It’s been less than a week since Belgium appointed its first trans deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter, but far-right MPs are already subjecting her to “dehumanising” verbal abuse.
De Sutter was formally sworn into office Sunday (October 4), becoming one of seven deputy prime ministers in the country’s new coalition government and the highest-ranking transgender politician in Europe.
Although her trailblazing appointment was applauded by many, it didn’t please everyone, and sadly it wasn’t long before predictable abuse arrived.
De Sutter “wants to destroy and replace all cornerstones of our Western civilisation” came the wild claim from Bart Claes of the Flemish Interest party, posting on Facebook.
He added in a tweet: “Crazy [Kristof] Calvo may not be a minister, but what replaces him is actually even worse. … Petra De Sutter is the personification of cultural Marxism.”
His remarks were met with outrage, and the controversy played out between several Belgian politicians on Twitter.
“You dehumanise her,” declared De Sutter’s party colleague, Bjorn Rzoska, as she called on the Vlaams Belang political group leader Chris Janssens to distance himself from such “degrading remarks”.
Janssens notably did not so so, and Claes refused to back down. “I don’t see the problem. I said that a transgender [person]… is a transgender [person],” he replied. His rant continued on Facebook, where he said in another post: “This government is as left-wing as the plague.”
Petra De Sutter abuse ‘reprehensible’.
The chair of the Belgian parliament Liesbeth Homans referred to Claes’ freedom of expression, but said she personally found his words reprehensible.
“A representative of the people also serves as an example. He needs to know what he is saying and to think about how something is being delivered,” she commented.
“I can say that, as a person, I find this statement particularly reprehensible.”
Petra De Sutter, however, has refused to be drawn into the drama, which she predicted after her appointment.
“I entered politics in 2014 and I was already under attack. I have the skin of an elephant, I am not afraid of attacks,” told local media.
“I expect it. The trolls will continue but I will ignore them. Fortunately, they are a minority.”
I am proud that in 🇧🇪 and in most of 🇪🇺 your gender identity does not define you as a person and is a non-issue. I hope that my appointment as Minister and deputy PM can trigger the debate in countries where this is not yet the case. #fighttransphobia pic.twitter.com/WdgHu2gyy6
— Petra De Sutter (@pdsutter) October 4, 2020