Dear friend and readers 11 December 2011
It has been forever since we posted on the blog and that is simply not acceptable. This is simply due to the fact that I have been travelling. Yes friends, I have recently attended two historical events. Number one was the WGNRR conference that was hosted by Mosaic in Cape Town, followed by the Gender Dynamix Transgender health and advocacy conference.
On returning from the UNAids conference in Geneva, I was but home for one day before being whisked away on the late flight Monday evening 21 November 2011. I arrived at 22h05 at Cape Town International before being taken to my guest house. The following morning I woke to the beautiful sounds of the Mother City before joining the Woman’s Global Network on Reproductive Rights conference at the Mosaic offices based in Wynberg. The conference was really well attended with participants from far and wide. For a minute I thought I was going to give this conference a miss but with the persistence of my dear friend, Marion Stevens, I managed to attend this historical conference.
I am just really delighted to have educated the conference and participants on some of the issues affecting transgender women on this continent. After the first day of the conference, the ladies from WGNRR took some of the participants on a late afternoon boat ride to enjoy some “champers”. This was a really good networking experiences and getting to know about the different organisations attending the conference.
Some really important issues emerged from this conference both for me and S.H.E, as an organisation. There was a really positive response from both the organisers and fellow participants about the way in which different organisations can include transgender women in their programming. This is truly heart-warming for me. I had some special side meetings with individuals of whom some were just interested in finding out more about transgender issues. The group work at this conference was so interesting because then I could be more creative about how to integrate transgender female issues into the bigger scheme of the conference as compared to being in the bigger conference group. As usual, it was a positively educational experience and I learned so much.
On the Friday 25 November 2011, Buyiswa and I joined the Gender Dynamix trans health and advocacy conference. Now, this conference was really special to me since the idea was born of a few trans activists who attended the GDX strategic planning session in March of 2010. After such hard work and dedication from Ms. Liesl Theron, the Executive Director for GDX, the health conference kicked off in grand style on the Friday evening. As per the usual, yours truly added her five cents worth in the form of two presentations, Access to health for transgender people in East London and its surrounds and a presentation on transgender feminism.
The feminism presentation was so important to me. On the Friday evening preceding the conference opening, a transgender woman came to my room and informed of how she was criticised for her dress sense that particular day. This made me realise why I do what I do. Just like non-transgender women, trans women suffer the same dictatorial sense of existence. As a woman, nothing you do is ever good enough. I sat there listening to this young lady and it made realise the importance of putting a feministic framework to the lives of transgender women.
The health conference was very well attended by some old faces and some new ones. I realised how exhausting it was for me as an individual who knew most of the participants. There was a side meeting here, a consultation there, a few small interviews and off course loads of fun and laughter with transgender women from here to Timbucktu. Off course, this was also an educational experience and drawing from the rich experiences of the likes of Anita Radix, Mzikazi Nduna, Dr. Marlene Wasserman, Sally Shackleton, JoAnne Keatley, Adele Marais, and many, many more incredible women, made the experience so rich and so worthwhile.
Off all the wonderful experiences, the friendships formed and alliances built is always the most incredible experience of such an event. Walking away with two or three, or five more contacts and mentors and friends and loved ones, is why we get up in the morning. Listening to people’s narrations of their life experiences and struggles is what keeps us going as activists (even at a personal cost to one’s health at times). All the laughter and sipping on wine listening to personal experiences of transgender women and their struggles on this continent is what drives this tough battle axe and all the funny and sometimes heartfelt stories is more than listening to the research findings of people with Masters and Doctorates (as much as I respect educated women).
Yes friends, this was indeed two very educational platforms and a great thanks to all those who made it happen. Also a little exciting news, our organisational logo is officially launched and we are hoping to complete our search for a few more members for our advisory board. As usual, please keep in touch with the coalition, our contact details below and remember to tell your friends, allies and donors of our exciting work as a coalition.
Until Next time!
Leigh “the diva” Ann
The social, health and empowerment coalition for transgender women in Africa
Phone: +27 738110789