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EDITORIAL: Hungarian transgender legislation is dehumanizing

Similar bills could make their way to America

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board.

In headlines across the globe the words “coronavirus” or “pandemic" dominate, so naturally, news unrelated to the crisis at hand slips under the radar. One example of this is Hungary, which, outside of forming an increasingly autocratic government, is apparently ready to marginalize its transgender people further.

“Hungary’s (R)ightwing government looks likely to push through legislation that will end the legal recognition of trans people by defining gender as ’biological sex based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes’ and thus making it impossible for people to legally change their gender,” according to The Guardian.

This is, obviously, devastating for the people of Hungary. There are many forms that discrimination against trans people can take, and they are all vile and reprehensible, but outlawing their very status of legitimacy is among the worst possible acts — truly, a government-sponsored hate crime — used to alienate them.

By defining gender with such rigid terms, the government is essentially invalidating its transgender community, wiping their existence off the face of public record and exposing them to more violence, discrimination and general hardship. Members of Hungary’s public who already hold bigoted views regarding trans people will now be empowered to exercise their wretchedness against them.

As a result, trans Hungarians will be faced with either leaving their home country or persecution, according to the article.

“Trans people and rights activists say the law, which has been introduced into parliament as attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic, will increase discrimination and intolerance toward trans people. Many will try to leave the country, while those who do not have that chance will face daily humiliations,” according to the article.

Our sympathy and energy are directed toward the Hungarian people, and trans groups, as well as everyone with a vested interest in an egalitarian society, must fight for them to retain their status as people — when the law starts dictating people’s very identities, all of us must show concern.

But could this happen in America, where most Rutgers students live?

Of course it could, and believing that it could not is naive and somewhat dangerous. 

America is a big place, occupied by different states with different social values. All it takes is one state — as we have seen with the Texas abortion debacle — to define gender in the discriminatory terms that Hungary has opted to do for us all to be vulnerable. Rightfully, any law of that sort would be challenged, likely to the upper echelon that is the Supreme Court, at which point a conservative bench would hold the fate of trans Americans in their judicial grip.

Trans people, a community which may include your friends, family, romantic partner or otherwise, will be essentially deemed second class citizens under the umbrella of law. They would be effectively erased.

The change in law not only legally bars trans people from their identities, but also empowers those who want to commit violence against them. There is already a high rate of violence against those who identify as trans, much of which goes unreported. 

" ... violence against transgender people starts early in life ... transgender people are at risk for multiple types and incidences of violence ... this threat lasts throughout their lives. In addition, transgender people seem to have (a) particularly high risk for sexual violence," said University of Hawai'i's Rebecca Stotzer.

And the time to assure that this does not happen is not tomorrow, and not when America shows firmer signs of following Hungary’s lead — it is now. If the Hungarian situation can teach us anything, it is that rights must be actively defended once they have been granted.

This goes for all marginalized groups, too. Just because you are not trans, does not mean this does not affect you. Any discrimination must be taken as an absolutely personal offense, if not out of empathy, then out of the realization that it will only be so long until the government comes for you or someone you love next. There is no excuse not to vehemently oppose discriminatory actions, and refusing to stand up against them, even in small ways, is an act of bystanding cowardice.

There are plenty of student groups at Rutgers aimed toward promoting inclusivity toward trans (and the broader LGBTQ+) community. Whether you identify with the LGBTQ+ community, if you are an ally, drop into one of their (now digital) meetings, and help promote them in order to make Rutgers a safe place for our trans peers.

And to all activists fighting for change: Yes, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is naturally the most pressing societal issue at the moment, but that does not mean other issues simply cease to exist. Keep on fighting — safely — no matter what.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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