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Boys do cry……………….!

Published February 5, 2013 by transfeminists

Dear friends, colleagues and supporters. It has been a while since you have read something from my pen (well…..my computer really..) and so I thought I might share with you an issue on which I have been pondering for a really long while.

First, let me welcome you all to 2013…….I have baptised this year as the year of infinite possibilities. I have a very positive feeling about this year and I do believe it will be a revolutionary year for trans feminist activism.

The year got off to a really positive start. We formalised ourselves a bit more at S.H.E and launched our website on the 17th of January 2013. This will be our mouthpiece in our communication with all our stakeholders. Please see our work at www.transfeminists.org and feel free to sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter, The Transfeminista!

In this piece I am writing about a very ironic issue, given my herstory as a transgender woman. Yes, you guessed right, I am addressing the issue of masculinity.

This is an issue on which I have pondered for a long while now. It is really ironic for me to write about masculinity, given that I have rejected the notion of masculinity with my transition from male to female. Not really so ironic looked at from a feminist perspective. The key word here is feminism…….that is my political identity.

OK, so back to the issue of masculinity. Why did I choose to write about masculinity and the construction thereof? Simple, I feel if we were to tackle patriarchy, the proverbial plucking of the root lies in examining masculinity and the construction thereof. There has to be an inquiry into the concept of masculinity and influencing change at that level. I feel our activism has been much centred upon women, females, femininity, proving to the world our strength as women…..tada tada tada. Fighting these inequalities, one has to be strategic, study those inequalities, dissect it, and construct an alternative ideology. It is on this premise that I base my argument. We have to examine masculinity as a concept, see how it is constructed and find ways of deconstructing it in order to shape “the man of tomorrow”.

So why am I rambling on about this topic of masculinity when all our resources (physical and mental energy included) should be focussed on improving the lives of women and sexual & gender minorities?(and all those pushed to the margins) Again, very simple, all the inequalities that we experience are very deeply rooted in patriarchy. There must also be an analysis of the link between patriarchy and masculinity, in other words,” my entitlement (patriarchy) because I am a man (masculinity)” conversation. The hate of transgender and intersex women has its roots in patriarchy. The idea that persons born with male genitalia (in the case of trans women) could reject masculinity is engendered from a very cultural, patriarchal, misogynistic view of the world and all in it. This is so accurately captured in the words of Ian McEwan:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.”
― Ian McEwan

A lot of the time you will find a mother advocating for her son, regardless of his flaws. Many mothers acknowledge their sons are no angels and yet you will find the same mother defending her son’s position in whatever goes wrong in his life (OK, so sue of us for being inherently nurturing, compassionate beings!). I am pointing this out to highlight the collective responsibility that we have as women, and mothers, and sisters, and daughters to advocate for the construction of an alternative masculinity. One in which we say to men that it is OK to be equal with women, it will in no way affect you masculinity. A masculinity that is not so highly challenged that men feel they have to rape lesbians in order to “correct” them. A masculinity that will stop the war on women’s bodies. A masculinity where men don’t have the need to sit around talking about women as if they are only a collection of body parts. How many times have you heard: “ That girls has a fine ass” or “I’m turned on by big titties?”. These are not the only features to women’s bodies – it is just an objectification of women, one that is dripping with testosterone.

This is the one thing that all men have in common: trans men, cis-men, black men, white men, short men, tall men. Misogyny is not a reinforcement of your own masculinity, its simply adds to the inequalities that women (like your mother and sisters and daughters) have had to fight, and will still fight for years and years.

 

So what I propose: an alternative masculinity. The re-socialization of boys. Tell your boy its ok……….

to treat girls and women well

to express emotion

its ok to love

to work on self-development and self-improvement; and most of all……..

 

Boys do cry……………..

