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Transphobia in Germany

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Berlin, Sep 12: Munster, Augsburg, Bremen: three German cities, three brutal attacks on queer people within the past three months. One of them ended in tragedy for Malte C.*, a transgender man who intervened to protect a group of lesbian women who were being harassed and insulted on the sidelines of the Christopher Street Days festival in Münster. The assailant hit him, Malte C. slammed down onto the asphalt, and suffered a severe and traumatic brain injury. He died from his injuries six days later, after being in a coma.

The case provoked widespread dismay. The co-leader of Germany's governing center-left Social Democrat party (SPD) Saskia Esken expressed her sympathy on Twitter: "The case is a brutal reminder that hate crimes against queer people continue. Every week. Every day."

Transphobia in Germany

In fact, statistically speaking, two anti-queer attacks are reported each day, although Germany's federal Interior Ministry admits that the true number is likely much higher. Organizations like the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), as well as the police, estimate that up to 90% of cases go unreported. Many assaults coincide with parades held for Christopher Street Day , the name for LGBTQ Pride events in several German-speaking countries.

Alfonso Pantisano from the federal board of the LSVD is not surprised: "Visibility always also means danger. Because of this, every public gathering of queer people is also always a place where they, unfortunately, put themselves at risk. We must be honest about this," he told DW.

However, it is a fallacy to limit the problem to CSD events. "These attacks happen every day of the week. At every hour of the day, from the busiest street to the smallest alleyway. They happen in the subway, on the bus, in the schoolyard, in companies, clubs, and shopping centers. Unfortunately — and I know this sounds drastic — we are never truly safe."

Data incomplete

It is only since 2020 that Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has recorded anti-queer crimes in the field of "gender/sexual identity" in addition to the category "sexual orientation." The number of reported cases has risen significantly in both categories, by 66% and 50%, respectively. Attacks, where hostility toward transgender people is a factor, are not recorded separately.

Transphobia in Germany

For Pantisano from the LSVD, the many categories are not entirely comprehensible because they did not lead to more transparency. "In the end, it is violence. And whether someone is attacked because he or she is trans, or because two men are walking through the city holding hands, it is always a hate crime against queer people."

It is also problematic that Berlin registers an above-average number of cases — the German capital has been recording such incidents in an exemplary way for years — but this also means that in other states anti-queer crimes do not yet appear as such in the statistics.

"If I go to the police in Munich, Stuttgart or Frankfurt and say that I was attacked because I am gay, it could be that it is recorded simply as a physical assault," Pantisano said. "So the background is not registered and incorporated with it. And so, this attack disappears from the statistics. It is different in Berlin. The police there have a lot of training in this matter."

Politically motivated violence

The death of Malte C. in Münster has also raised a debate about the perpetrators of anti-queer crimes. Some of the high-profile attacks have been committed by young men, some Muslim or with a migration background to Germany. Psychologist and author focusing on Islamism, Ahmad Mansour, for example, told the German tabloid newspaper Bild in reference to the Chechen alleged perpetrator in Münster: "Hatred of homosexuals is widespread among Chechens, but also among men from Afghanistan or Syria. With the migration from these countries, homophobia in Germany is growing."

An examination of the meager available data from the BKA shows that trans people like Malte C. are indeed threatened by foreign and religious ideologies, but above all from the far-right social environment. Crimes in both the "gender/sexual identity" category and the "sexual orientation" category were committed by offenders with a right-wing motivation, by a large margin. However, most crimes could not be attributed, which suggests that anti-queer attacks are a problem that affects all parts of society.

Transphobia in Germany

Politicians react

The death of Malte C. in Münster has shaken up politics. The German Federal Government Commissioner for the Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity, Sven Lehmann, recently sent a draft action plan against transphobia and homophobia to various associations. They had been calling for such a plan for a long time.

That did not go far enough, said Pantisano from the LSVD. Germany is lagging behind other countries, for example with a self-determination law for transgender people or homosexual men giving blood donations, which are still not allowed for everyone in Germany. Other countries such as Malta or Argentina have made more progress on issues like these.

And there is yet another failure: In 2021, the conference of interior ministers from Germany's 16 states decided to appoint a working group to combat homophobic and transphobic violence.

"It is meeting for the first time this September," Pantisano said. "So politicians have slept through an entire year on this issue. In Germany, we live in a country that always likes to pretend that it is supportive of diversity. But in my view, Germany has a problem with diversity. And we need to address that."

That is why this question plagues Pantisano to this day: Could some of the attacks, like the one on Malte C., have been prevented if more action had been taken?

Source: DW

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