Beyond Borders: Transphobia in COP29 Gender and Climate Action

Author: Alex Shah

On March 7th, in collaboration with the United Nations Representation in Azerbaijan and ADA University, the 29th climate talk: "Gender and Climate" panel discussion was organized in regards to "COP29."

In the discussion, resident coordinator Vladanka Andreeva, Deputy Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children Affairs Sadagat Gahramanova, Member of Parliament and UN High-Level Champion on Climate Change Nigar Arpadarai, Executive Director of Gender Hub Azerbaijan and member of the COP29 organizing committee Maryam Majidova, and journalist Anastasia Lavrina spoke as panelists.

As a queer activist and participant, the exclusive rhetoric surrounding gender and climate issues during the event alarmed me. Cisgender panelists attempted to address gender issues only from a conservative, exclusive perspective, neglecting the existence and experiences of non-binary and trans individuals. Despite the critical need for inclusivity and diversity in such discussions, government officials-turned-panelists seemed unable to acknowledge the presence and experiences of non-binary and transgender individuals.

We had long anticipated the positions of our officials. However, the silence and complicity of representatives from the UN, EU, and embassies of states could be seen as an unexpected acceptance.

The diversity of identities was presented in a binary manner by gender panelists, erasing the experiences of non-binary and trans individuals and perpetuating harmful stereotypes and discrimination.

The aim of hegemonic institutions' officials seemed to be to reaffirm their values to privileged youth present in the room.

Moderator Fariz Ismayılzada expressed interest in hearing opinions and questions from the audience about the discussion. I was always ready to voice my opinion, yet the Vice-Rector of ADA University knew well whom to give the floor to. Even the supportive opinions of his own students would have further bolstered his pride. Despite the opportunity for nearly ten people to express their views, I was not given this chance.

Even foreign officials could sense the injustice towards me towards the end, and Mr. Ismayılzada could somewhat express it with his gaze. The Vice-Rector admitted that not everyone could have their say but emphasized that communication with the panelists would be possible after the panel. Of course, it is more convenient when intentions are whispered.

After the panel, I approached the Ambassador of the United Nations Representation in Azerbaijan Vladanka Andreeva to express my thoughts.

Alex: "Hello, Andreeva, my name is Alex Shah, LGBTQI+ activist and young writer. I deeply respect the UN's policy on LGBTQI+ rights. However, in your speech, you only define gender as male and female. Yet, there are participants in this room who are neither male nor female. The trans community is left behind again. Don't you think that this marginalizes the discussion further and undermines international commitments?"

Andreeva: "Dear, I understand you well, I apologize for my mistake, and I realize it."

Aleks: "My goal is not for you to apologize to me. I do not have the privilege to participate everywhere. These remarks are often repeated, and I now have the chance to react to them. I just want to express my discomfort and sadness to you."

Apologizing, of course, is not enough. Mrs. Andreeva should address the root causes of such discomforts and create a welcoming environment where all voices are heard and respected.

There is no LGBTQI+ focused or inclusive work within the framework of the activities of the United Nations Representation in Azerbaijan.

International human rights and climate organizations, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rightsgovernments, and politicians, express deep concerns about the severe violations of fundamental rights in Azerbaijan, including pressure on independent media and critical thinking. They note that Azerbaijan is not deemed worthy of hosting "COP29," the international event.

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