By Oscar Lopez
Oct 1, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A transgender woman was sworn in as deputy prime minister in Belgium's new government on Oct. 1, becoming the most senior trans politician in Europe.
Petra De Sutter, a gynaecologist and Green party Member of the European Parliament, became one of seven deputy prime ministers in Belgium's coalition government, ending a 16-month deadlock after an inconclusive election.
"Incredibly grateful for the confidence I have received from my party!" De Sutter wrote on Twitter. "Now I can do whatever it takes to relaunch our country and work on a new future for all Belgians together with that government!"
With LGBTQ+ rights becoming more accepted worldwide, gay and trans politicians have gained greater prominence in recent years, with Pauline Ngarmpring becoming Thailand's first trans candidate for prime minister last year.
In the United States, more than 880 openly LGBTQ+ candidates have appeared or will appear on ballots across the country this year, nearly double that of 2018, according to the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which supports LGBTQ+ candidates.
Belgium has been without a fully-fledged government since December 2018, when a four-party coalition collapsed.
I am proud that in 🇧🇪 and in most of 🇪🇺 your gender identity does not define you as a person and is a non-issue. I hope that my appointment as Minister and deputy PM can trigger the debate in countries where this is not yet the case. #fighttransphobiapic.twitter.com/WdgHu2gyy6— Petra De Sutter (@pdsutter) October 4, 2020
On Sept. 30, seven parties agreed to form a coalition headed by Alexander De Croo to replace the caretaker administration appointed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
De Sutter, who is also minister for public service and public enterprises, was elected to the European Parliament in 2019 representing the Flemish Green party, Groen.
Prior to that, she served as a senator for the Groen party in Belgium's upper house of parliament for five years from 2014.
LGBTQ+ rights groups welcomed De Sutter's appointment as an important step forward for trans politicians.
"We are delighted that a member of the trans community has been appointed to this senior political post," Matt Beard, executive director of international advocacy group All Out, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Petra's appointment is a calling and an inspiration to governments across the world to increase trans representation in senior positions."
(Reporting by Oscar Lopez; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)