Crusade against hypocrisy inspires first transgender candidate for German Bundestag

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MUNICH, July 7 (Reuters) - As the first transgender candidate for Germany's parliament, Tessa Ganserer doesn't mince words when it comes to identifying those responsible for the legislative prejudice that she believes LGBT+ voters face.

"That kind of hypocritical show of tolerance just stinks," she tells Reuters, referring to the Conservative lawmakers she accuses of blocking pro-LGBT+ reforms in Berlin's Bundestag while happily draping themselves in the rainbow flag outside it.

Ganserer, 44, hopes to be able to take her fight to the floor of the lower parliamentary house from September, when she will stand for the Greens party in a federal election.

In her crosshairs is the Transgender Act of 1981, parts of which, Germany's top court has ruled on six occasions, are unconstitutional, but which the federal government's ruling parties have been at odds over how to revamp.

The last parliamentary vote to reform it, in May, was rejected by 454 votes against and 118 in favour.

"So far, nothing has happened and that's why I am running for the Bundestag, so that transgender people can finally raise a voice in the place where the legislative decisions on this degrading transsexual law are made," Ganserer said.

Top of the list for Ganserer, who was elected to Bavaria's regional parliament in 2013 under her birth name Markus and still serves there, is an easier procedure for ratifying a sex change on identity documents.

Under the Transgender Act, anyone wanting to change their legal sex has to obtain two independent expert opinions and present them to a judge, a process that critics say takes too long and costs too much.

Both Ganserer's ecologist Greens - who polls suggest may have a pivotal role in Germany's next government - and the pro-business FDP party have proposed giving people the right to change their name and legal sex without expert opinions or courts.

That view is endorsed by Europe's top human rights forum, the Council of Europe.

Ganserer, who has two sons, also wants legislative changes allowing lesbian mothers to adopt children and ending a ban on gay men donating blood.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Germany in 1969 and same-sex marriage legalised in 2017. But hate crimes against LGBT+ people jumped by 36% last year, according to police figures that highlight a rising trend of homophobia in parts of German society.

Ganserer has also been at the receiving end.

"I was really shocked by the amount of hatred I received on social media channels, but it was definitely outweighed by the many positive messages," she told Reuters.

editing by John Stonestreet

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Riham Alkousaa is the energy and climate change correspondent for Reuters in Germany, covering Europe’s biggest economy's green transition and Europe’s energy crisis. Alkousaa is a Columbia University Journalism School graduate and has 10 years of experience as a journalist covering Europe’s refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war for publications such Der Spiegel Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Times. Alkousaa was on two teams that won Reuters Journalist of the year awards in 2022 for her coverage of Europe’s energy crisis and the Ukraine war. She has also won the Foreign Press Association Award in 2017 in New York and the White House Correspondent Association Scholarship that year.