law in Ukraine states that all “biological” men aged between 18 and 60 are banned from leaving the country because they are of “fighting age.” These people are to be drafted and fight in the military against impending attacks from Russian forces. 

Olena Shevchenko, a human rights defender and the chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ+ organization, said in an article from the Guardian, “Technically, [martial] law applies to trans people as well, including both certified trans men and trans women who had not changed their documents. But it sounds like Ukrainian border guards are preventing even trans people with a valid certificate reflecting their new gender from leaving Ukraine, and nobody knows why.” If a civilian breaches martial law, since civilian courts are suspended, defendants could be tried in military tribunals.

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Due to the law, trans people are not able to pass internal checkpoints if their identification documents do not match their gender identity. This includes trans and non-binary people. If recruited into the military, trans and non-binary people have a higher chance of harassment and physical violence from their peers. 

On top of mistreatment by border officials, trans people are running out of necessary hormones due to pharmacy closures. Stopping hormones suddenly can be detrimental to a patient’s health. This necessary medication for the general daily health of these civilians is being denied to them.

Trans and non-binary Ukrainians also face struggles in finding and taking advantage of civil defense measures. These include resources like food banks, shelters, and other humanitarian aid. This aid is based on presenting an ID, and mismatched documents can lead to a denial of service. With Russia’s well-known and horrific treatment of those in the LGBTQIA+ community, it is terrifying that these people are forced to be between them and their own country, which is invalidating their existence. 

How to Help

During times of war, we can feel helpless and hopeless. If you are feeling lost and want to help but don’t know where to start or which organizations are legitimate, here is a list of places to check.

  • ILGA Europe is currently working with organizations to support LGBTQIA+ communities in Ukraine and those fleeing to find what kind of support would be the most helpful.
  • Kyiv Pride is currently providing support to LGBTQIA+ people.  
  • Sphere Women’s Association and the Sphere NGO, with the assistance of the Ukrainian lady president and lady vice-president, have created the largest Ukrainian LGBTQIA+ support project. 
  • TGEU also has an in-depth list of educational resources and legitimate places for you to donate. 

For more information, click the links provided in the list above and stay updated. Cis, straight, white Ukrainian are not the only ones in need. 

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