 

“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
― Gloria Steinem

As usual dear friends, let us know what you think. Please engage with us on this blog, our website at www.transfeminists.org or drop me a line at coordinator@transfeminists.org

Until next time

au revoir

Leigh Ann

2012 in review S.H.E. Thank you to all of you for your kind support

Published January 7, 2013 by transfeminists

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Girls like us

Published October 30, 2012 by transfeminists

Good day friends and supporters of S.H.E

I am overjoyed at announcing the success of our strategic planning meeting in East London. I am working on the blog post for that meeting and you will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am making the announcement that our executive have been put together in our board meeting before the strategic planning and is as follows:

Chairperson: Barbra Muruga, Nairobi, Kenya

Deputy Chair: Marion Stevens: Cape Town, South Africa

Treasurer: Busi Deyi, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Secretary: Revelation Xakoshe, Pretoria, South Africa

Congratulations to all and I am hoping for a long fruitful working relationship with you all. Our new chairperson, Barbra, has written a good analysis of what it means to be a transgender woman in Africa. For all who read our blog and would like to feature as a guest writer, please drop me a line at transfeminists@gmail.com and I will upload it onto our blog provided it is in line with our feminist agenda. Enjoy this read and do send us your comments.

Girls Like Us

 

I am a beautiful woman. I know that. People tell me that all the time. Men swoon over me numerous times. Women too. I’m getting used to it.

 

But its not easy being me. Girls like us have body issues. Its what they call gender dysphoria. You know, when you’re born with a brain that’s a different gender than your body. We know that changing the brain has been tried countless times with drastic results. But changing the body has bore many a good fruit.

 

African girls like us are not so lucky to get this though. They sail through life not even knowing what is wrong with them. They live miserable lives of mere existence. They just exist. Nothing more. The ones who are lucky enough to know what they are dealing with and get the courage to live their lives face constant hatred, backlash and sometimes violence. We struggle to be ourselves.

 

The one thing that is constant for all of us is; we don’t like our bodies. Especially if we are older. Everything just seems out of place. Like a broken mirror. No one looks at that and says, “wow, I like the reflection”. They simply give it a smirk and leave.

 

The ones who are lucky enough to live out as they are supposed to and actually ‘succeed’ (yes, we live in a patriarchal world that tells us how black and white must look like) have their own struggles. Yes, they are pretty, and smart, and get hit on a lot. But its not all rosy. We may look pretty on the outside, but we definitely still have issues with our bodies.

 

Dating for girls like us is a nightmare. You find someone you like and obviously the ‘sex’ question pops up at some point. The question we all dread. Most of us date straight men. Straight men have particular, usually simple, expectations. Simply put, they want ‘pussy’. We don’t have pussy to give. We have ‘other stuff’ ‘down there’. We hate that ‘stuff’. It completely kills the mood. All the time. Its even worse for those of us who don’t enjoy or have anal sex!

 

So whenever we are with a nice man, our minds are constantly wondering whether we look okay. Whether he can tell. Whether he can see our tiny bump on our necks. Whether they can notice our voices are a few decibels lower than most other girls. Whether they will ask for sex. Whether we can trust them enough to tell them. Whether they will tell others about us once we tell them. Whether they will do something to us if we tell them. So many questions. So many thoughts. Very little enjoyment of the moments.

 

Its our lives. Its who we are. And until we can afford those expensive surgeries that can only be got in a few places and require a whole deal of paperwork that we’d rather not endure, we will survive somehow. We slowly learn to love ourselves. We slowly get to like what we see in the mirror. Every compliment is a boost to our self esteem. Every smile we get for ours is a reminder that someone else likes us. And we can live.

 

We will survive.

Until next time

 

Leigh

 

S.H.E highlights from the People’s Health Assembly, hosted by the University of the Western Cape 6 to 12 July 2012

Published July 18, 2012 by transfeminists

It was such an honour meeting Zackie Achmat at the People’s Health Assembly in Cape Town 6 to 11

It was so nice to return to my alma mater UWC where the People’s Health Assembly took place 6 to 11 July 2012

 

This was just about the most interesting session at the People’s Health Assembly with a medical professional demonstrating the use of the Ipas, a tool used in surgical abortion

 

Unpacking transgender feminism

Published March 5, 2012 by transfeminists

Dear friends, colleagues, donors, loved ones, allies……..

