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Russia's first transgender politician withdraws from governor race in Altai Region, citing discrimination due to “sex change” bill

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Yulia Alyoshina, the first transgender politician in Russia and the former head of the Civic Initiative party branch in the Altai Region (Altai Krai), has withdrawn her candidacy from the local gubernatorial elections, according to an announcement on her Telegram channel.

Alyoshina said that she could not get the required number of signatures in support of her candidacy after being discriminated against in connection with a widely discussed law banning “sex changes,” currently being reviewed in Russia’s State Duma.

In the post, Alyoshina claimed that a regional branch meeting of the Civic Initiative took place in the Altai Region on July 9. To qualify as a gubernatorial candidate, one must gather 502 signatures from municipal deputies and village heads. Unfortunately, only 19 municipal deputies showed their willingness to endorse Alyoshina by signing a document in her support.

“Multiple municipal deputies and village heads expressed their willingness to sign, but later began to refuse, citing the bill on a complete ban on sex change, which is being considered in the State Duma and has already been passed in its first reading.”

Due to the recent legislation and the political climate in Russia, Alyoshina declined to disclose the identities of the municipal deputies who intended to endorse her candidacy.

“Shame on the State Duma, which introduced a 'municipal filter' in the elections of governors and city mayors!” – Alyoshina proclaimed.

On June 14, the State Duma approved the first reading of a bill banning “sex changes” (the wording the body uses to describe some stages of ф transgender transition) through surgery and changes to one’s legal documents – including passports. The bill's wording reads that the ban will affect “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person” and “the state registration of a change of gender without an operation.”

State Duma MPs have already claimed that “sex changes are a myth” – with an exception being made only for children with congenital abnormalities.

In an interview with The Insider, experts who work with LGBTQ+ people pointed out the Duma’s extensive use of the incorrect and transphobic term “sex change,” and highlighted the legislative body’s intention to enforce a strict version of the bill that would prohibit transgender individuals from a wide range of rights, including the ability to amend their documents and undergo surgeries. According to the experts, the law may lead to the emergence of an underground surgical market and an increase in cases of gender dysphoria (stress and feelings of dissatisfaction with one's assigned gender role).

In December 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law completely banning the “propaganda” of non-traditional sexual relationships and transgender transitions. According to the law, one can can be fined from 50,000 ($600) to 800,000 roubles ($9,500) for LGBT, pedophilia and “sex change” “propaganda” among individuals of any age. The vague wording of the law may cover anything that seems similar to LGBT “propaganda” to the authorities. Specifically, the law prohibits the screening of films that portray or make references to homosexual relationships, categorizing such actions as violations.

Municipal filter

The municipal filter is a process outlined by Russian legislation that requires candidates for regional head positions to collect signatures from deputies of municipal bodies.

The threshold for signature collection varies, ranging from 5 percent (in Novgorod and Tomsk regions) to 10 percent (in Belgorod and Yaroslavl regions) of the total number of local deputies.

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