Transsexual wins right to stand for parliament

The transsexual Esther Brunner is standing as a candidate in October’s parliamentary elections

Esther Brunner, a transsexual philosophy student from Zurich, has won her battle to stand as a candidate in October’s parliamentary elections.

This content was published on September 19, 2003 minutes

The cantonal government overturned an earlier ruling that would have scuppered Brunner’s chances of running.

Officially 27-year-old Brunner still appears on the electoral roll under her male name, Christian, and Zurich's statistics office said she could only stand as a candidate using that name.

But Brunner, who has lived as a woman for the last couple of years and is due to undergo a sex change operation by the end of the year, successfully appealed to the cantonal government.

Legal challenge

“I challenged the statistics office decision because I wanted to stand using my female name,” the Social Democrat candidate told swissinfo.

“It’s the name I use in my daily life and nobody knows me under my male name.”

Zurich cantonal government upheld her appeal on the grounds that denying her the chance to run for office would be an infringement of her political rights.

“Everyone in Switzerland above the age of 18 has the right to run for office,” Susanne Sorg-Keller, a spokeswoman for the cantonal government, told swissinfo.

“In this case denying her that right would be unfair, particularly as she is due to have a sex change operation shortly,” she added.

Media attention

Brunner’s case has received a good deal of media coverage in Switzerland over the past couple of weeks, but she denies that her decision to run is a publicity stunt.

“I am a political person and I want to get involved in politics in just the same way as anybody else,” she said.

“My main motive for running is that I see that there are injustices in the world, and I want to fight for the equality of men and women as well as equal rights for gays, lesbians and transsexuals.”

She has no illusions about her chances in October’s elections and says it is unlikely that she will win a seat in the House of Representatives.

But she hopes that her standing will be a stepping-stone to a future career in politics and thinks she may have a better chance of being elected at a local level in the future.


Brunner says public reaction to her candidature has been very positive, although she admits that she would have found less support if she had stood in another part of the country.

She says the attitude and openness of many people in Zurich has enabled her to find the strength and the courage to stand.

Above all though, Brunner says she wants to send out a message to other transsexuals and the general population at large.

“I want to show that our way of living is to be considered equal to the way of living of every other man and woman,” she said.

swissinfo, Jonathan Summerton

Key facts

Esther Brunner is standing on the Social Democrats’ youth party list.
Brunner was initially accepted as a candidate, but later rejected by the Zurich statistics office.
Zurich cantonal government upheld her appeal on the grounds that it would have discriminated against her political rights not to let her stand.

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