It has been a while and we are so happy to add another post to our informative blog. So when I was approached by a trans-friendly feminist offering to write a piece for our blog, I jumped at the opportunity. Our guest writer is Busi Deyi, a feminist, writer, humanitarian, great trans support and just an amazing woman and person. These are Busi’s reflections on the rise of the transgender feminist movement in Africa

There is a mistaken belief that feminism is targeted at men, that these creatures that walk with a phallus dangling between their legs is the enemy and that our efforts, endeavours and war cries must be directed at them. When we see these male specimens we ‘cock’ –pun intended-our mouths and we are ready to fire accurately aimed words and stand up for our ideals as feminists. Patriarchy has come to be symbolised by masculinity- more accurately, the male body, and feminism by femininity. And in between this dichotomy, the transgender community has become a none neutral, neutral ground.  The male body and indeed the male penis has come to represent the patriarchal society that feminists have dedicated their entire existence to fighting but-this is where shit hits the fan- I think their wrong.

Let’s backtrack shall we? Feminism arose from the realization that our destinies were not necessarily connected to the form of our bodies. That one’s identity and indeed ones destiny as to who they were and how they externalised and expressed their identities could be based purely on their own sense of agency, their own sense of who they felt they were internally, beyond societal constraints and assumed roles based on the biological arrangement of their XY-XX chromosomes. Come  back to the rise of transfeminism, the idea of a transgender feminist is oxymoronic and unsettling to a lot of cis-gendered feminists, this is because we have come to associate the male form with patriarchy and literally have come to regard those that are in a male form as part and parcel of the system that has demarcated womyn to the margins of society and stripped them of their ‘subject-hood’ and sense of self-determination and yet we do not see this development in feminist thinking as dangerous-think about it.

To accord a certain symbolic status to the male form we are reverting back to the very status quo our feminist ancestors sought to over throw- that body determines destiny, that somehow who we are is intricately linked to ‘what’ we are biologically . We are inadvertently saying that yes, your body does determine your destiny. That womyn born in males bodies, M-T-F’s, cannot possibly be feminists and understand the feminist struggle. This is perhaps not surprising. The body is the one thing through which we interact with the world. We use the body to express ourselves, to give meaning and identity to our internal ideologies and crisis’s. The body is the one thing that we utilize in love, in protest and identification and an ambiguous body is dangerous, or viewed as dangerous because it does not lend itself to our discriminations and does not fit into our dichotomy of male and female and the assigned patriarchy v feminist to the respective forms.

 

So, where to from here? Cis-gender feminists cannot legitimately close the doors to transfeminism and transgender womyn cannot legitimately stay away from claiming the title of feminist, why??? Because I believe that the transfeminist movement holds the key that could empower feminists in understanding truly what we have been advocating for when we said our bodies do not determine our destiny. In my own personal view transgender individuals hold the key to a more tolerant and accepting society, if we can break the gender binary that exists currently, if we can show society that we are humans regardless of what is between our legs, who we love and how we love them than we have an opportunity to create a society in which your gender and how we express it is not determined by our biological form.

Someone really smart said something along these lines, “every battle championed by minorities is my battle” and that has been my motto, I have realized that by standing for the rights of other minorities I am in fact indirectly pursuing my own. Transgender feminists represent the polycentric nature of being human.  When the voices of minorities manage to bring about change, the collective consciousness of society is penetrated and this presents an opportunity for us as minority groups to further establish ourselves and loosen the societal constraints that have stifled individual self determination.

Here’s the deal, the feminist movement exists within a larger social movement and each sub-movement is part of a larger system of interdependent pieces defined by their relationship to all other pieces. To think of the feminist movement as independent from other social movements is a fallacy and highly misguided. We need to see feminism as a transformational movement, as feminists we seek to transform society and make it possible for all persons to exercise self determination in determining their destinies. Every victory loosens ever so slightly the societal chains that have prevented change and real reform through social conscientization.

Transgender feminists are not agents of patriarchy or a mockery to feminism, they are a celebration of the central principles that feminists have long sought to have recognized. They are a celebration of the idea that self determination is a principle worth fighting for, that we as feminists in all body forms have become a social movement that can create spaces that enable those that are differently gendered to express their true selves.

Feminists and feminism must always seek to transform not only society and the prejudices and boundaries that have been placed but they must at all times be self critical about how we relate to other minority movements. We must always seek to transform ourselves and be constantly critical of ourselves and our associations with other marginalized groups.

