IN another sign of the increasingly unpleasant environment for LGBTI people in Russia, the government has banned trans* people from driving declaring that simply being trans* means someone will not be able to safely control a car.

The diktat issued by former president and current prime minister Dmitry Medvedev on December 29 details a long list of “medical contraindications to [the] management [of a] vehicle”.

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While these are mainly physical, such as blindness or paralysis, the document also refers to a string of conditions and “disorders” listed in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) document.

While the document makes no judgements about people’s ability to drive, the Russian government has cited the listing of transsexualism (as it is referred to in the ICD-10) as grounds enough to revoke a person’s licence.

Fetishism is also listed in the document leading to the situation that having a penchant for leather could be seen as proof you can’t be trusted to ride a motorbike – despite the fact many people wear leather when doing so.

The move has been greeted with outrage from trans* campaigners struggling to understand how being trans* would make someone an unsafe driver.

Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Goldner said the move was “overwhelmingly prejudiced on a number of counts and not just in terms of transphobia but in terms of physical issues as well”.

“My instinct is this is more about domestic issues such as the fall of the rouble and Ukraine than transphobia itself but that doesn’t excuse it,” she said.

Goldner was particularly critical about the use the ICD-10, which is meant to identify physical conditions, as a method of justifying the removal of rights.

“This does highlight the problem that when you see trans* being pathologised is that people, if they can find a way of calling it a disease, they will,” she said.

Shawn Gaylord of US lobby group Human Rights First told the Huffington Post that “banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous and just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens”.

“Beyond the denial of basic freedoms, this provision may deter transgender people from seeking mental health services for fear of receiving a diagnosis that would strip them of their right to drive, and leaves the door open for increased harassment, persecution, and discrimination of transgender people by Russian authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights called the new law “discriminatory” and Russian psychiatric expert Mikhail Strakhov told BBC Russian that the definition of “personality disorders” was too vague and some would not affect a person’s ability to drive a car safely.

However, Russia’s Professional Drivers Union backed the change.

“We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified,” said the organisation’s head Alexander Kotov.

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