Czech President makes international headlines for calling transgender people ‘disgusting’

Over the weekend Zeman spoke out in support of an anti-LGBT+ law in Hungary that has been condemned by 17 other EU states but not the Czech Republic.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 28.06.2021 13:03:00 (updated on 28.06.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech President Miloš Zeman made international headlines with anti-trans comments he made on CNN Prima News.

CNN in a headline on its main English-language service quoted Zeman calling trans people “disgusting,” and acknowledged that CNN Prima News was an affiliate. Other news outlets to carry the story include UK broadcasters BBC and Sky News, American magazine U.S. News & World Report, and right-wing U.S.-based server Daily Caller. It was also covered by publications in Spain, Germany, Austria, Iceland, Romania, India, and Slovakia.

Zeman was speaking in support of a Hungarian law that bans materials seen as promoting about LGBT+ issues including information on gender reassignment from schools.

“I understand gays, lesbians, and so on. But do you know who I don’t understand at all – these transgender people,” Zeman said.

In the Sunday-night debate on CNN Prima News, he voiced support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who backs the anti-LGBT+ law. The law has been condemned by 17 EU countries, but not the Czech Republic. The law, for example was condemned by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

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Zeman said it would be a gross political error to interfere with internal affairs of any other EU member state.

“Viktor Orbán says he isn’t against homosexuals, but he is against using sex education to manipulate not only parents but also children. I see no reason to disagree with him, because I am completely annoyed by the suffragettes, the Me Too movement, and Prague Pride,” he said.

He added that he considered medical procedures for transitioning to be a crime. “If you undergo a sex-change operation, then you’re basically committing the crime of self-harm. Every surgery carries risk, and these transgender people to me are disgusting.”

Zeman also said that it is everybody’s private business if they belong to a sexual minority. “If such a person openly manifests their orientation, they look down on others,” Zeman said, adding that if he was younger, he would hold a large protest event for heterosexuals in Prague.

Speaking on behalf of the organizers of the annual Prague Pride, Daniel Zikmund told the Czech News Agency that words like Zeman’s have a significant impact on mental health of LGBT+ people.

Zikmund said living conditions for LGBT+ people are already discriminatory in many aspects in general, but transgender people face the most inequality and discrimination.

He added that LGBT+ people seek counseling services due to the lack of acceptance. Fear of not being accepted by the society and their close ones might bring them even to suicidal thoughts, he added.

Zikmund warned that comments like the ones Zeman made might only add fuel to the fire.

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The annual Prague Pride festival regularly offers concerts, exhibitions, film screening, picnics and debates. Like last year, the traditional rainbow parade will not take place at the close of the festival due to the coronavirus. In the past, the parade was watched by up to 30,000 people.

People on social media have also condemned Zeman’s comments. Over 800 comments have been made on Reddit, mostly in support of trans rights. “It's always baffling to me that legislators don't understand that legalization has nothing to do with whether or not you condone the behaviour. They're basically completely different topics. Just because he thinks they're disgusting, it has no bearing on whether or not it's a waste of money to spend government resources penalizing people for something that hurts no one,” one of the most popular comment said.

Other comments expressed disgust with Zeman, and pointed out that even though the Czech Republic is seen as one of the most progressive countries in the former Eastern bloc, there is still a long way to go before it is truly progressive.

On Twitter, one person called for projecting rainbow flag on Prague Castle, which aside form being a dominant feature of the city is also the location of the President’s Office.  

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