This is a very good piece Busi wrote for us and we thank her for this contribution. Later in the week we will publish our report and reflections of attending the Amanitare Coalition meeting which took place in Cape Town 28 and 29 February. Until then friends………….

Leigh Ann

 

Attending the Amanitare sexual rights network Multi Generational School for women 23 to 27 January 2012

Published February 3, 2012 by transfeminists

S.H.E attends the Amanitare Sexual Rights Network Multi Generational School for Women in Uganda 23 to 27 January 2012

 

After a pleasant departure from East London, the South African delegates mostly from the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, the South African Airways flight SA 462 landed at OR Tambo International airport. On arrival and after a power packed breakfast, the delegates met up with Khathatso Moeketle, the founder of SHARISA[1] and sexual and reproductive health rights activist who was chosen as one of the SA delegates. After a somewhat time consuming entrance into Uganda, the delegates were transported safely to the Metropole Hotel in Uganda. Dinner was served and everybody went to bed to be well-rested for a full first day of conferencing.

 

After some opening remarks from the Ugandan Amanitare country coordinator, day one of the gathering started with introductions and expectations. Most of the participants expressed the need for learning and sharing. True to (Ugandan) form, there was a precautionary note from the coordinator on safety and political issues. An unknown man entered the conference room and was soon removed by the coordinator. With these incidences, one has to realize you are indeed in Kampala, Uganda. As an introductory exercise, participants had to pick out one of the other participants, get to know that participant and introduce her to the rest of the group.

After this exercise, the facilitator put up three “islands” at the back of the room labelled “agree”, “disagree” and “not sure”. Following this, the facilitator gave three different scenarios from the computer and participants had to decide whether these statements constitute violence or not. This exercise really opened the dialogue on what is violence and what is not. More than this, it stirred debate and brought the difference in opinion.

One of the key concepts from this discussion is the term “economic deprivation” and was also established as one of the forms of violence against women.

When the time came for tea break, individuals were placed in groups where they had to discuss the causes of violence and factors contributing to violence against women. Very interesting points were raised by the different groups.

 

Group 1 listed to cause of violence against women in the following way:

-          Silence (cultural)

-          Lack of protection at all levels

-          Lack of domestication of international laws

-          Lack of recognition if African culture

-          Lack of women’s human rights

-          Living in “fear”

 

Group 2 listed the causes of violence as following:

-          Power imbalance between men and women (patriarchy)

 

They listed contributing factors to violence against women in the following way:

-          Poverty

-          Unemployment

-          Conflict

-          Religion

-          Cultural beliefs illiteracy

 

Group 3 listed contributing factors to violence against women as follows:

-          Dependence on men

-          Ignorance

-          Culture of silence

-          Stigma

-          Poverty

-          Cultural factors – religious doctrines

-          Laws and the lack thereof/implementation

-          Media messages

-          Power relations

-          Socialization, they way in which people are brought up

 

Group 4 listed the cause of violence against women and linked a cause with a particular contributing factor:

 

Causes Factors
Patriarchy Control, and too much of it
Socialization and culture Cultural practices
Religion Religious practices
Feminization of poverty Denial of economic resources
Poverty Poor education
Social norms Substance and alcohol abuse
Feminism and sexuality Independence of women
Ignorance Lack of understanding of sexual minorities and SRHR
Political climate Criminalization of sexual minorities
Body politics Denial of full bodily integrity for women.
   

Group 5 listed their causes of violence as follows:

 

-          Culture and patriarchy                  -              women are inferior to the man

Women can’t be heirs

Early marriage

Bride price (lobola)

-          Poverty                                                -              Lack of financial means

Men as sole providers

-          Low education levels                     -              no information on rights

Gender preference. More education for men.

-          Gender, Age and status

 

Following the presentations from the difference groups, the floor was open for discussions. This is the part where participants gave their ideas and opinions on some of the causes and contributing factors to violence against women. While all the participants gave valuable inputs on these the group work that took place, it was a comment from one of Nigerian participants:

 

“While we sit around and discus the issues on violence against women, we have to keep in mind that the scripts for women have been written a long time ago, by who? We must be cautious to treat the symptoms and totally miss out on the point. The society has already written the script for women and they (women) are simply acting on it”. Mario from Nigeria, feminist leader from Nigeria.

