I was forty years old when I decided to become fully the woman I always was and due to this decision I lost colleagues, acquaintances and even friends ». Petra de Sutter (June 10, 1963) makes this confession in an intimate interview published on the website of the political formation to which she belongs, Groen (Flemish Green Party). The prestigious Belgian gynecologist has been Minister of Public Companies and Public Administration for just over two weeks; also one of the seven deputy prime ministers of the new government of Alexander de Croo.
This small country of just 11.4 million inhabitants managed to compact the first stable Executive since December 2018. And mounting a complex puzzle: a coalition of seven political formations, which brings together socialists, liberals, ecologists and Christian Democrats. Four families, ‘four seasons’, hence it has been dubbed’ ‘Vivaldi’. Having finally a government (650 days after the collapse of the previous one) has been a boom in Belgium. That with him Petra de Sutter has become the highest-ranking transgender politician in Europe, it has barely been reviewed in the local chronicles.
‘Le Soir’, one of the newspapers with the greatest circulation, mentioned it in passing, referring to a joint cabinet (ten men and ten women). In fact, it compressed the biography of this woman born in Oudenarde, a town of just over 124,000 inhabitants, without mentioning that trait of her personality: «Petra De Sutter is little known to Francophones, but has a certain notoriety in Flanders. She stood out above all for her career as an MEP. In particular, he chaired the Internal Market Committee. Previously, he was part of the Council of Europe. She was also a senator. She is a gynecologist by training and teaches this subject at the University of Ghent. ‘ Aseptic account.
“A ‘trans’ prime minister no one cares anymore”, he went on to headline the European edition of ‘Politico’, stressing that the lack of ‘media frenzy’ over De Sutter’s gender identity was a ‘powerful sign of progress’. And she celebrates it herself: “I am proud that in Belgium and in most of the European Union gender identity does not define you as a person and it is not a problem”, he writes in the tweet that he has posted on his official account since last day 4. “I hope that my appointment as Minister and Deputy Prime Minister can start the debate in countries where it is not yet the case.”
De Sutter began the transition 17 years ago, in 2004. Back, a difficult childhood. «I was not a very happy child. I was always very sensitive, which probably other children perceived as a weakness, because I was repeatedly bullied. “Even as an adult I felt discriminated against.” He graduated in Medicine from the University of Ghent in 1987 and obtained a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the same center in 1991 after completing research on oocytes in Chicago.
Since 1994 he focused his career on obstetrics and gynecology, eventually becoming head of the department of reproductive medicine at the Ghent University Hospital. Among his research works, one on the effects of the environment on fertility; the impact on endocrine disruptors, chemical substances that can cause alterations in the hormonal system of the human body and cause dysfunctions that are at the basis of different reproductive health diseases.
The leap into politics was made just six years ago. She entered the list of the Flemish Greens and became not only a senator but also held a seat on the Council of Europe (international cooperation organization, outside the community institutions). Rights of the child (linked to surrogacy), genetic manipulation in human beings or an independent investigation of the pharmaceutical industry were some of the issues that were on his work agenda.
He never hid his identity and has stood out as an activist for LGBTI + rights, although she has repeatedly said that she did not want to be “reduced” to her transgender past. It’s just a part of my identity. I have many other (traits). I want people to talk about me for my work, for my political actions. I don’t think that your gender, skin color, religion or sexual orientation should be so important ”, she argued in the digital project ‘Sisters of Europe’, already serving as an MEP.
“Based on facts”
The European Parliament was the last forum in which he put his Cartesian philosophy on the role of public office into practice. “Just as medicine is based on evidence, our decisions and policies must also be based on facts, not fake news and alternative information. As a scientist, I want to bring science into the political decision-making process, “he says.
In the European Parliament, he was the first environmentalist figure who managed to chair the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. He was also part of the Special Committee for the fight against Cancer. Aligned with the principles of the family his party joined (the Group of the Greens / European Free Alliance) he has defended during the pandemic the need for economic recovery to be sustained by investments to curb climate change.
And also from the hemicycle he has been a fighter in defense of the rights of the LGTBI + community, condemning the persecution of homosexuals in Poland and the homophobia of its president Andrzej Duda.