What was expected to be a productive debate on women’s rights in the German Bundestag quickly grew heated. On February 18th, Alternative für Deutschland MP Beatrix von Storch questioned whether transgender MP Tessa Ganserer should be defined as a woman.
That sole point was enough to plunge the German parliament into a state of uproar. The debate took place in anticipation of International Women’s Day, and covered multiple women’s issues. Because the holiday falls on March 8th, during a week when no plenary sessions are held, the debate was brought forward.
Making full use of that holiday’s significance, the deputy chairwoman of the AfD addressed the issue of a “totalitarian” gender ideology and its adverse implications for biological females. To make the point felt, she referenced the media-thrashing inflicted on Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, whose brushes with the activist transgender community are well-publicised.
On home turf however, it was the case of her colleague Ganserer (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) that concerned her. While Von Storch saw no problem in Ganserer—born Markus Ganserer—wearing “a skirt, lipstick, and high heels,” as it is “his private business,” she stressed that “biologically and legally,” he is a man. Picking one’s own gender is, to von Storch, “Quatsch” (nonsense). From that understanding, she pointed to the illegality of Ganserer getting elected to the Bundestag, an election made possible via the Greens’ women quota.
Ganserer came out as a transgender woman in 2018, thereby becoming the first openly transgender person in a German state or federal parliament. Ganserer had been a member of the Landtag of Bavaria since October of 2013, and was elected as MP for the Greens after the Federal Election of 2021, taking the seat as a woman on October 26, 2021.
Throughout her short speech, the AfD MP was on the receiving end of booing and jeering. Bundestag Vice-President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) promptly asked her “to show respect to her colleague Tessa Ganserer.” She later took to Twitter, and called von Storch’ remarks “a terrible defamation.”
Britta Haßelmann, The Greens party leader in the Bundestag, was in a less agreeable mood. Sidestepping the points being raised, she found von Storch’s statements to be “vile, groundless, homophobic, and deeply inhuman.”
“Tessa Ganserer is one of us. She is my and our colleague,” she said, adding that “none of us have any business judging, talking about, or deciding how this woman exercises her right to self-determination.”
Other parties were quick to applaud Haßelmann’s intervention, for which she thanked them, saying that “we should stand together as democratic forces.” For this she received a long round of applause. The AfD excepted, most MP’s rose from their seats.
Joining the chorus was Dorothee Bär (Christlich-Soziale Union), who described von Storch’s speech as “backward.” In a reference to International Women’s Day’s 111-year anniversary, she said that such speeches make one “have the feeling that you’ve landed in 1911.”
Gyde Jensen (Freie Demokratische Partei) simply stated: “Mrs. von Storch, you have not understood sexual identity. That is the problem.”
Seated in the back row, Ganserer quietly watched the various exchanges taking place.
Undaunted by the opprobrium, von Storch stated that “society can not be forced to accept who is a man legally, who is a man biologically, as a woman, and to allow him to make use of the quotas.”
In a later tweet, Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD), called von Storch’s conduct “a disgrace.”
Asked about the incident afterwards by German weekly Junge Freiheit, von Storch defended her position. When asked whether she, after having been accused of it by Britta Haßelmann, was in fact ‘homophobic,’ von Storch said:
On the contrary, I respect all possible life choices, even those that deviate from the norm, and when people in this country achieve happiness for themselves and do so responsibly, who am I to judge? The trans ideology goes much deeper, however, and ‘homophobia’ is a classic left-wing accusation that obscures the real political intentions of this movement.
The massive backlash she received on Twitter she considered “worth it,” and “actually necessary:”
We need to talk about this madness. The AfD’s task is precisely to put the finger in the wound, to find clear words where others duck away. There is a large, silent majority that accepts being muzzled by aggressive minorities. As parliamentarians, it is our job to give this silent majority a voice. Of course, the trans lobby is now mobilizing, just like it did against … J.K Rowling. But I get at least as many positive reactions. And the support goes well beyond our constituency. I read a lot of comments saying “I am not an AfD voter, but in this case you’re just right.”
When asked about the current government’s plan for a Selbstbestimmungsgesetz (self-determination law), Von Storch replied:
[It] is intended to abolish any reference to biology. Gender affiliation should be judged as a free speech act only. This will lead to a dismantling of protective spaces for women and girls, for example by [introducing] men to women’s sports, to women’s showers or to women’s prisons. Ultimately, women will be the main victims.
Von Storch is not worried about being sued for misgendering someone. Instead, she welcomes it.
I would even be happy if that were the case. I would like to hear in front of a German court whether reality still exists, whether the obvious is still allowed to be said, or whether this is legally forbidden and pure ideology prevails.