 

For me there were some very important connections on VAW as they are experienced by cis-gender[2] women and as they are experienced by transgender women. Day 2 of the conference had an elaborate discussion on the links between VAW[3] and SRHR.[4] Some of the specific links that comes to mind right away are:

 

  • HIV and Aids: transgender women are very vulnerable to HIV. There are no accurate statistics on HIV prevalence amongst the transgender community given that up to now, they have been included in MSM (men sleeping with men) and WSW (women sleeping with women). In this way there is a violation of the identity of transgender people. This has clear sexual and reproductive health implications.
  • GBV (Gender Based Violence). Transgender women are subject to violence within relationships. Be that in the family or intimate setting. As a result of the violence they experience, very often they do not access sexual health services. A clear form of violence in this sense for me is economic deprivation. If a transgender woman who is HIV + is not given the resources (like transport) to access, for example, ART, it is clearly to her detriment.

 

The facilitator put individuals in small groups discussing the linkage between VAW and SRHR and these were the points made in my group:

 

  • Ukutwala[5]: young girls are abducted and are forced into marriage with usually, older men where they are rape and as a result, contract STI’s and HIV. This is also a violation of the young girl’s bodily integrity.
  • Sex work occurs when women are discriminated against in the workplace and job scarcity. This form of VAW is referred to as economic deprivation.
  • Young men coming from the initiation school rape girls to get rid of the “dirt” and sexual frustration of being in the initiation school for so long.
  • Many sexual minorities[6] contract HIV through corrective rape[7].

 

There are many more examples that can be unpacked but the above illustrations are sufficient for the purpose of this report.

 

A documentary was screened on an American women’s rights activist whose face was literally blown away when she was shot in the face by an abusive partner. Her partner also killed her mother. This brought a clear understanding of the consequences of violence against women.

There was a discussion on the regional and national protocols to address violence against women. The facilitator tasked the different country groups with the assignment of discussing the country specific legislative framework on addressing violence against women. A second part to the assignment tasked the different group of listing the implementation gaps of the specific legislation, and finally, the groups had to list at least 3 three strategies on improving implementation of the referred legislation.

 

Global, regional and national protocols to address VAW

 

Some very interesting discussions came out of the different groups. One of the countries called specifically for the harmonization between the common law and national legislation. The South African delegation discussed four important pieces of legislation and the challenges to implementation:

 

Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998          

Sexual Offences Act 23 of 1957                  the central challenge to the implementation of this legislation:

Maintenance Act 99 of 1998                        -lack of documentation

NSP[8]                                                                      -no monitoring and evaluation of the implementation

                                                                -protection orders are treated badly by police officers

                                                                -access to service

                                                                -lack of specialised services

                                                                -corruption and carelessness – dockets going missing

                                                                -long deliberation of legal proceedings

                                                                -lack of sufficient psycho-social services

                                                                -lack of training of all relevant service providers

 

 

On effective strategies on how to deal with the lack of implementation, the group decided these would be most effective:

-          Training of police officers and court officials in dealing with administrative challenges like shortages of documentation;

-          Effective M&E of all relevant legislation

 

Individuals were placed in their respective age groups and this discussion brought valuable insights. The expectation was to discuss some challenges in dealing with the different age groups, off course providing a country context. The rationale of this workshop is to highlight key challenges and provide strategies on how close the gap between different age groups within an organisation. I was part of the 30 to 40 year old age group (as per my age) and needless to mention, this was very insightful. This age group had to map the challenges of dealing with both the older as well as the younger generation of women.

 

Challenges in dealing with the older generation Challenges in dealing with the younger generation
-          Feminist forum is not inclusive of younger women

-          Older generation feminists tend to celebrate “old victories”

-          The older generation deny the contributions of younger women

-          Older generations expect eternal gratitude

-          Older generation deny younger women opportunities of progress and development

-          Younger women are very temperamental

-          The younger generation don’t want to take ideas of previous generations

-          Young women get conflicting messages from the media, family and peer pressure

-          There is a lack of role models

-          When younger women come from training institutions they just want to hold jobs and tend to be 8 to 5 activists.

