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Haunted by sterilisations, trans Germans fight for compensation

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When Tsepo Bollwinkel’s wife gave birth to their first child, there was joy but also painful memories for the transgender German, who was forced to undergo sterilisation in order to change legal gender in the 1990s.

At least 10,000 people were sterilised before the requirement was struck down in 2011, according to Germany’s Bundesverband Trans* (BvT) advocacy group, but several European nations still require trans sterilisation even as public rejection of the practice grows. “I would have liked to give birth to a child,” Bollwinkel, a 60-year-old life coach who was assigned female at birth, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Why couldn’t I have done the same (as my wife)?” Bollwinkel – who uses the pronouns they/them – said being recognised legally as a man had been “life-saving” but lamented having been forced to sacrifice the ability to carry a child. “For me, the question was: either I do something about it, or I kill myself.

So, I did it (but) the price I paid was very high,” said Bollwinkel, who has helped lead an almost three-year fight for compensation over the 1980 Transsexuals Act.

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