Dr Stephen Whittle, one of the UK’s leading trans activists, has become President of Transgender Europe (TGEU) at an international conference in Berlin.

More than 200 activists from across the world attended the event at the start of May.

There were representatives from 83 groups and 38 countries, among them Peru, Namibia, Japan, Armenia, the USA, Turkey, Israel, Kyrgyzstan and Iceland.

Dr Whittle is Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, President of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and Vice-President of UK trans organisation Press for Change.

In December 2005 he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

At the plenary meeting of Transgender Europe (TGEU) on May 4th a new Executive Board and Steering Committee were elected.

“Despite much scientific controversy, forms of transgender continue to be listed as illnesses by the American Psychological Association (APA), just as homosexuality once was, and on the World Health Organization (WHO) list of psychological disorders,” the conference organisers said.

“The guideline manuals used in healthcare to standardise the definitions of what constitutes mental illness.

“Transgender Europe (TGEU) emphatically refuses this pathologisation and will assist the next reformulation of the APA list in a critical manner, when this is carried out in 2011.”

The first comprehensive study of the legal rights situation and experience of health care of transgender people in Europe, compiled last year by Press for Change, TGEU, ILGA Europe) was presented for the first time at the Council.

The study, which had more than 2,000 participants, found that transgender people continue to face massive violations of their human rights in most European states.

These include the legal requirement that surgery to alter primary and secondary sexual characteristics, which of necessity also includes compulsory sterilisation, must be carried out before a person has the legal right to change the forename in five EU member states.

In nine EU etates these surgeries are preconditions for changing a person’s legal sex.

“In the coming years, activists working under the flag of the international NGO Transgender Europe (TGEU) will intensify their existing campaign against the violation of human rights of transgender people,” said the conference organisers.

“To do so, TGEU will strengthen its cooperation with ILGA Europe, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, ILGA World (Trans Secretariat) and Amnesty International.

“The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, ratified in 2006, are important instruments for this political work.

“Global networks are being planned as new tools to achieve these political aims.

“The Transgender Europe Research Network is to serve the purpose of bringing together scientists and scholars whether transgender or not, who are working on the subject of transgender into an international network, and to continue to research the living conditions of transgender people worldwide.”

A Transgender Europe International Media Network is also planned. It will link journalists internationally and perform public relations work.

For more information on Transgender Europe visit their website.