“I’m a trans guy, my documents haven’t been rectified yet. When I realized that for me going to vote would have meant suffering a violent outing, due to the division between men and women at the polling stations, I was tempted to avoid this inconvenience and safeguard myself ”, says Leone, 28, a resident of Rome. He is one of the thousands of Italian trans people for whom going to vote means being forced to publicly deny one’s own path of gender affirmation. Enough to make him pass the desire to exercise the right to vote.
In the case of Leone, the desire not to be invisible prevailed: “I said to myself: but then I should also stop taking the train, and even going around the street, for fear that they will ask me for documents, and thus indulge the invisibility that I already suffer. Voting is one of the tools I have to ensure that this does not happen again, it is not right that I give up those spaces that belong to me by right, but which were not designed for me “.
In a country where the rectification of trans identity documents is still too long and slow, any occasion when you have to present a document or declare your gender can be humiliating and painful.
In the case of the separation between men and women at the polling stations, there is the aggravating circumstance that it is a system that is not strictly necessary, because according to many it would be enough to identify another criterion according to which to divide the lists of voters into two.
Voting procedures in Italy are governed by a law dating back to 1967: this is the decree of the President of the Republic number 223, which in article 5 establishes that the electoral lists are divided by gender. The reason for this system is purely practical: splitting the voter list in two makes it easier for tellers to find a person’s name on the list. The electoral registers, therefore, are still separate. In some seats, men and women are placed in separate rows, while in others there is only one row, but when you have to vote you are sorted anyway. As the rights of trans people have begun to be discussed, this criterion has shown its limits.
“Gender-split registers and seats are not necessary,” explains Leone. “And it would also be easy to revise Law 164 of 1982 (on rectification of gender attribution), giving trans and non-binary people the possibility of having alias documents awaiting rectification and streamlining the procedures to obtain that rectification.”
On Sunday 25 September, the lawyer and lgbt + activist Cathy La Torre, like many other activists and politicians throughout Italy including Monica Cirinnà, presented in her electoral section in Bologna a statement in which she stated that the division in rows between males and females violates privacy and confidentiality of trans people because it forces them to come out in front of everyone. But the request to record it created unrest.
“The president tells me that I ask it every year but nothing ever changes, I reply that if I am voting it is because I still believe it is useful and I think so for every single battle. A teller, hearing me insist on putting what I said on the record, calls the police. Not happy he slanders me by calling me crazy loudly ”, La Torre said in a post on Facebook, adding that he had denounced the teller in question.
The Trans Group of Bologna already in 2018 launched a campaign to ask for the modification of the voting procedures, a petition on the Change.org platform collected six thousand signatures that were sent to the interior ministry but nothing has moved. “Forcing the trans community to come out forced in environments not prepared to welcome them, means exposing people to the not remote possibility of becoming the target of hostility, discrimination and violence by virtue of their gender identity”, reads the petition.
“The verbalization of the vote, with the inclusion of my personal name, created difficulties for me”, says Alex, a 30-year-old non-binary person who voted in Rome on Sunday. “Despite the empathy shown by the people who took care of the transcription, I had to respond to comments, expressed with great ingenuity, on the name on the voting card. Name in which I, in fact, do not recognize myself “.
From a legal point of view, Alex again felt invisible to the Italian legal system. “Even though they weren’t organized in separate rows in my section, voters were called upon based on whether they were men or women. I had to acknowledge for the umpteenth time that my existence is not contemplated in the legal system of my country. It is something I am well aware of, but hearing it repeated when I exercise the right to vote is painful. And voting ”, Alex concludes,“ shouldn’t be a cause for anguish ”.