A donation-based activist organization staffed by volunteers is promoting transgender equality and personhood in the Czech Republic.
Trans*Parent was founded quite recently, forming in the spring of 2015 due to the work of local transgender activists seeking to affect meaningful policy change and to fill the need for a strong support space. From their website, they define their primary mission statement to be the “empowerment, social justice, promotion of rights and positive social changes for the benefit of transgender men, women and other non-cis persons.”
Despite the Czech Republic being liberal in some regards towards LGBT rights, certain dangerous and regressive policies against transgender people are in place, accentuating the need for such support groups.
In a 2018 article for Human Rights Watch, Researcher Kyle Knight detailed one of these policies:
“A policy in the Czech Republic forcing transgender people to undergo sterilization surgeries to legally change their gender violates the right to health,” Knight wrote.
Because of this, and other policies such as forcing transgender people to undergo gender reassignment surgery and forced sterilization to correct their name to one suiting their gender, activists banded together to form Trans*Parent. They wanted to create an organization dedicated to making the lives of transgender people in the Czech Republic a little easier.
Helena Zikmundová, a Trans*Parent activist and member of the organization’s committee, detailed some of the actions taken by the organization in order to reach out to the transgender community in Prague:
“Aside from a regular support group run by our facilitators, we also do informal events and meet-ups including picnics, clothing swaps, day trips, etc,” Zikmundová said. “Since most of our team is based in and/or working in Prague, that’s where most of these events take place.”
Zikmundová additionally expressed that though the group feels an additional responsibility toward supporting non-cis persons outside of the city itself, lack of funding restricts their outreach efforts to primarily internet-based affairs, which are nonetheless beneficial.
“Traveling the country and organizing local events of course means additional expenses, which we often can’t afford, so we make sure to reach out to people online as well,” Zikmundová said.
Though Trans*Parent makes the most of the resources they do have, being an organization funded purely on donations means that those resources are limited. Additionally, they have to be staffed on a volunteer basis rather than having a paid staff.
Zikmundová elaborated on some of the difficulties that this causes in regards to accomplishing their work:
“Most of our day-to-day work is unpaid,” Zikmundová said. “This means that we have to deal with problems that are typical of volunteer-based groups. People have to work around their day jobs. The risk of burnout is high; we can’t really expect anyone to be readily available.”
Unfortunately, the lack of pay and the nature of being staffed on a purely volunteer basis are not the only difficulties this organization faces. Zikmundová also explained that the stress of the work itself is quite high, and only compounded by the fact that those doing the work are not receiving monetary compensation.
“As you probably know, this type of work can also easily take an emotional toll because we’re personally invested in it, and explaining or even defending your identity to the general public on a regular basis can get quite distressing over time,” Zikmundová said.
Additionally, Zikmundová feels that the lack of organizational funding and the relatively low number of donors is a hurdle that the organization is forced to deal with. Furthermore, with more funding they could more effectively provide support to transgender people not only in Prague, but in the broader Czech Republic as well.
“More funding would quite simply mean less stress, it would allow us to focus on our work without having to worry how we’re going to pay the bills if we dedicate too much time to it,” Zikmundová said. “A bigger budget would also make a difference in our campaigning and the size of the audience we would be able to reach.”
Zikmundová has hopes that as discourse surrounding gender becomes more informed and inclusive, non-cis persons will begin to feel more comfortable speaking out about the reality of their experiences. As a result, it would shift public perception in to a more sympathetic and accurate view.
“In general, I really hope that in the future more transgender and non-binary people feel encouraged and safe enough to share their stories publicly, so that we can show how varied the experience is and disrupt the stereotypical narrative that still dominates the media,” Zikmundová said.
“If we manage to keep creating and fostering opportunities for them to do so, that will probably be the most powerful way of convincing the public that mandatory sterilizations are a problem, and the current Czech law needs to be changed,” Zikmundová said. “This is of course not just about legal transition, it’s about transgender people still being mostly portrayed as medical curiosities and treated with condescension even by the health care professionals they have to rely on.”
Ultimately, Zikmundová hopes and feels that the work accomplished by Trans*Parent will be an invaluable contribution to helping transgender people in the Czech Republic embrace the validity of their identities.
“Czech trans people have been taught to think of themselves in a particular way for a very long time now, often by those who serve as official gatekeepers to the process of medical and legal transition,” Zikmundová said. “This means that we have to empower them to trust their own feelings and self-exploration before they adopt the stereotypes promoted by doctors and society at large. It’s a pretty sensitive task trying to shift someone’s way of thinking while respecting their personal journey, but it’s something that we have to do along with educating the cis majority.”
More information about Trans*Parent and prospective donors is listed on its website.
Written by Gwen Frymier
Featured image courtesy of transparentprague.cz
Edited by Ciera Noe