Petra De Sutter takes the oath before King Philippe. Photo: YVES HERMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images
De Sutter is a longstanding activist on sexual health and trans issues. Last year, she was elected as a Member of European Parliament for the Green party where she chaired the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. She’s one of seven politician to hold the Deputy Prime Minister title, one for each of the seven parties that form Belgium’s new coalition government, which was sworn in on the 1st of October.
Belgium has been without a government since December 2018, when a four-party coalition collapsed. The last federal elections were held in May 2018, but left no party with a clear majority. The small federal country currently holds the world record for the longest period without a government – in fact, it beat its own record this year after previously setting it at 542 days in 2011. (Iraq comes in second with 249 days.) In both cases, Belgium continued to function due to its heavily decentralised federal system.
De Sutter is currently the most senior transgender politician in Europe. The list also includes Mary Cau, the first openly trans mayor in France, Gianmarco Negri, the first trans mayor in Italy, plus members of parliament in Spain, Sweden, Germany and Poland.
Thursday was a good day for trans rights in Europe more widely, as Italy ruled to make hormone replacement therapy free of charge. The treatment, which can add up to hundreds of euros, was previously only available for free in the Toscana and Emilia Romagna regions of the country.