 

This group echoed the difficulty of being in this generation and acting as the “middle person” to the two other age groups and some humorous depictions of this age group came to the fore. These include being the UN[9] (a peace-keeping body) within our respective organisations. On a more serious note, this age group describe their position as being between a rock and a hard place, being between directors and lower level employees. The only concrete solution this group proposed in regards to dealing with this multi-generational gap is for all relevant stakeholders to recognise and acknowledge this position and to have more dialogue around it. Another proposal put forward by the group is to recognise the hard work and foundation laid by the older generation but in a peaceful diplomatic way to bring a realisation to this generation to pass on knowledge and skills and the understanding that nothing lasts forever.

 

The different milieu in which violence against women manifest is an essential discussion to have and to facilitate this discourse, the facilitator placed different individuals in groups of four to five people. The facilitator listed different settings in which violence against women can take place, among them:

-          Intimate settings

-          Educational settings

-          Home

-          The workplace

-          Public spaces

 

On reporting back the different groups provided valuable insight in the forms of VAW and the form it takes within different settings. I gave input to the groups dealing with VAW in the educational setting.

The group in which I was listed the risk factors for VAW in the following way:

Primary school:

-          Sexual abuse

-          Discrimination

-          Isolation

-          Stigmatization

-          Content of school books articulating patriarchal values

-          Intimidation

-          Selection of leadership

 

Secondary level:

-          Rape (by both teachers and peers)

-          Sexual harassment

-          Environmental contexts (like being away from parents and the discipline of hostels)

 

 

Tertiary level:

-          Transactional sex

-          Lecturers negotiating sex for better marks

 

The groups proposed authentic ways on how to deal with VAW. Our group’s core strategy is centred on the re-socialization of boys. This sentiment was so well summarised in one of our group member’s words. Mario, a feminist leader from Nigeria said:

We need to empower men because they are so disempowered. If we take the example of a young girl and her male peer, a girl twelve years of age is already taught to clean and cook. This way she learns to manage and coordinate. Her male peer of the same age wakes up in the morning and heads straight to the playing field without anything gained from that. Men grow up thinking the world is their playing field”.

 

Discussion on LGBTI and linking transgender and feminist issues

 

LGBTI issues in Uganda are controversial and those issues are discussed in secret. I was asked at attend this conference as a transgender woman with the hoping of adding my voice to this conversation. Given that I had travelled to Uganda on a previous occasion and I understand the hostility towards the LGBTI community, it was a somewhat scary journey for me. With the opening of the conference I had raised this concern with Dr. Hilda Tadria, the executive director of MEMPROW in Uganda. She also raised this issue to the rest of the group and asked that we please discuss this issue since it is vital to this particular discussion and also vital to our advocacy and lobbying within our respective organisations. Just before the last session of the conference Dr. Tadria discussed some broad LGBTI issues and how they tie into sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. She specifically raised the concern that in the case of the transgender and intersex community, medical practitioners in Uganda can often not divorce a person’s anatomy from their chosen gender identity. After that she asked me to “connect the dots” between transgender women’s and mainstream women’s issues and this is what I addressed:

-          HIV and Aids is a common issue for cis-and transgender women; there are alarming statistics among transgender women.

-          Gender based violence is an issues that affects both cis and transgender women.

-          Employment discrimination is affecting cis and transgender women[10]. This is fuelled by patriarchy is professional and employment settings.

-          Re-politicizing transfeminist spaces to be inclusive enough for everyone who identify as female

 

Wrapping up the conversation

 

The last leg of the multi-generational school saw the women going into country groups to discuss what will be the way forward for the respective countries. Sylvia Shekede, the Amanitare Project Manager from the secretariat based in Johannesburg reminded the participants that the MGS is not happening in isolation/ apart from the overall Amanitare project. This is where the different countries were expected to discuss their advocacy strategy. The South African group raised some very burning potential issues as a potential advocacy strategy. This included corrective rape of sexual minorities, an issue which stands out clearly from the research conducted for the Herwai[11] report. Finally, the group decided to pursue the sterilisation of HIV + women without their consent as an advocacy strategy and Buyiswa Mhambi, the South African country co-ordinator reported back on this issue to the rest of the group.

