Belgium made history with the appointment of a transgender woman as the country's new deputy prime minister. Green Party member Petra De Sutter was sworn into office last Thursday and will be responsible for public administration and enterprises. De Sutter is now the highest-ranking transgender person in political office.
"I am proud that in Belgium and most of the European Union your gender identity does not define you as a person and is a non-issue," De Sutter tweeted. "I hope that my appointment as Minister and deputy PM can trigger the debate in countries where this is not yet the case."
While De Sutter recognizes the significance of her appointment, she last year told Sister of Europe she does not want to be "reduced to my transgender past" because it is but one part of her identity. "I have many others. I want people to talk about me because of my work, because of my political actions."
De Sutter previously served as a minister of parliament for the EU. Before that, she served as the first transgender minister of parliament in Belgium. She was appointed along with six other politicians as part of a coalition government among seven parties. Dubbed the "Vilvaldi coalition," the new coalition government includes Greens, socialists, liberals, and the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V). They formed without the two parties that individually received the greatest number of votes in the May 2019 election. N-VA and Vlaams Belang both advocate for Flemish separatism and against immigration of migrants and refugees, and were excluded because of their far-right views. The country was run by a caretaker government while the parties squabbled over forming a new coalition government.
In addition to her work in government, De Sutter is also a gynecologist and fertility expert. She has strongly advocated for legislation to help improve access for medically-assisted reproduction, an important issue for the LGBTQ+ community.
"We'll miss one of our strongest partners in the European Parliament," Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy directory for the LGBTQ+ group ILGA-Europe, told Politico. "But are heartened to know such a committed equality and social justice champion will have a key role in the Belgium government."
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