July 3, 2022

The Making of Their Lives

The history books will tell you that this was the year of the woman. But, in Germany’s federal elections on September 24th, 2017, it was also the year of two transgender women: Katja Kipping and Sarah Sophie Roemer. Both won seats in parliament for The Left party. This is a historic achievement not just for Germany but for all of Europe as well!

Transgender women have a long history of involvement in radical politics, and their inclusion in this year’s German elections is no different. Katja Kipping, who identifies as bisexual, was the leader of The Left Party from 2007 to 2010. She has been widely known for her activism on feminism and social justice issues such as LGBT rights, antifascism, and peace.

Sarah Sophie Roemer, who identifies as pansexual and agender, is a relative newcomer to The Left Party, having joined in 2015. Their life experience has been the subject of several documentaries such as Ein Erfahrungsbericht – Gesprochen von Sarah Sophie (An Experience Report – Spoken by Sarah Sophie). During their campaign, they advocated for the rights of minority groups such as people with disabilities, immigrants, and refugees.

All in all, Germany’s 2017 elections are a win for progressives. Not only was Angela Merkel reelected but two transgender women were elected into parliament – the first ever in the history of The Left Party – and one of them won a high enough rank to be considered for the role of deputy speaker.

The Left Party, often viewed as a progressive alternative to Germany’s mainstream left-wing party the Social Democrats , received 9.2% of the popular vote and 65 parliamentary seats out of 709. This is a significant increase from their result in the 2013 elections which earned them 64 seats.

But what does this mean for the trans community in Germany? Will their inclusion in parliament help push for further LGBT rights or will they be exploited as tokens by the party to attract supporters of marginalized communities?

It is unlikely that either Roemer or Kipping would use their position to advance specific “trans issues seeing how both of them view this more as an issue of feminism and social justice.

Kipping is a longstanding activist for LGBT rights, having pushed the agenda as early as 2003 when she helped create a “Queer Manifesto” which called for the legal recognition of civil partnerships between homosexual couples. In 2009, she led an initiative to combat homophobia in schools. In 2011, she organized a queer.kampftag or Queer Day of Struggle in response to homophobic legislation that would prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. More recently, she opposed the German Defense Ministry’s exclusion of soldiers who are transgender from enlisting.