 

Self-evaluation and reflection

 

From an organisational perspective, this was an interesting conference for me. There are so many connections between trans and cis-gender women. This is demonstrated by the way in which they live within their gender roles. I am always so excited to be included in feminist and mainstream issues as a transgender woman and someone who have become the face of this identity. This grants me the opportunity of presenting on the issues affecting transgender women. Despite anti-trans feminists[12]opinion that transgender women are socialized as men and can therefore not understand the struggles of women, I attend these conferences and workshops to connect the dots between trans and cis-gender women. I infiltrate those spaces with the hope of re-politicizing them to be inclusive of transgender women. Anti-trans feminists base their argument on biology confusing themselves and others in the process since the feminist movement is built on the premise that gender is not biological, it is a social construction. And so, it is always very interesting to see how I am perceived within these spaces. Perhaps I am far too analytical in my thinking. Given the fact that I am part of a movement, that of the transgender feminist movement, I am very interested to see how all this will play out within the African context. Up to now, I have been welcomed in those spaces. Coming back to this particular conference, I was amazed by the interest in trans issues. I saw it as an opportunity to engage with mainstream women’s organisations. To learn and share and to a great extent, this conference fulfilled the objectives I set for myself. As far as the coalition is concerned, this was one of those opportunities to educate and to gain some education. My final word on this is that it was a space to learn and share, personally and professionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Sexual and Health  Rights in South Africa, a non-profit organisation base in Johannesburg

[2] Cis- is a Latin prefix meaning on the same side while gender refers to the socially constructed idea of what a man, and what a woman is. Cis-gender therefore refers to a woman who has not transitioned like a transgender woman. See Trans: transgender life stories from South Africa. Fanele Publishers (2009)

[3] VAW is an acronym for violence against women.

[4] SRHR is an acronym for sexual and reproductive health and rights

[5] Ukutwala is a form of abduction where a young girl who is of age (puberty) is abducted from her clan and forced into marriage with, usually an older man. This is prevalent in the Xhosa culture and happens often in die rural Eastern Cape, Lusikisiki and rural parts of Limpopo.

[6] Sexual minorities refer to those people who do not fit the sexual and gender binaries of societies e.g. the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender intersex community, sex workers and those living with HIV and Aids.

[7] Corrective rape is a form of sexual violence aimed at correcting a person’s sexual behaviour. It is most prevalent amongst black, townships lesbians.

[8] The HIV & Aids and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa

[9] United Nations

[10] In Ehlers vs. Bohler Uddeholm Africa (Pty) the Judge presiding over the case held that the respondent (Bohler Uddeholm) should practice what it preaches. “It has a policy against discrimination yet it wanted the applicant (Ehlers) to hide the fact that she was a transsexual. Unfair discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated at all costs. It is ugly”.

[11]Health Rights for Women Assessment Instrument, a research instrument developed to analyse the policies affecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.

[12] Like Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffries and Mary Daly

Hello world!

Published November 1, 2011 by transfeminists
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Dear colleagues/ friends/ allies/ donors/ supporters and family

It is with delight that we inform you of the establishment of a feminist forum that will advocate for transgender women at the feminist table. There is an increased need for advocacy around the issues that affect this vulnerable group. There are LGBTI feminist organisations, of which very few involve transgender women actively in programming and other issues. It is with this view in mind that I saw fit to make room for transgender women at the feminist table. We are hoping for this establishment to achieve the following:

-        Create visibility of transgender women in feminist circles;

-        To explore the social issues and barriers affecting transgender women within the communities in which they live;

-        To research the health issues affecting transgender women and advocate for safe and acceptable healthcare standards by working all relevant stakeholders in the provision of such service.

-        This forum will engage all relevant stakeholders in ensuring that transgender women claim their citizenship.

Our vision for this coalition of support:

To create visibility of transgender women in feminist circles. Taking an Anarcho-feminist approach to fighting patriarchal systems in Africa and creating a support and development network for transgender women in Africa.

 

We can only achieve this vision through one approach: by working with existing organisations to ensure that we can achieve this vision we set for ourselves. In forming links with existing organisations we can ensure that our partner organisations include transgender female-specific programming to ensure that we track, monitor and evaluate all aspects of life affecting transgender women.

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