After 16 months without a government, Belgium today announced a new seven-party coalition – and, for the first time, a transgender deputy prime minister, Petra De Sutter.
The Green MEP, who in 2014 became Belgium’s first openly trans MP, will also be the minister for public administration and public enterprises.
De Sutter is a gynaecologist and fertility expert at the University of Ghent, and was elected to the European Parliament last year where she was chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
She’s known for her activism around sexual and reproductive health and on trans issues.
Belgian Green party leader Meyrem Almaci announced De Sutter’s appointment today, as the new government was formed following several days of intense talks.
“Incredibly grateful for the confidence I have received from my party!” De Sutter wrote on Twitter.
“Last night I gave the green light for the new government with 1,000 other members, now I can do whatever it takes to relaunch our country and work on a new future for all Belgians together with that government!”
Ongelooflijk dankbaar voor het vertrouwen dat ik krijg van mijn partij!
Gisteravond gaf ik met 1000 andere leden groen licht voor de nieuwe regering, nu mag ik samen met die regering doen wat nodig is om ons land te herlanceren en werken aan een nieuwe toekomst voor alle Belgen!
— Petra De Sutter (@pdsutter) October 1, 2020
The 57-year-old was swiftly congratulated by the lesbian German MEP Terry Reintke, who wrote that De Sutter had been a “wonderful colleague” who would be missed.
Our wonderful colleague @pdsutter is going to be Minister in the new Belgian government.
Petra, you have been such an inspiration to work with. We will miss you.
— Terry Reintke (@TerryReintke) October 1, 2020
Belgium has not had a government since the last election on 26 May 2019. Amazingly, this isn’t the longest time period that the European country has gone without a government for – that record belongs to the 2010-2011 period of government formation that lasted 541 days.
The new government, a seven-party coalition led by Flemish liberal prime minister Alexander De Croo, was sworn in this morning by King Philippe.
🇧🇪 Le gouvernement a prêté serment.
Avec une politique de crise sensée, nous sommes parés pour protéger toutes les personnes en difficulté mais aussi donner la confiance et l'élan aux personnes qui veulent aller de l'avant.#begov pic.twitter.com/oZNkJ0noDG
— Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) October 1, 2020
Petra De Sutter is the most senior transgender politician in Europe.
While European countries have had a handful of transgender politicians, Petra De Sutter is now the most senior openly transgender MP on the continent.
Other trans people currently in office in Europe include Marie Cau, who made history in May this year when she was elected the first openly trans mayor in France, and Gianmarco Negri, the mayor of Tromello who was elected Italy’s first openly trans mayor in May 2019.
Several European countries including Germany, Spain, Sweden and Poland have had transgender members of parliament.
The UK has never had an openly trans or non-binary MP.