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21 Jan, 2019 15:04

‘I’m not doing it for fun’: German MP returns to parliament as a transgender woman

‘I’m not doing it for fun’: German MP returns to parliament as a transgender woman

Markus Ganserer was re-elected to the Bavarian state parliament in October, but he won’t be taking his seat in the chamber. Instead, Tessa Ganserer, Germany’s first transgender lawmaker, will sit where Markus once did.

Representing the Green Party, Tessa Ganserer is Germany’s first openly transgender politician. Ganserer represented Nuremberg North as Markus since 2013, and won reelection in October.

In a press conference last week, Markus announced that he had been transgender for a decade, and was finally coming out as Tessa. The Bavarian MP said he was binning his suits and ties and will serve the public as a woman.

“I am a woman with every fiber of my body and now Madam regional MP as well,” Tessa Ganserer posted on Facebook earlier this month. At a press conference in Munich last week, Ganserer told reporters “I am not doing this for fun. I didn’t choose to be a woman.”

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Ganserer, who is married and has two sons, said that she “discovered” her true identity ten years ago when she would wear dresses at home.

Although Ganserer will appear in parliament in a blond wig and makeup, she will still be referred to as ‘Markus,’ due to a German law that requires two medical opinions, as well as a waiting period of one year, before a person’s name and gender can be changed on official records.

Ganserer’s fellow politicians will nevertheless treat her as a female in the Parliament. Her identity “should not be a problem in this house,” said Ilse Aigner, President of the Bavarian Parliament. “A person’s personality is always more important than their gender.” Aigner, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union party, said she would instruct parliamentarians to “treat Mrs. Ganserer as a woman...regardless of the legal situation.”

As Markus, Ganserer sat on civil service and transport and technology committees. Now, Tessa has publicly campaigned for LGBT rights and will press for Germany to overhaul the 1980 Transsexual Act, which mandates the medical opinions and waiting period for a person wishing to change their gender.

Some politicians have criticized Ganserer’s focus on LGBT issues. “Markus Gaserer is now called Tessa and wants to reform the Transsexual Law,” Wolfgang Wiehle of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) tweeted. “Luckily, there are no more important issues to worry about in our country!”

Generally a liberal society, Germany’s federal parliament legislated last month to include a third gender option – “various” – on birth certificates, following a decision by the country’s Constitutional Court. Same-sex marriage became legal in the country in 2017 after a parliamentary vote. 225 members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and CSU parties voted against the bill.

Ganserer is one of a handful of transgender politicians around the world. In neighboring Belgium, the Green party’s Petra De Sutter was elected to the country’s Senate in 2014. In the United States, Virginia State Rep. Danica Roem (D) was the first transgender woman elected to a US legislature in 2017.

In November, Democrat Christine Hallquist failed in her bid to become the first transgender governor of Vermont, losing by 40,000 votes to Republican Phil Scott. US Army whistleblower turned transgender activist Chelsea Manning also launched a bid for a Senate seat in Maryland last year but lost out in the primary election to incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin.

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