MUNICH: Transgender woman Tessa Ganserer will make history in Germany when she takes up her seat in the Bavarian regional parliament next week, three months after winning reelection as Markus Ganserer.
Giving her maiden press conference as a woman, the nation's first transgender lawmaker used the opportunity to urge Germany to make it easier for people to legally change their gender.
First elected in 2013, the Greens party representative served one term using her birth name Markus, sporting a light beard and glasses with a suit.
She came out a few weeks ago, announcing that she will live and work as a woman from now on, and appeared at Monday's Munich press conference in a blonde wig, make-up and dark jacket.
"Gender identity is a human right," Ganserer told reporters, urging an update to the more than 30-year-old law on transgender people.
"In future it should be possible for a person to apply to change their gender recorded at birth" with the authorities, she said.
At present people must secure backing from two doctors to officially change gender.
Ganserer is believed to be the first transgender person in Germany to hold a regional or national MP's seat, or to change their gender while in office.
Her call for easier recognition of transgender people, cultural change among public servants and action against homophobia and transphobia comes after a series of abrupt changes for Germany — long a laggard on social issues.
Parliament legislated last month for a third gender on birth certificates after a Constitutional Court decision that the documents must acknowledge intersex people.
And in 2017, MPs pushed through gay marriage after Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would allow members of her party to vote with their conscience.
While Ganserer was reelected to her Bavarian parliament seat, in the United States Democratic Party candidate Christine Hallquist recently failed in her bid to become the first transgender woman governor in Vermont.
"I am not doing this for fun — I didn't choose to be a woman," Ganserer said Monday.
Just a few weeks ago, she had said both Markus and Tessa remained a part of her.
But from now on she hopes to live as a female politician, wife and mother of two children.
While Bavaria is a strongly conservative and mostly Catholic region, the president of the regional parliament Ilse Aigner of the Christian Social Union (CSU) backed the change.
"Mrs Ganserer has taken a very brave and highly personal decision," Aigner said last week.
The CSU usually takes very conservative positions on social questions and opposed the federal gay marriage law.
"Our male colleague is becoming a female colleague, that should not be a problem in this house," Aigner said in a public statement after speaking with Ganserer.
"A person's personality is always more important than their gender."
At the first plenary session of the year from January 23, the Greens party MP will be registered as a woman.
Among fellow MPs, "many definitely still have to get used to it," Aigner said.
One member of the pro-business FDP cried, "What are you playing at here? A drag queen?" when he first saw Ganserer in a long blonde wig and make-up in the Munich chamber, daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.
While she has made little public comment, she told the paper that she "discovered" herself as a woman around 10 years ago when looking in the mirror wearing a dress.
Since then, she has picked her way through different roles: as a man, father, husband, woman, wife, and mother.
Now, her doubts are so far gone that she has told her sons, 11 and 6, that "from now on I will always be like this".
"Children don't have prejudices. If you present the world to them in a friendly way, they will accept it as it is," Ganserer said.
She doesn't plan to undergo any medical procedures, but to mark the definitive arrival of Tessa, Ganserer took a major step: she packed all her ties, shirts and suit jackets into bags and gave them away.
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