OPINION: Can you freely travel with your children? I’m a trans parent, and I can’t

by Egon Botteghi | Blogger
Tuesday, 4 May 2021 07:57 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Passenger walk at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy, December 20, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Whenever my children travel outside of Italy, me being trans is revealed and our privacy is violated.

Egon Botteghi is a transgender parent who shared his story about travelling freely in the EU in a recent report by Transgender Europe (TGEU), ‘Stuck on the swing

My name is Egon and I’m a transgender parent living in Italy with my two kids. I have carried, given birth to, loved and cared for both my children. I also changed the gender marker on my documents from female to male, when my kids were still small.

I didn’t know that as a trans parent it would be very hard for us to travel without our privacy being violated. We’re EU citizens and we should be able to move and travel freely. So I’m sharing my story, alongside other trans parents, to try to achieve that.

In some European countries, trans people can easily change their legal gender. You go to some local authority, declare that your gender identity is male, female, or neither, sign some papers, and you’re free to be who you are.

It took me four long years to have my documents changed. Usually it takes about a year in Italy but, because I had children, the proceedings were extra-long, so the judge could make sure my decision “didn’t harm the children”. I felt very much judged. It was tough. 

When you travel with your children when they are still minors, your documents are in some way connected. In Italy, minors can travel abroad with their ID, which includes their parents’ names. 

In 2017, me and my kids, then nine and 12, were going on a trip. I looked “male”, but I was still waiting for the court to change my gender marker. I had to carry all my legal and medical documents around, so I could prove at borders that the person with the female name on my documents and their IDs was me. 

In 2018, after four years of waiting, I finally got my new documents. But my children’s IDs still showed my female name. When my son was going on a school trip, I had to give all my court papers to his teachers, to avoid problems at the border. I felt so exposed. Our privacy was forcibly violated – mine and my son’s.

In 2019, we applied to change my children’s IDs. I was in for a surprise! Italy had changed its regulations, so children’s IDs would no longer feature “parents”, but specify a “mother” and a “father”. I argued with the clerk for two days and was in the end put down as the “mother”, but with my male name and tax number. Funnily enough, Italy’s attempt to protect the so-called “natural family” left my children with a male mother on their documents. 

Both my and my children’s documents have changed throughout these years. But one thing has remained constant. Whenever we travelled, I had to come out as trans to complete strangers, over and over again and explain that I was indeed the parent of my children. And it’s not over yet – the uncomfortable border checks will continue until they turn 18. 

The EU’s second ever LGBT+ survey in 2019 estimates that 19% of trans people in the EU are parents. Only four EU countries (Sweden, Malta, Slovenia, and Belgium) recognise a trans person’s correct gender on their children’s documents.

In the rest of the EU, trans parents have a really hard time travelling and also accessing basic services at home. In the first EU LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, launched in 2020, the European Commission committed to ensure free movement for all families and to support member states in upholding LGBT+ families’ rights. 

We need EU states to implement simple and quick administrative procedures allowing us to change our documents and those of our kids. We need documents that are gender-neutral, which only gender parents if they want that.

We need change – and so I’m glad that we are becoming more visible and sharing our stories. Hopefully, we will be heard. 

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